How to draw the weather?

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For this tutorial I'll explain how you can draw or paint different weather types in any illustration, having in consideration both environment and close up characters, and that can be applied to all sorts of art styles.


For starters, I do consider the light plays a crucial part in any weathery scenery, so we can start with a quick review about it before moving on to the specific weather types.

Light and how it works

Beforehand, keep in mind this will be an oversimplification about how light works, since it's not really our primary topic.

However, I think this information can help you, especially if you are just starting, to understand how light behaves, how it might change with the weather and affect the whole vibe on your art piece.

First, we need a primary light source. In this example it will be the sun.

Light travels in a straight line and it tends to have an inherent color to it .

(in simplified terms at least:, color and light are actually really complex, sunlight for example, it's a white light source and all the colors are mixed in it, but we'll usually perceive it as being a warm/yellowish tone due to the atmospheric conditions)

When light hits an object it will bounce. If our object its highly reflective, the light it redirects will be stronger. For example, a polished and smooth car would reflect way more light than the rough tree bark.


Bounced light will also take the color of the object its bouncing on. So if two objects are close enough to each other, the car and the tree for example, the tree will be receiving the reflected red light from the car.

Direct light will also create harsh and defined shadows.


There are also many other light sources besides the primary one.

In an outdoors, day environment like the sample, the sky will be our secondary light source and it will dye with it's color many of the objects under it.

Since a secondary light cannot outshine the primary light source, the effects the sky has in the environment will be way subtler.

In an indoor environment there could be artificial light sources that can be used as either primary or secondary light .

In case there is an obstruction to the light source (like a group of clouds for exteriors or a curtain for interiors) the light will travel through the object but it will dissipate and soften, working like a lamp screen.

So the resulting light will lose its original color and will turn in an attenuated light that generates equally subtle shadows.

Sunny weather

Light conditions:

-The sunlight tends to have a warm tone to it and on the contrary, can generate shadows with a rather cold color.
-If we are under direct light, the sun is one of the harsher light sources and tends to generate strong defined shadows.
-The time of the day will affect not only the strength of the sunlight, but also its color.
-The light might appear in defined beams.

Color palette
-Generally speaking, color under strong sunlight will stand out.
-Saturated, vibrant colors.
-Warm tones.

(The color palettes are not a strict rule to follow, but more of a generalized guide. Each situation and style is different, and these are just samples of colors found in a scene with the respective weather.)

So the usual approach I have for sunny environments goes like this:


For a portrait or character art, we'll proceed to do something similar as we did in the environment and use the Color Dodge and Glow Dodge blending modes to highlight the spots where the sun would hit.


First, we’ll paint the background in any color of your liking, but if it’s a warm tone it will help to transmit a sunny day vibe. You can add hue variations using the Airbrush.

Once again with the airbrush (low opacity), we select the background color and paint softly around our character. Particularly in the hair. It will help the piece feel more cohesive.

If the light comes from behind our character, we create a new layer in color dodge or glow dodge, and paint around the subject.

In case the light its hitting directly our character, we use the same layer blending modes to paint in the places where we want the light to be.

Even tho I'm using the airbrush for this, light can be quite harsh and create very defined and sharp edges.

Another nice effect would require to utilize the airbrush in a smaller size, you can draw a few dots over the face, stacking them on each other, and it will generate a particular texture that makes it seem the light is going through some objects (maybe a tree branch) before reaching the character.

Rainy/cloudy/stormy weather

Light conditions:

-Since the sunlight it's going through clouds, the light for this scenery would be rather cold.
-Being in rainy/cloudy weather does not mean it has to be dark, quite the contrary, a cloudy day can be entirely bright but the sky would have a rather light gray/white-ish tone.
-If you'd like your clouds to be darker, they would have a cold tone to them.
-The shadows generated would be on the softer side.
-Considering that every surface would be wet to some extent, they would be highly reflective.
-If it is raining, the light would be more visible around light sources.


Other elements:

Besides raindrops, there are other elements you might think to add:
-Raindrops hitting objects.
-Puddles
-Water waves in said puddles
-Water falling from objects (or streaming down) if they are placed under the rain

Color palette:

-Unsaturated colors
-Blue hues
-Cold tones in general



So for a rainy setting this is how I would approach it:

Now, for a character in a rainy ambient, just like in the sunny example, we start by selecting our background color and give it very slight color variations using the airbrush.

