How to Create Snow and Rain in Photoshop CS6 - dummies

How to Create Snow and Rain in Photoshop CS6

By Barbara Obermeier

By using a couple of filters and a blend mode in Adobe Photoshop CS6, you can add some rain or snow to any image. Just follow these steps to create either rain or snow:

  1. Open a color image. If it isn’t currently in RGB mode, choose Image→Mode→RGB Color.

    [Credit: © Image #4372328]
    Credit: © Image #4372328

    Make sure you’re in RGB mode; the blend mode used in these steps doesn’t work correctly with CMYK images.

  2. Drag the background layer to the Create a new layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel.

    You now see a layer named Background Copy in the Layers panel.

  3. Double-click the name Background Copy and type Snow.

    This isn’t a mandatory step. It just helps you to be ultra-organized.

  4. First, set your background color to white. With the Snow layer active, choose Filter→Pixelate→Pointillize. In the dialog box, set your cell size to whatever value you prefer. Click OK.


    The bigger the cell size, the bigger the snowflakes or raindrops.

    For rain, you might try a cell size of 3 (which is the minimum) or 4. For snow, try a larger cell size, between 6 and 9.

  5. On the Snow layer, choose Image→Adjustments→Threshold. Move the slider all the way to the right, to a max value of 255.

    This adjustment takes the colored cells and turns them to either black or white.

    By using a value of 255, all brightness values less than 255 turn black, and the remaining value turns white.

  6. On the Snow layer, select Screen from the Mode pop-up menu in the Layers panel.

    [Credit: © Image #4372328]
    Credit: © Image #4372328

    The Screen blend mode lightens the Snow layer, where it mixes with the background. Blending with black pixels has no effect; therefore, they drop out.

  7. Choose Filter→Blur→Motion Blur. In the dialog box that opens, specify the Angle and Distance values.

    [Credit: © Image #4372328]
    Credit: © Image #4372328

    If you want the wind to appear to be blowing hard, set the angle more diagonally, around 45 degrees. If you want the precipitation to appear to be coming straight down, set the angle to 90 degrees. Setting the distance elongates the pointillized cells that you created in Step 4, making them look a little more realistic.

    For snow, start with a range of about 8 to 12 pixels. For rain, start a little higher, around 15 to 25 pixels. If you’re creating rain, proceed to Step 8. If you’re a snow person, you’re done.

  8. Choose Filter→Sharpen→Unsharp Mask.

    The Unsharp Mask dialog box appears.

  9. Specify the Amount, Radius, and Threshold values and click OK.

    The Unsharp Mask filter gives the illusion of sharpening the focus of the image by increasing the contrast between the pixels.

  10. Choose Filter→Blur→Motion Blur. In the dialog box that appears, specify the Angle and Distance values.

    Again, the angle is up to you, but make it consistent with the value that you used in Step 7. Set the distance according to how you want your rain to appear — a moderate spring rain or a torrential, close-to-hurricane type of downpour.

    [Credit: © Image #4372328]
    Credit: © Image #4372328