Snow Isn’t Always Cool: A Tip for Painting Snow Using Warm Colors

We always think of summer as being the warmest time of the year, and winter as the coldest. The thermometer plunges when there is snow. But how does this apply to painting snow? It’s universally known that green hues are considered to be cool, and yellow, orange, and red to be warm colors, the latter being the warmest and most viewer-friendly.

This would imply that if a snow scene contains enough warm hues, it will technically be a warmer painting than a summer scene, which would contain predominantly green hues. To offset any cool hues instead of using blue for the snowy shadows, you can add some red to them and you will end up with a violet hue, which is warmer than blue.

The bare trees would be in the orange spectrum. You can even depict late afternoon skies with pinks and oranges, and cast these hues in your snow highlights. To treat white snow in sunlight, do not use white right out of the tube. Add yellow ochre orange (I use yellow ochre pale) and orange (cadmium) to the point where the color is barely noticeable; for the shadows, alternate between violet and blue. If your painting includes green trees, add touches of that, too (I use Viridian). Do it right and you’ll have a warm painting that the viewers will like more than green scenes!

Tips for Painting Snow

Not Home Yet (pastel) by Johannes Vloothuis

In this pastel painting, “Not Home Yet”, you can see the influence of reds in the cast shadows. The “white” snow is warm in the yellow orange spectrum. The leafless trees in the background are in the orange family. All of these factors play together to make this winter scene not appear cool.

To learn more about painting landscapes you can find “The Complete Essentials of Painting Grass and Snow” and other video courses at

Johannes Vloothuis is a regular contributor at and teaches online art classes with WetCanvas Live. To reach Vloothuis for these classes and to acquire teaching materials visit Come back soon for his next blog post with tips on how to paint.

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Edited by Cherie Haas, Online Editor of

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