Painting Winter Landscapes

With Thanksgiving now a memory, the leftover turkey sandwiches eaten and a weekend of football games to recall, it’s time to accept the indisputable reality that winter will soon be upon us.

For many of us, this is a great opportunity for skiing, skating, snowmobiling or flying south for the winter. For others, it’s the perfect opportunity for perfecting winter landscape painting skills.

If you’ve never tried to paint a winter wonderland, this is the year to give it a try. One nice thing about painting a snowy landscape is that you can use a limited palette.
Keeping to a minimum of colors simplifies things for a beginning painter. By using only a few hues, you’re assured of creating a piece that has harmonious colors. As another bonus, you don’t need to be overly concerned with details, as everything is covered with soft, puffy mounds of snow!

Tips For Painting Snowy Landscapes

  • For highlights of pure white, make sure to keep your white paint clean. Don’t contaminate it with a dirty brush.
  • If you closely observe a snow scene, you will see very few areas of pure white. The refractive quality of snow can make white seem to glow with a whiter-than-white appearance. Using a tiny amount of Cadmium Orange or Cadmium Yellow can give that extra pop to the purest white area of your painting.
  • White generally becomes warmer as it recedes. This is contrary to other colors, which become cooler as they move further away from the viewer.
  • If you’re painting a snow scene with a clear, blue sky, the snow will reflect more blue tones. If your painting features a dull, gray sky, the snow will reflect more neutral, gray shading. The snow will reflect warmer pink or orange hues, if you are painting a snow scene with a colorful, warm sunset.
  • Snow nearest the viewer generally has a blue tint. As the eye moves toward the middle ground of a painting, the snow takes on a more purple aspect.
  • Shadows in the snow can show reflected color. For example, the shadow of a red barn on a snowy field will have a more warmth than the shadow of a brown or gray structure.
  • The reflective quality of snow allows you to use a variety of colors in your snowscape. This diversity makes for a far more interesting painting.
  • Lowering, or dropping, the value of your sky instantly makes your snowscape appear brighter.
  • Texture tends to make the lightest colors in your snow move forward. Use heavier paint and allow brushstrokes and scumbling to show in your brightest, lightest white paint.

Differences Between White Paints

Most often used for painting in both acrylic and oils, Titanium White and Zinc White are the two white colors you’ll find in most artists’ tabourets.

Titanium White

Titanium White is very opaque. It has a lot of pigment and provides very good coverage. It’s easy to totally obliterate an unwanted area with a good application of Titanium White. It also lightens a hue very quickly, with less product than Zinc White. It instantly makes a pastel out of any color with which you blend it. As a glaze, it has a chalky, matte appearance that may or may not be desirable.

Zinc White

Zinc White has far more transparency than Titanium White. This transparency makes it possible to lighten a hue without turning it into a pastel as easily as Titanium White. If you want to lighten a transparent paint without losing its transparency, choose Zinc White. It’s easier to make subtle changes in color tone using this white paint.

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