Snowscapes in Watercolour

Though it doesn’t snow where I live, I’ve had the privilege of experiencing the brisk winter air paired with a world covered in white. And if you’ve ever wanted to paint snow, then this is the blog post for you!

Chilly Contrast 

While it may seem baffling to paint something that’s white, a great way to look at it is to paint the shapes surrounding white space (so basically negative painting).

This includes the sky, trees, rocks, etc. 

I’ve demonstrated this with some snow-covered trees, which really give the illusion of snow just by painting the shapes not covered by snow.

If this is your first time, it’s best to look at a reference image! You can also do a quick sketch of your negative shapes before you start painting.

The contrast generated by the white of the paper and the paint will give all the information the viewer needs to understand what’s going on.

Not Just White

Another helpful tip is to know that snow often isn’t just white.

Because it’s basically made of ice crystals, it will often take on a light blue tint, and will even reflect the colours of objects on top. 

The concept is similar to placing a red apple on top of a sheet of white paper, where the apple’s red colour will be slightly reflected in the area directly below (i.e. the reflected light area).

This means shadows in the snow can change colours depending on its surroundings, so don’t be afraid to make them a little more colourful! 

Nonetheless, avoid adding too much colour, or else it will look too reflective and turn into a more watery surface.

In a different case, dirty snow will take on the colour of dirt, so for example snow banks along the side of a river or road should have more browns and dark blues in them.

To practice this, you can “build” a snowman in paint – add a hat, a carrot nose, branches for arms, a scarf if you want – and add the shadows, including the spherical curve of the snowman’s body.

The Colours of Time

The time of day will also affect the snow’s colours. 

For example, painting at night will mean you’ll have to paint all the snow in a wash of diluted dark blue paint to get the right effect (basically the entire snow area is in shadow). 

Painting at dawn or dusk will cast a fiery glow onto the snowy areas facing the sun.

A great technique to use here is the “wet-in-wet” technique, where you wet the surface of the paper before painting on top. 

This will create very natural blends, which is perfect for painting the smooth curves and surfaces of the snow.

You can even add shadows on top to create more depth and an interesting layered effect.

If you live somewhere that snows, you can take a few pictures at different times of the day to see how much the sky affects the snow’s colours. 

Otherwise, there’s always a plethora of reference images to be found online. But there’s nothing quite like the real thing for sure!

Let It Snow

 

With the winter season just around the corner, it’s always a great excuse to hunker down and do some watercolour painting. 

Painting snow is really an exercise in negative painting, and don’t be afraid to tweak techniques or try new styles to get the effect you want!

It can be as magical or as dreary as you like, depending on what emotion you want to express.

Last but not least, make sure to stay warm, and keep practicing! 

Do you like the winter weather? What’s your favourite winter memory, and have you painted any snowscapes before? Let us know in the space below!

 

Nicola Tsoi is a practicing graphic designer and illustrator based in Hong Kong. During her downtime, she likes to watch birds do funny things, search for stories, and bake up a storm. She keeps a pet sourdough starter named Doughy. 
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