Is Snow White? Maybe, or Maybe Not.

Is Snow White? Maybe, or Maybe Not.

What colors would you choose for a painting of snow?

Click the small thumbnails to enlarge the paintings of snow and see the colors each artist selected. 

Winter landscape paintings often use colors other than white to portray snow. How many different colors do you see being used for snow in the painting above?

Why didn't the artist just use white paint to depict snow? Snow is white. Unless a dog passed by or muddy feet walked through, snow is white. 

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.

But 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 painting above. What colors do you see? Is snow always the same color? Now get out your paintbrush, choose colors, and paint your own picture of snow.

Learn more about the science of snow: