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In This Article...
- Tricks to Help you Master Wintry Landscapes
- Why is Painting Realistic Snow so Difficult?
- Giving Your Snow Dimension
- Adding Physical Texture to Your Snow Painting
- Painting a Snowstorm
- Summing Up Tricks for Painting Snow
- Do You Have Any Snow Painting Tips That Haven’t Been Included? Feel Free to Share in the Comments, and Help Your Fellow Beginner Artists!
Tricks to Help you Master Wintry Landscapes
Today, I’m going to share with you some of my best snow painting tips, give you links to easy painting tutorials so you can put these epic techniques to good use, and talk about the three most important elements that you need to consider to make painting snow a lot easier. Let’s get right into it!
Why is Painting Realistic Snow so Difficult?
The biggest barrier to painting snow is that what we see with the eye is not exactly what we paint. So, although your eye sees it as white, when you paint snow, you will be painting it with many different colors.
Some colors include blues, purples, greys, yellows, pinks, and a whole bunch of other colors. Because snow is reflective, it will pick up the colors of objects around it but in a more muted way.
Of all of my snow painting tips, one of the most important is to study your light source.
- Where is it located?
- What time of day?
- Is it a sunny day?
- Is it a cloudy day?
- Is it a snowstorm?
Answering all of these questions will tell you what colors you can add to your snowscape. For example, if it’s a sunny day, the snow will be a lot brighter than it would be on a cloudy day. Also, knowing where your light source is located will show you where your highlights and shadows need to be which will, in turn, give you a hint as to what colors your shadows should be.
Go to Pixabay and take a look at lots and lots of winter landscape photos. Notice the way the snow picks up different colors. What colors do you see in the shadows? What about the highlights?
Another one of my snow painting tips is to remember that snow is reflective which means it can be super bright. So, what do you do when snow is whiter than white? You’ve got a couple of potential options:
- Keep in mind that your brightest spots are going to be pure white paint so make all other colors a bit more muted and darker than white
- According to some of our more experienced fellow artists, add a titch, and I mean a SPECK, of cadmium orange to your white. Cad orange supposedly makes your whites whiter (we’ll talk more about this in just a bit)
Giving Your Snow Dimension
When you get right down to it, creating dimension in your snow is the ticket. Otherwise, all you have is a big white spot on your painting. It looks flat and lifeless which is not the look we’re going for!
That said, if you use the snow painting tips that I’ve given you so far, you’ll have a winter wonderland to be totally proud of. Let’s dive deeper into color, light, and shadow, which are the three key ingredients to creating snow that looks like, well, snow!
Say it with me: “Do not paint the snow shadows with black paint”. All of the snow painting tips I’ve already given you are important but this one is the one I see beginners do incorrectly most often.
I mean, when it comes to painting, you can do what makes your heart happy but, trust me on this, if you use blues and purples to create shadows on your snow, you’re going to find your painting is much more interesting and less of a struggle.
Highlights are going to be so much more than just white on white. Since snow is reflective, take a look at the colors you’ve used elsewhere in your painting. Does the sky have a lot of pinks? Then your snow will have a lot of pink but it will be more muted (softer looking).
Something I kept coming across, while researching for myself, is that if you add just a touch of Cadmium Orange to the white paint it will make the snow look brighter.
I decided to do an experiment to either prove or disprove this popular tip and these are the steps I took:
- Paint used:
- Titanium White
- Mars Black
- Phthalo Blue
- Burnt Umber
- Cadmium Orange Hue
- I used a mixture of blue and brown to lay in the trees
- I added a bit more blue and some white to the color I used on the trees to create an underpainting for the snow
- I added plain white paint to all three trees
- Top Left: I left as is
- Top Right: I added a small amount of cad orange to white and created highlights on both the tree and the ground
- Bottom Middle: I mixed up some blue and white then added a bit of orange to dull out the blue. Then, I added this to the tree and the ground as shadows
So, what do you think? Did adding the Cadmium Orange to the white make a difference? I’m not sure if it actually makes the white look brighter on its own but when you add the blue shadows it definitely gives a bit more of a pop. That makes sense because orange and blue are complimentary colors. You can read more about complimentary colors and the color wheel here.
