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Creating quick and easy weather effects

By Samuel Berry

Web: http://sambf.artstation.com/ (will open in new window)

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Date Added: 26th October 2017

Samuel Berry braves the storm to bring us some quality tips to create easy weather effects...



Creating quick and easy weather effects

Conveying weather properly can often make or break a painting when it comes to believability. Today we're going to go over four major categories of weather and how we can use color and light to convey them. Afterwards, we're going to look at specific weather effects and how we can use Photoshop to easily create a foundation for us to paint over.

Sunny Days

It's fitting that we start with sunny weather because it's a good way to learn about how light interacts with the environment. During a clear, sunny day you have three light sources: the sun, the blue sky and the reflected light from illuminated objects (including the ground.) The latter two depend entirely on the first and whatever affects the first will affect the other two as well; the clearer the sky, the darker and bluer the shadows.

Painting a series of balls made of different materials is excellent lighting practice

1. Strong sunlight
So it's 40 degrees outside and the sun is dropkicking everything in sight, how do we show that? Burn everything. By bringing the value of highlights to white or near white you give your painting that blistering sun feeling. It also gives you more freedom to add detail to your shadows. Limiting your values is a powerful tool.

Please don't actually set fire to anything, that's not nice.

2. Sunsets
Rule of thumb: the closer the sun is to the horizon the more red/orange its light will be. This happens because as the sun sets, the light it emits takes longer to get through our atmosphere, so it bounces around more (this is why the sky is blue during the day, it bounces around less) the only color that makes it to our eyes is red/orange. So take that into account when you're drawing a scene with a sunset off frame. Now when it comes to the classic sunset painting that everyone loves, the way I always approach them is to layer my colors and use (borderline abuse) clouds to bounce multiple colors off them.

I really love clouds.


An overcast day is the plein air painter's dream. The clouds diffuse the sunlight and eliminate the extreme contrasts of light and shadow. Shapes will appear brighter and sharper than in sunlight because what you see is much closer to their "true color.” The lack of sharp shadows also means that the shapes you will be painting are much larger and simpler giving you some respite when painting complicated scenes.

I also really like boats.

1. Fog
I'll be honest, I'm putting fog here because there's nowhere else to put it and it only really appears on overcast days with a few exceptions. The important thing to remember here is that the closer you are to an object the clearer it is. Colors will pop out more on their own, but you can always add a bit of saturation to create contrast.

This is way too "Silent Hill-y” for me, but you get the idea.

Rainy Day

So the same rules as overcast apply here, except everything is darker according to how heavy the downpour is (heavier clouds block more light.) Think of rain as interference or static in between you and the subject matter. Always aim to suggest that it's raining rather than painting every single drop. What I usually do is have a layer for the foreground (bigger drops,) one for the middle ground (smaller drops,) and the background having a layer entirely depends on how you want it to look.

Super simple rain, but maybe not simple enough.

1. Lightning storm
Same principle can be used here to create a lightning storm as long as you take into consideration your new source of light along with the weather conditions needed for a storm (darker clouds, darker everything.)

You could easily reverse the foreground and background, just a matter of changing the location of your light source.

Cloudy Days

I love painting clouds, they're how I first learned how to paint and there's so much to them. I could easily write a whole article about them. For the sake of brevity I'll try to sum up the most important things in point form:
• Always start with big simple shapes, big-to-small.
• Paint dark to light, just like painting hair.
• Clouds let light pass through them and it bounces around in them.
• The thicker the cloud, the less light reaches us and so the darker it is.
• We always see the bottom of a cloud unless we're flying.
• Clouds have perspective too (this is super important!)

When I was five, I used to think smoke stacks were cloud factories.

And I fortunately managed to find a study of mine that still had layers to it. Remember to render only what is necessary and not for the sake of rendering, this hold especially true when painting clouds.

The fact that I didn't flatten these layers while painting is a miracle.

So you probably noticed that the images I used are generally sketchy, some more than others. I chose these to make a point. You can, and should, be able to convey weather in the sketching, rough phase of your painting. Adjustment layers are a powerful tool when it comes to making quick adjustments and corrections, but they are not meant to bring an illustration to finish. They should be used as base for you to paint over. In the end, it's all a matter of being able to take your time and think of how light interacts with color. If you do that, it'll all work out.

Related links

Follow Samuel Berry on Instagram
See more of Samuel's great art on his tumblr
Read Samuel's tips for painting hair and fur
If you want more great tips on improving environments Samuel has you covered
Check out Samuel's portfolio

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