If you don’t have a winter scene suitable for a Christmas card, fear not, as Andrew Sydenham reveals how you can fake it in a few simple steps

When snow and ice hit this country, it’s seldom for very long – in fact, often, if you blink you’ll miss it. The problem with finding a suitable picture for a Christmas card, or in fulfilling a client’s request for a wintry scene, is that you really need to think about the subject and shoot it long before the pictures are required – usually in the middle of summer, when the budget will hardly fly you off to an Alpine glacier. All is not lost, though, as fortunately there’s a simple solution in the Photoshop Channels and Layers palettes.

To convert a summer picture to a winter scene and give it a chilly look is not a complicated procedure, but the secret to success lies in your choice of image. The technique can work extremely effectively with one scene, but have little visual impact on another. I had to experiment with a number of images before

I found one that worked for me. I discovered that important criteria include features such as railings or tree branches, with highlight and shadow areas that show up the snow effect clearly. My image of Boscombe Pier in Dorset (featured) had the qualities I was looking for.

Christmas Projects – Fake Snow

How to Create the effect

Software needed

To recreate this winter transformation, we’ve used Photoshop, but you should also be able to transfer  these steps to follow the tutorial in Photoshop Elements and other image-editing programs to achieve a similar look to our version.

1. Resize image

Open your image and, in the Image<Image Size menu, change the resolution to 72ppi. Check the Constrain Proportions and Resample Image boxes. This stage is important for the snowflake size later. If the resolution is too fine, the snowflakes will appear too small.

Christmas Photo Project - Fake Snow

2. Rotate and select

In the Image>Image Rotation menu, rotate the image 90° clockwise (CW). With the Lasso tool, I made a rough selection of the sky and upper deck area, avoiding the foreground with the decking bolts and fixings, which don’t look good with the ice effect.

Christmas Photo Project - Fake Snow

3. Add the icicle effect

Go to Filter>Stylize>Wind. Select Wind as your method and check direction From the right. Click ok and a fairly subtle ice effect is dragged down from the linear edges in the picture. Next, rotate the image back 90° CCW.

Christmas Photo Project - Fake Snow

4. Adjust the Hue/Saturation

Pull up the Hue/Saturation palette from the Layers box and make adjustments to suit the wintry feel you are seeking to create. In this case, the settings are Hue -20, Saturation -10 and Lightness +3.

Christmas Photo Project - Fake Snow

5. Create snow

Create a new layer and fill with black. In the Filter menu, select Noise>Add Noise, then select 100% Gaussian  and check the Monochromatic box. Return to the Filter menu and select Blur>Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 1.0 pixels.

Christmas Photo Project - Fake Snow

6. Size the snowflakes

Open the Levels window and set the Input Levels  sliders to 140 lower and 142 higher. This creates  an even distribution of snowflakes. Next, go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and set the Radius slider  to 0.5 pixels.

Christmas Photo Project - Fake Snow

7. Blend the snow

In the layers panel, change the Blending Mode to Screen.

Christmas Photo Project - Fake Snow

8. Increase the snow

To change the direction and intensity of the snow  and add a little more, make a copy layer and go to Edit>Transform>Rotate 180°. Reduce the Opacity  to 50% and winter is finally with us.

Christmas Photo Project - Fake Snow

The finished product!

Christmas Photo Project - Fake Snow After