Is Snow White? Maybe, or Maybe Not.

Landscape artists often use colors other than white to portray snow in paintings. Click the small thumbnails below to browse paintings and see swatches of the colors that each artist used for snow. 

There’s a scientific reason that snow is white.

Light is scattered and bounces off the ice crystals in the snow. The reflected light includes all the colors, which, together, look white. While your red sweater absorbs all colors except red and reflects red back out for people to see and a yellow tennis ball absorbs all colors except yellow and reflects yellow back out for people to see, snow reflects all colors. And all the colors of light add up to white.

However, snow can also be other colors.

Snow can also look blue or purple or even pink depending on how the sunlight hits it and whether it is in shadow. Some artists try to avoid using pure white paint in their paintings entirely and instead think about what colors they actually see instead of what colors they expect to see. Mixing a little white with other colors might actually look more like snow.

Take a look at the snow in the paintings above. What colors do you see? Is snow always the same color? Now get a paintbrush, choose colors, and paint your own picture of snow.