In a new multiply layer, we can also add a screen to the whole character in a cold tone and lower its opacity.

Then add some light in a cold hue as well.

We can use the pencil or the G Pen for the water streaming down her face and then blend it with the Painterly blender, same thing for the highlights on her hair.

The extra highlights in the hair can help illustrate that the hair is wet, since it would bounce more light.

Next we add some more light to the water in her face. Pay special attention to the liquid that would accumulate on her chin and then drip.

It is important to note that this water stream would also have a very slight shadow and even reflect some light on her face if you want to detail your illustration a lot or if the water stream is thick enough.

We continue by drawing the raindrops hitting the top of her head and shoulders. Just like in the environment, my usual approach is to draw small lines and blend them. In this demonstration I did it quite quickly, but you can detail or define it as much as you want.

And now we move on to the raindrops. If you have a rain brush that you enjoy, I encourage you to use it for this part.

Personally I like to have more control on where the raindrops are and the size of them, so I usually end up painting them with the pencil and then blending/blurring them.


For the last step I like to add some lights in the background, drawing just a bunch of spots with the airbrush.
I also included some reflected light to her face in a warm tone to give contrast to the piece.

In any rainy ambient, light can be considerably fun to play with and also be pretty flexible to any situation, so don't hesitate to experiment and go crazy with the light.


This would be the final look for the portrait sketch:

Snowy weather

Light conditions:

-The sunlight can vary its color depending on the time of the day and it can be either cold or warm.
-Snow and ice are highly reflective materials that bounce a lot of light.
-If the setting is in a snowstorm, the visibility would reduce considerably and the light will be softer.




Other elements:

-Snowflakes falling from the sky.
-Soft piles of snow that accumulate on any flat surface.
-Ice blocks or ice layers.
-For character art, making their breath visible would increase the impression of them being in a cold setting.

Color palette:

-Broadly, I would recommend using a cold and pastel color palette.
-Unsaturated tones would work well too.
-Realistically speaking, the light in these situations can actually be warm, so that’s something to keep in mind.


The reason I suggest using predominantly blue tones for this sort of environment it’s because we tend to perceive things with a blueish hue to be cold simply by association (ice does appear to be blue after all) and cultural predisposition.


So the approach to sketch a wintery scene would be this:

Now, for the portrait we'll start by giving the background a soft color and in a new layer set in multiply, we fill our character in a cold tone.

Add some tone variations to the background. Color pick the background and use the airbrush subtly around the character.

We can paint some highlights in a glow dodge layer in case we consider them necessary.

For the snowflakes, we do the same thing as in the environment but on a lesser scale: using the airbrush we just draw spots where we want the snowflake to be. Try to vary the intensity and size.

Sometimes I also draw a star or asterisk and just blur it with the blend tool. As a consequence it will have the reminiscence of the star shape and make it seem like a more detailed snowflake without going through actually drawing the snowflake shape.

If you have a snow brush, go ahead and use it, just be careful not to create a predictable pattern.

As the last step , we adjust the colors or intensify the light. Also, we can airbrush gently around the character to make her blend in the environment.

Windy

A windy environment it’s quite different from the ones before, since the light doesn't play that much of an important role and the wind, in reality it's not visible.


However, in a setting like this one you can exploit the elements around the illustration and give them movement.

Make the grass or leaves move, the clouds, the dust or in case we are talking about a character, their hair and or clothes/props.

In case you’d like to stick to a realistic version of it, then you’ll simply have to use the movement of the objects in the scene.

In a stylized version, tho, it's pretty common to use swirls to represent the flow of the wind.

Mist/Fog

A foggy or misty environment can happen regardless of the light and weather conditions and will always behave the same. The less fog there is around the more visibility for the audience.


So the most relevant things to note are:

Have in mind how thick your fog is. Big concentrations of fog can disrupt your visibility a lot and actually erase elements from view. So if that's your intention, go for it.
Light can go through the mist, many artworks with fog in them play around a strong light source either natural or artificial.

The airbrush in a low opacity is more than enough to paint fog, but the correct smoke or cloud brush can work great too.

So this would be it. I hope it's useful to someone.
If you have any question please feel free to reach out, I'd be happy to help.


And here is the set of textured blenders I used for these tips.

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