How to Paint Snow

Painting a snowy landscape creates many opportunities for the artist to explore the unexpected colours within snow, such as whipped-cream snow drifts and rutted roads.


Winter Landscape Painting


Snow is not merely white, but many colours. It can be rich and creamy, powdery and dusty, or mushy and wet. Reflections from the sky, as well as the sunlight can fundamentally affect the colour of snow. The following pointers might help the beginner.
Do not presume that snow consists of only white and grey. Close observation might reveal pinks, crimsons, purples, browns and even greens within snow. If the eye detects such colours, record them onto the painting.
  • It is difficult to set the tone of the painting by applying white paint onto a white surface. Applying a thin wash of acrylic paint of a mid-toned colour will help the artist judge the tones of the snow. Such a thin wash is known as an imprimitura
  • Apply the pale colours of the snow before the dark colours to avoid it becoming contaminated
  • Sketch the paint on thinly initially until confidence in the painting has been established.
  • Even the subtlest variations in colour and tone will make the study of snow effective
  • Stand back from the painting periodically to judge how it might look to the spectator. Apparently important details might be unnoticeable from afar.
 Art Materials Required
  1. A suitable photograph depicting snow, one with sunlight would be ideal
  2. Acrylic paint in cadmium red
  3. Oil paints in the following colours: titanium, pthalo blue, ultramarine, permanent rose, burnt sienna and burnt umber
  4. A 10” x 12” (25.4 x 30.5cm) primed MDF, or larger if required. Alternatively an art board, such a Dalerboard can be used.
  5. A size 3 and size 6 round sable brushes
  6. A ½  inch bristle brush
  7. A palette consisting of a china plate or varnished wood.
  8. Small pot of artists’ white spirits
  9. A few rags
  10. A soft pencil

Tips on Painting Snow


Adding a little burnt sienna to titanium white will result in a glowing creamy colour often seen in sunlit snowdrifts.
Demonstration on Painting Snow
The hues found in snow are usually within the violet spectrum, and consists of blues, violets, crimsons and similar cool colours. If a painting contains large areas of snow, applying a warm imprimatura beneath, will add an expressive feel into these cool colours. In this case, a thin wash of cadmium red acrylic was applied. It was allowed to dry.
Once the drawing had been sketched out with a soft pencil, the palest area of snow was applied first. This was achieved with a mix of titanium and a little burnt sienna.
Snow Scene Colours
A wintry sky often contains a greenish tinge, as opposed to the violet-blue of a summer sky. Pthalo blue was mixed with lots of white and daubed onto the sky between the branches. More white and a little permanent rose was introduced towards the horizon.
The Colour of Shadows on Snow
In order to achieve the cool colours within the shaded area of snow, burnt umber and ultramarine was introduced into the pthalo blue mixture. This paint was pasted onto the foreground area. But like any textured object, even shadows have highlights and lowlights. In this case, created by the ruts in the snow. To suggest this, a little white was added to the mixture and dabbed in the direction of the path, and then darkened with ultramarine and burnt umber for the darker areas.
If the colour of the snow does not look quite right, the area can easily be wiped off with a clean rag. Start again with a clean brush.
Snowy Landscape Painting


A thin sable was used to express the shrubbery in the background; permanent rose and burnt sienna was used to suggest the warm colours of the late afternoon sun. Burnt umber and ultramarine was used for the shaded areas of trees and shrubbery. Finally, with a clean, soft brush, the different areas of colour and tone within the painting were knitted together to give the painting coherence.

This site comprise of pictures and excerpts taken from my two art instruction books. Oil Paintings from Your Garden can be purchased direct from the author via this site, or through Amazon.


My other book, Oil Paintings from the Landscape can be purchased direct from Amazon. © Rachel Shirley 2010