Make Your Autumn Images Pop With the Falling Leaves Actions & Overlays


In this tutorial, I will walk you through how to use the Falling Leaves Actions and Overlays. I will go over the various types of actions - from placing leaves, to overall color adjustments - included in this set, and how you can get the most out of each. 

The ultimate goal is to make the leaves look as natural as possible, and this set includes all types of actions that will help you achieve a natural, beautiful autumn look! 

This tutorial assumes you have a basic working knowledge of Layers and Layers Masks in Photoshop. This tutorial is geared towards Photoshop CC & CS users.


Before working with the Falling Leaves actions, I always like to make my basic exposure, contrast, and any skin adjustments first. Then, I begin to work with the leaves. I start by using the Place Leaves Action:

When the action plays, it will pull up a search box, at which point you will navigate to the folder where you originally saved your leaf overlays:

For this example, I selected Group 5 in the Bonus Leaves.

Use the Move tool to place the leaves where you want them:

I am going to be removing leaves from the group to make the placement appear more natural, so I have added a Layer Mask to my Leaves layer. You can do this manually, as shown below, or you can use the Add Layer Mask action which is included in the set:

To remove individual leaves, set your Foreground color to black, select a soft, round brush, and then make sure you have clicked on the Layer Mask icon (the white rectangle as shown in the image above) in your Layers panel:

With your brush set to 100% Opacity and Flow, brush over the leaves that you want to remove from the image.

As you can see below, I have removed quite a few leaves. There is no formula for how many you should/shouldn't have in your image, but my method is to try to visualize how it actually looks when leaves are falling, and then try to replicate that.

You'll notice that the way in which leaves fall can range from falling in large groups, single leaves, at different speeds, and at varying distances from the camera, so that is what I am trying to recreate here.

First, I am focusing on leaves that will appear to be falling right around the subject. You can use the Move/Rotate/Resize action to get the leaves to approximately the same size they would be in reality, in relation to the subject.

Since the leaves are supposed to appear as though they're falling, blurring the leaves will make them appear even more natural, and you can do so by using the three Blur actions. Here, I have selected Medium Blur:

You can also change the intensity of the blur using the slider:

After blurring my leaves, I decided to remove even more leaves from around the subject, again using the soft black brush on my Layer Mask. If you want to add leaves back in that you have removed, you can brush over them with a white brush on your Layer Mask to add them back in. A black brush removes leaves, a white brush adds leaves back in:

In addition to the leaf group overlays, the set also includes individual leaf overlays. I like to add in individual leaves after the group overlay in order to fill in smaller sections of the image. In the next image, you will see that I have used the same leaf three times by duplicating the original leaf layer. You can also move/resize the duplicated leaf in order to add variation.

You will also want to use varying amounts of blur in order to portray leaves that are falling faster than others. More blur = a faster fall! And, if you think about the laws of gravity and motion, the closer the leaf is to the ground, the faster it will be falling, and the blurrier it will be:

At this point, how you edit the leaves will depend on the image you are editing, and how prominent you would like the leaves to be. Here is my final image:

After my initial leaf placement that I have just showed you, these are the steps I took:

  • Added more individual leaves
  • Varied the size of each leaf: the larger the leaf, the closer it will appear, and the smaller the leaf, the further away it will appear
  • I tweaked the color of individual leaves so that nothing stood out as too yellow or too red using the Change Leaf Color action
  • Also, be sure to consider the depth of field in the original image. In this image, there is a narrow depth of field, so leaves that are to appear close to and far away from the camera should be very blurry in order to match the depth of field in the image
  • I used the Desaturate Colors action at a low opacity to tone the saturation down just a bit

Other actions in this set:

  • Overall color/tone actions made specifically to enhance fall color
  • Vignette choices
  • There are several workflow actions like the Add Layer Mask action I mentioned above, as well as group/ungroup layers. One of my favorites is the Before/After action that will quickly show you your progress on the image so far. It's a very helpful action that can prevent you from over-editing!

Do you have any questions about the Falling Leaves Actions & Overlays? We love hearing from you! Please join us in our private Pretty Photoshop Actions  Facebook Group


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