A recipe for snow shadows

On very cold and sunny days in the winter (if you factor in the wind today it’s -29°C in Montreal!) the shadows on the snow are brilliant and sharp. I can’t think of one tube of blue paint that would approximate the colour perfectly. Today in my studio I did a few experiments to see what mix would work best for the scene that I saw while walking the dog this morning.

In the past I’ve used Cobalt Blue for snow but I wanted something a bit more purple and less opaque. Since my sky is painted with a light wash of Phthalo Blue, I thought I’d start with that. I added the tiniest drop of Quinacridone Rose to my blue wash, but felt it needed a warmer blue as well, so into that I mixed some Cerulean Blue. I always keep a test sheet next to me for trying out colours, and this seemed to dry at just the right intensity. It’s always a balancing act, getting the colour right and then mixing enough of it to paint all the shadows in one go without running out of wash. But this was an easy mix to make and fairly easy to duplicate, so I’ll be trying it again on the next winter scenes I do. And if you are curious about the really dark trees — that’s mostly Indanthrene Blue, a bit of Indigo and some Alizarin as well. Arches CP paper, or maybe rough, 15″ x 11″.


68 Comments on “A recipe for snow shadows”

  1. Susan says:



  2. Leslie Blackwell says:

    Wow, that’s a stunning watercolour. Thanks for the tips.


  3. Soni says:

    Wow !!! What a popper ! Great results & thanks for breaking it down & why.

    Btw, congrats 🍾 on having your own time back. I hope next term isn’t so hectic.

    Really like your composition here as well. I can tell the snow crunching underfoot.


    • Thanks so much Soni! Yes, I will be enjoying my time off. And I will be getting away from the snow for a little bit too, so you may even see some palm trees… I hope you have a good holiday too.


  4. Connie Renaud says:

    I love your winter scene. Thank you so
    much for your secret on how to make that snow ‘pop’. I can’ t wait to try it!


  5. Beautiful Shari! Great tips!


  6. Marie says:

    I love this! I don’t comment often, but I sure do enjoy your blog! Thanks for posting.


  7. Dawn says:

    Beautiful shadows! You nailed it!!


  8. ksbeth says:

    very well done, shari )


  9. Ruth Kaldor says:

    What brush do you use for the thin branches and twigs?


  10. This painting has all my favorite blues! You’re a genius with snow Shari!


  11. debraji says:

    Shari, I really think you captured the shadows just right. You can tell by looking at them that it’s a bright, sunny day.


  12. minervafm says:

    So beautiful, cool and crisp! Thank you for sharing the recipes.


  13. SusanA says:

    I love the play of shadows and light in this sketch. And the way you brought the snow up the trunks of the trees is very evocative of the wind that put it there. Thank you for the tips!


  14. Alison says:

    I have to concurr: “wow!” The light absolutely crackles. This truly stunning. I was noticing the light and shadows driving into town today. You have captured it in all it’s crispiness.


  15. Donna says:

    I love the blues you’ve made!!! I can tell it’s a cold crisp day. Thanks for the info.


  16. Felicia says:

    Exactly right! Truth in painting is so very hard to capture and this does it. Thanks for generously sharing your painting tips. I’m a bit envious of your snow, insulating all those plant roots. It’s been cold, dipping into the teens at night, windy and dry as a bone. If this keeps up, it’s going to cost me a fortune in the spring for new plants. Wind + cold – snow = dead plants


    • Hi Felicia, I don’t know where you live but I do know what those kind of winters are like. We sometimes have January thaws in Montreal and I always worry about exactly that — the perennials with frozen roots in my garden. Hope you get a insulating cover of snow soon.


  17. Very beautiful Shari! Thanks for sharing your talents all year long!


  18. miatagrrl says:

    Oh man. . . quintessential Blaukopf. ❤

    – Tina


  19. John says:

    This is wonderful – I can really feel the cold snap in the air!


  20. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Yes, I have seen this blue in the snow.


  21. Judy Sopher says:

    Not much more to add to all the comments but to agree. This is a beautiful use of blues. The tree trunks really caught my eye. And the contrast with the reddish house in the back-love it.


  22. Carol Cooney says:

    You have captured it!!!!


  23. Andrew says:

    That one is just amazing! pure magic..


  24. Bernadette says:

    Wonderfully done, beautiful blues and my new favorite painting of yours. Thank you for sharing so generously with us.


  25. Lynn says:

    I’ve never written on anyone’s blog before, but I’m compelled to say in this case that your watercolors are amazing!


  26. Shari – I always look forward to your posts and hold my breath in anticipation. I love your street scenes and no one does snow and shadows like you. You are an inspiration to all of us out here struggling to capture our environment. thank you for continuing to share not only the sketches but your insights into paper, colors and mixing.


  27. walfischbucht says:

    Wow. This really seems to suck you right into the scene. You did achieve fantastic depth and feeling.


  28. Paul says:

    Just BRILLIANT in every way!! My wife and I were out for our daily walk on this day and you have totally captured the contrast, light and shadow colours. Thanks for the tip on mixing the right blues😁.


  29. Chris Rusk says:

    This picture made my day. Thanks 🙂


  30. joantav says:

    I can feel the cold right through the computer. Love the crisp shadows. Thanks for the recipe.


  31. sue says:

    Wow, bright crisp day I can feel it. Nice work Shari


  32. Titus says:

    Thanks. That’s just the kind of basic information I find helpful.



  33. Ren says:

    So helpful! Thanks!


  34. tmikeporter says:

    Have always been a cobalt blue person, but now I need to break out of my rut!


  35. Susan Adams says:

    Just beautiful!!


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