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