If you want to experiment, get yourself some glitter acrylic paint or even fine craft glitter! Add a bit to any area in your painting where the sun shines directly on the snow. This is one of those snow painting tips that just makes it all so much more fun! I love paintings that add a bit of the unexpected. It’s an easy way to add lots of interest to your painting.
You can find glitter and glitter paint at most craft stores and even in the arts and crafts area of your local dollar store.
Joni Young Art shows you how to paint a beautiful snowy scene using her signature neon colors. As we’ve discussed above, Joni also tells you to focus on color, light, and shadow to get the best results in your paintings.
Besides using neon colors, she also uses gold metallic paint for the underpainting, and she adds a few shakes of glitter, as well. All of these things combined create a wonderfully magical wintry landscape that’s absolutely swoon-worthy! Can you tell I’m a fan-girling just a bit? Haha!
Adding Physical Texture to Your Snow Painting
Here’s a really easy way to give your winter landscape lots of dimension. Consider using thicker paint, or a gel medium, and a palette knife to create snowdrifts. Adding physical texture to your snow will create natural shadows, depending on where it’s located.
When the light shines on your snow scene, it will catch on the thickest parts of the paint, leaving a shadow beneath.
That being said, I would still add in some blue and purple shadows so that they won’t look flat during certain times of the day.
Painting a Snowstorm
If you live in an area of the world where you get snowstorms, you know that there’s nothing quite like that feeling of being snuggled under a thick, soft knit blanket, warm drink in hand, watching the snowflakes fall and swirl on a grey stormy day. It’s literally the coziest feeling in the world.
If you’d like to recreate that feeling in a work of art, knowing how to paint lots of snowflakes is going to be essential. Luckily, it’s super easy to create the look of a snowstorm!
All you really need is an old toothbrush and some watered down white paint. Dip the bristles in the thin white paint, blot on a paper towel to knock off any large paint drips, and, finally, just run your finger along the bristles of the toothbrush.
Take care to have a piece of scrap paper nearby so you can give your paint-loaded toothbrush a good flick to see how large the “snowflakes” will be and to make sure you’ve got the brush pointed at the right angle.
Here are some more snow painting tips to help you create a stormy winter landscape:
- Visibility during snowstorms is reduced so if you are painting a heavy snowfall, your background will continue to get lighter until it’s the tiniest bit darker than your sky. This will make it look as if your background is fading away
- Storms are moody so your color selection should be mostly greys, purples, blues, and, of course, white
- The sky, during a snowstorm, is very flat looking. It literally looks like a grey blanket so don’t spend your precious time blending too carefully. Load different shades of gray on your brush and just slap the paint on there
- Once you’ve got your snowflakes flicked on, wait for them to dry and then go back in and add some more that are a bit larger. Those will look closer and will push everything back a bit
- If you wanted to give your snowstorm painting a whimsical feel, you could add more detailed snowflakes that are quite a bit larger so that the actual snowstorm becomes the background and the subject becomes the large snowflakes. To make your snowflakes even more interesting, you could add some glitter paint
Art of John Magne Lisondra has a wonderful tutorial that shows you how to create a snowstorm effect. This painting is great at teaching you how to give the illusion of depth while staying very loose and impressionistic. Plus, he only uses three colors!
This type of painting is really easy for beginners because there are very few details so you don’t have to be exact.
I look at this painting and can see how easily this could be changed into a holiday scene with a few creative additions.
Summing Up Tricks for Painting Snow
I know painting a winter scene can seem daunting but it really just comes down to how you go about giving the snow lots of dimension.
As long as you keep in mind where your light source, within the painting, is coming from, in addition to adding lots of different colors to represent highlights and shadows, you’ll find that it’s not so hard, after all!
I hope you’ve found these snow painting tips helpful and give a few of them a try. Before you know it, you’ll be creating winter wonderlands that will give you that comforting feeling that only a snowstorm can give.