Let it snow in Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo tutorial
(Image credit: James Paterson)

Watch video: Let it snow in Affinity Photo

It may not be a white Christmas for all of us this year, but we can still give our photographs a festive snowstorm, whatever the weather. In this tutorial we’ll show you how to do so with Affinity Photo’s powerful Brush tool. 

We’ll also explain how to create your own brushes, and how to change your brush settings to build up a random scatter effect for the snow. Whether you want to add a wintry effect to your photos, or get creative with all kinds of amazing brush tricks, the technique here will show you how.

Affinity Photo’s Brush tool offers a rewarding array of powerful tools and hidden features that you can utilize. Not only can you choose from all kinds of fantastic brush tips, you can also create your own from any shape or image you like. We’ll take advantage of this here, beginning by painting a few simple blobs. Once done, we can save our image as a PNG file (which preserves transparency), then load the picture as a brush tip and begin painting white snow over the image.

Of course, we can save these brushes for use in future designs and effects as well. We can also experiment with brush settings that allow us to scatter, rotate and spread out our brush. 

These fun features and settings let us randomize our snow brush effect, as if we were throwing handfuls of snow across the scene ourselves! By experimenting with these brilliant ‘jitter’ settings, we can blast a blizzard across the photograph in a matter of seconds and with relative ease.

Read more:

• Affinity Photo 1.8 review

Step 1: Paint black blobs

You can click on the gadget in the top right corner of these screenshots to zoom in on a full size version. (Image credit: James Paterson)

Go to File>New, set the page width and height to 10 inches, check ‘Transparent Background’ and hit OK. Next, get the Brush tool, set colour to black and paint a few random spots. Next, go to Filter>Blur>Motion Blur and blur a few pixels. You can use Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur to add more.

Step 2: Add more dots

(Image credit: James Paterson)

Name the layer ‘big,’ and make a new layer called ‘small,’ then paint some smaller dots. To speed things up, grab the Move tool, hold Alt and drag the blobs to make a copy, then move it. Do this a few times, then highlight the copied layers (Cmd/Ctrl-click to select several) and go to Layer>Merge Selected.

Step 3:  Create a brush tip

(Image credit: James Paterson)

When you’re happy with the shapes go to File>Export, select PNG and save the file. Next, open the image you want to add snow to, and go to the Brushes panel (go to View>Studio>Brushes if you can’t see it). Click the top-right menu in the panel, choose New Intensity Brush and load in the PNG.

Step 4: Make it snow

(Image credit: James Paterson)

Grab the Brush tool from the toolbar on the left and choose the newly loaded brush from the list of brushes in the Brushes panel. Set the colour to white, then make a new layer, resize the brush tip with the ] and [ keys, and paint a few times to add various levels of snow around the frame of your photograph.

Step 5: Add to the blizzard

(Image credit: James Paterson)

Go back to the snow image and turn off the big layer so that just the smaller blobs are visible, then export as a PNG and create another brush. Once loaded, click More in the brush options. In Dynamics, increase the Jitters for Size, Rotation, Scatter X and Y, then paint around the image to add these smaller flakes to the snow effect.

Step 6: Cool the image

(Image credit: James Paterson)

Once you’re happy, make a new layer and press Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E to merge all the layers. We’ll take this into the Tone Mapping Persona at top left for final toning. Choose a preset – we used ‘Neo Gothic Novel’ here for a blue desaturated look, then decreased Local Contrast.  

Quick tip

The snow effect can look more natural if you add levels of snow both in front of and behind the subject. To do so, you can select the subject by painting over them with the Selection Brush (set it to ‘Snap to Edges’ in the tool options to lock on to the outline of the figure). Once done, you can copy the selected area to a new layer (Cmd/Ctrl+J), then add layers both on top and below it. We’ve done so here to create a hazy effect, as if the street beyond is thick with falling snow.

About N-Photo magazine

This tutorial originally appeared in N-Photo, the monthly newsstand magazine for Nikon photographers. Why not subscribe to a print edition, and have the magazine delivered direct to your door every month?

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Read more:
• Photography tips and tutorial videos
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• The best desktop computers for photo editing
• The best photo-editing laptops right now
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James Paterson

The lead technique writer on Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine and N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine, James is a fantastic general practice photographer with an enviable array of skills across every genre of photography. 

Whether it's flash photography techniques like stroboscopic portraits, astrophotography projects like photographing the Northern Lights, or turning sound into art by making paint dance on a set of speakers, James' tutorials and projects are as creative as they are enjoyable. 

He's also a wizard at the dark arts of Photoshop, Lightroom and Affinity Photo, and is capable of some genuine black magic in the digital darkroom, making him one of the leading authorities on photo editing software and techniques.