How to Add Fog to a Photo in Affinity Photo

by Dec 2, 2021Photo Editing Tutorials

Robin Whalley Landscape Photographer

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How to Add Fog to a Photo in Affinity Photo

In this tutorial, I’ll explain how to add fog to a photograph using Affinity Photo. After all, trying to capture fog in a landscape photograph can be extremely difficult. That’s why many photographers use editing tools like Affinity Photo and Photoshop to more dramatic fog. This can help return a scene to the way the photographer experienced and remembers it.

Select the Photo to Add Fog To

The first important step when adding fog to a photo is to select the starting image carefully. Often this is where photographers go wrong, producing results that look false.

The best approach is to start with a photo that is been taken in conditions where you might expect to see mist and fog. Typically, these don’t show a thick fog but will benefit from having fog added to them. At worst you should start with a photo that was taken in damp or cold conditions. It’s then quite reasonable to expect to see fog in the scene.

Image before and after adding the fog effect in affinity photo

Starting with the photo that was shot midday on a sunny summers day probably won’t look believable when you add fog to it.

Choosing Your Fog Overlay

Whilst it is possible to create the appearance of fog using different techniques in Affinity Photo, a far easier approach is to use a fog overlay.

A fog overlay is one where the image only shows fog or mist, but which is on a transparent background. Then when the overlay is placed over an image, it allows the photo to show through, making it appear as though it’s foggy.

It’s possible to find free fog overlays for download with a quick Internet search. An alternative thought is to purchase the overlays from the Affinity website. The overlays I’ll be using in this tutorial are from the Atmosphere collection by James Ritson which you can find in the Affinity shop.

Affinity website show with the Atmosphere Collection of overlays

When you purchase assets from the Affinity shop, they appear automatically for download in Affinity Photo. You can then download them by clicking the “my account” icon to the top right of the Affinity Photo Interface.

My Account dialog showing purchased overlays

After downloading your overlays, they will appear in your Assets Studio Panel in Affinity Photo.

The Affinity Photo Assets Studio Panel

It’s quite possible that your Assets Studio Panel won’t be visible in Affinity Photo. If it isn’t, you can display it in the View menu. From the main menu select View and then Studio where you can click the Assets option. The Asset Panel should then show in the Affinity Photo Interface, probably on the left of the screen. You might also want to consider saving a Studio Preset with your settings.

Affinity Photo Assets Panel

To the top right of the Asset Panel is a small icon for a pop-up menu (numbered 1). Clicking this displays a menu where you can choose the option “Import Assets”. You can then select any assets that you may have downloaded from the Internet and want to manually import. If you purchased your assets in the Affinity shop and they’ve been downloaded, they will appear in the Assets Panel.

To choose the asset collection that you want to use, click the drop-down (numbered 2). This displays a list of collections you can select. The overlays will then appear in the Assets Studio Panel for you to use.

Position the Fog Overlay

With your image open in Affinity Photo, you can add a fog overlay to it by clicking and dragging. Click on the overlay you want to use in the Assets Panel and whilst continuing to hold down the mouse button, drag and drop it onto the image.

Image in Affinity Photo with a fog overlay added

Here you can see the original image with the fog overlay applied. Notice that the overlay is a different size to the image it’s been added to. You can fix this by clicking and dragging the handles on the edge of the overlay (numbered 1) with your mouse.

In this example it will help to angle the overlay slightly as the ground is on the slope. This will make the fog in the overlay appear to have the contours of the land. You can rotate the overlay by clicking the small handle at the top centre of the overlay (numbered 2).

Mask the Fog Overlay

After adding and sizing the fog overlay to the image, you may need to mask off areas to make it appear real. This helps to create a seamless blend between the overlay and the image so that it doesn’t look obvious.

If you’re using the Atmosphere overlays from James Ritson, you will find that they come with masks. By default, these masks are disabled but you can enable them in the Layers Studio Panel.

Fog overlay with masks applied

Here you can see the difference the masks make to blending the overlay with the image. The image on the left shows the overlay without the masks. There you can see the edge of the overlay at the top and bottom of the frame. After turning on the masks that came with the overlay the fog blends seamlessly into the image.

Despite this, I want to make a further enhancement to remove some of the fog from the foreground trees nearest the camera. This will make the fog appear to pass behind the trees, creating a feeling of depth. We can do this by adding another mask.

Creating a Bespoke Mask

You might not realise it but it’s possible to add multiple masks to the same layer in Affinity Photo. It’s a good idea to do this as it preserves the original masks and allows you to refine Opacity and other settings on individual masks.

First, click the fog overlay to select it. You can then click the “mask layer” icon to the bottom of the Layers Studio Panel. You will then see the new mask added below the fog overlay.

New mask added to the fog overlay

Now turn off the fog layer in the Layers Studio Panel to hide it whilst selecting the trees in the image.

To select the trees, click on the background image in the Layers Studio Panel to ensure that it selected. Then in the Channels Studio Panel, click each colour channel in turn to view it. This displays the colour channel as a black-and-white image. What you need to look for is one where the trees are dark and well separated from the lighter background fog.

With this image we could use any of the colour channels, but I’ll select the blue as it seems to have slightly better separation than the others.

Now load the pixels in the blue channel by right clicking on the channel in the Channels Studio Panel and select “Load to pixel selection”. This will display “marching ants” around the selected areas of the image.

Currently, the selection is the inverse of what we need as we want to paint through the selection to mask out the trees. We can fix this by inverting the selection in the Select menu, choosing “Invert pixel selection”.

Painting Through the Selection

Before painting through the selection and onto the mask, it can help to hide the marching ants. This allows you to better see the effect of painting on the mask. To hide the marching ants, select View from the Affinity menu and then “Show pixel selection”. This toggles the marching ants off, but it leaves the  selection in place.

Now turn on the fog layer again and click the new mask in the Layers Studio Panel. This ensures that you selected the mask and that you don’t accidentally paint directly onto the image.

Select the Brush Tool from the Affinity Photo Tools Palette. Configure this to use black, have a soft edge, and a lower opacity of between 10 and 20%. You can then paint over the trees in the area where you would like to hide the fog from the image. As you paint you will see the fog is removed from the trees but remains in the background. This creates a feeling of depth to the image and the fog seems to pass behind the trees.

Fog effect applied to the image together with the tree mask

Here you can see the fog effect applied to the image on the left. On the right you can see the mask created by painting through the selection.

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Controlling the Density of Fog in the Photo

There are several things you can do to control the density of fog in the photo. This includes changing the:

  1. Opacity of the layer mask you created.
  2. Opacity of the fog overlay layer.
  3. Blending mode of the fog overlay layer.

You can also duplicate the fog overlay layer and change these properties on that layer also. If you want to see how these adjustments work, watch the following video.

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How to Add Fog to a Photo Summary

There are many techniques you can use in Affinity Photo to add fog to your photos. Perhaps the easiest is the one covered in this tutorial where we use a fog overlay. Whilst you can find free overlays to download on the Internet, the Atmosphere collection I used from the Affinity website are some of the best. Applying these to the image and using the default masks they provide is often sufficient to produce a very realistic fog effect. That is providing you start with an image that makes fog believable.

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