Please help me depict a scene in heavy, driving rain
Michael Thomas, England
Scenes featuring heavy rain run the risk of becoming too complicated too quickly: countless rain drop details, highlights all over the place, reflections making a mess of the value structure of a scene, and so on. When it comes to depicting a scene with heavy rain, the most important thing to do is to simplify things.
Viewers don’t need to have everything spelled out for them to understand what is happening in a picture. We can use this to our advantage when simplifying a rain scene. If we choose specific areas to add detail, the rest of the picture will be filled in by the viewer’s imagination.
For a night-time rain scene, we can use three things to achieve this: spotlights illuminating a few rain drops, a foggy atmosphere, and sharp specular highlights. Drawing every single rain drop in a scene could make the image too busy and monotonous. By drawing only the raindrops that fall directly in front of strong light sources, the viewer can infer that the rain is falling elsewhere. Heavy rain hitting the ground creates a dense vapour in the atmosphere. Adding this into your image will make the difference between light drizzle and a heavy downpour.
Adding specular highlights on things indicates they are wet. Be careful though – this is very easy to overdo. Choose a few key areas to put them, and avoid the temptation to put them everywhere.
Simplifying the image enables the viewer to fill in the blanks. This makes it possible to convey an image without over-stuffing it with detail.
In silhouette-heavy images, I like to use clipping masks (Alt+click between layers) to keep layers tied to their silhouettes. What I paint stays inside the shape!