Saturday, 6 March 2010

How do I Darken the Colour of Snow?

Because the colour of snow is inherently white, this knowledge will be carried into snow paintings, resulting in a flat portrayal of snow. The beginner in painting snow will stick to pale colours, or just white, creating a painting that appears unfinished for the white patches that abound. Some artists make the mistake of darkening the colour of snow with black, resulting in dirty looking snow that lacks atmosphere.

Avoiding Dirty Colours in Snow

An unsatisfactory painting of snow could be avoided if certain painting practices are avoided, which are:
    Colour Mixes for Snow
    Rachel Shirley
  • Restricting the colour of snow to white
  • Darkening the colour of snow with black or dark brown
  • Portraying snow as a quilt-like layer lying on every perceivable surface portrayed in the painting, resulting in an idealistic painting of snow
  • Trying to paint snow from memory or using poor reference material
  • Toning down dark and contrasting colours that are actually in the resource material, resulting in a snow painting that appears bleached out
  • Having insufficient colours at the artist’s disposal, resulting in substituting or restricting colours within the painting
  • Painting snow straight onto a white painting surface, making it difficult to judge the tonal values of snow and therefore making it impossible to make it key in to the rest of the painting
  • Using the same brush marks throughout the painting to express snow
Tips on Painting Snow

With the above in mind, improvements can be made to a snow painting. The following tips and ideas will help:
  • My link to an oil painting demonstration of snow will reveal that snow is not merely white, but consists of an array of pales and pastel shades, particularly in oblique lighting. White with a hint of burnt sienna will result in luscious creams often seen in snow drifts; white with a hint of ultramarine will result in pastel violets seen within shadows on bright sunny days. Other pales, such as crimsons, china blues and eggshells will add authenticity to the colour of snow
  • Similarly, snow often contains subtle darks, from deep violets, midnight blues and earth colours, to magenta.
  • Throw the black paint in the bin. It is better to darken the colour of snow with a hint of ultramarine mixed with burnt sienna or burnt umber for extra definition. Pthalo blue mixed with permanent rose also results in deep violets, ideal for snow shadows
  • Having good reference material is essential to a snow painting. Only sensitive observation will reveal that snow possesses subtleties and variations in outlines, textures and tones
  • Applying a thin wash of a neutral coloured paint over the painting surface prior to embarking the snow painting will help the artist judge the true tonal values of snow. This would be impossible if the white colour of snow were applied onto a white painting surface, which would give a misleading impression of its tone. Acrylic paint is ideal for underpainting, for it dries quickly and provides a good grounding for oil paint.
  • Painting from light to dark will help avoid colour contamination if clean pales are to be retained in the snow painting
See my youtube clip on painting a snowy landscape in 7 steps.

Techniques for Painting Snow

A wintry landscape painting often benefits from impasto techniques, which requires good quality bristle brushes and thick paint, applied alla prima, which means “in one go.” To save the cost of oil paint, impasto medium can be used. Adding impasto medium to highlights and pales of snow will make snow appear to advance out of the painting, adding an element of texture. Palette knives can also be used

For subtle colours and detail, such as the dusting of snow on branches, good quality thin sables should be used. To suggest snow blasted surfaces after a blizzard, a little white paint can be flicked at selected areas of the painting. A fine spray can be achieved by mixing a little linseed oil into the paint mixture.

Lastly, when darkening the colour of snow, it is best to introduce the dark colour gradually, to prevent a dirty mix or producing shadows that appear too black.

Essential Art Materials for Painting Snow

The following pigments would come in very useful for adding depth to snow paintings: white, ultramarine, pthalo blue, burnt sienna, permanent rose and burnt umber. Other colours will occasionally be seen, such as a little cadmium red and even viridian. Impasto medium is useful for impasto techniques, as well as good quality wide bristle brushes. Sables are invaluable for blending and detail. Round sizes 3, 6 and 12 would suit most painting sizes.

Related Links on Painting Snow

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