What should I take into ac­count when paint­ing an icy cav­ern?

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Imagine Nation Artist Q&A -

An­swer

Mark replies

The trick­i­est part in paint­ing an ice cav­ern is cap­tur­ing the unique qual­i­ties of the ice it­self. The clean ice al­most re­acts to light as glass, but in na­ture the frozen wa­ter has a lot of dirt and other or­ganic ma­te­ri­als in it that makes it slightly less trans­par­ent. This, and the gen­er­ally un­even sur­face of the ice, cre­ates the typ­i­cal cloudy char­ac­ter of the ma­te­rial. In ad­di­tion, ice varies in ap­pear­ance, depend­ing on how com­pressed it is and ei­ther how rough or melted and shiny its sur­face is.

Be­cause the light com­ing in through the en­trance of the cave shapes this whole il­lus­tra­tion, I start with a dark base colour and grad­u­ally build up the var­i­ous lay­ers of the ice with ‘ light’. I used the mix of Over­lay, Soft Light and Color Dodge lay­ers to achieve the feel of the scat­tered lights around the il­lus­tra­tion. For the high­lights and sharper edges of ice shards I use Nor­mal lay­ers and paint within hard se­lec­tions with the Lasso tool.

Ice is a re­flec­tive sur­face that’s also semi­trans­par­ent, so what’s be­hind and around the ice is im­por­tant, too. In this case I try to show the rocks be­hind the ice and also add warmer re­flec­tions of the colours of the in­dus­trial ro­bot and mix in greens and turquoise around the en­trance, to sug­gest the warmer outer sun­light.

To show some op­po­si­tion to the ice, I paint in a rusty, eroded gi­ant ro­bot frozen in the ice that’s dif­fer­ent in colour pal­ette and ma­te­rial qual­i­ties.

Vary­ing your edges can make your painted ice look more re­al­is­tic. I use sharper edges (1) to show its re­flec­tive qual­i­ties, blurry soft edges (2) to sug­gest its trans­parency and painterly brush marks (3) to de­pict its rougher sur­face.

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