Digital Artist

How to create frozen effects

Tips & Tutorials
April Madden

Take inspiration from winter and start working on a character created out of ice

It can be really difficult to paint convincing ice – what should be a solid but transparent matter can quickly end up as anything but.

Here’s a quick guide to giving the impression of ice, concentrating on the lighting and texture.


Start with line art

Start with some basic line art to set the composition and define the forms you’ll paint later. This stage isn’t mandatory, but helps you separate the problems of construction and lighting. Create a basic background colour to lay the foundations for your colour palette.

Block in basic lighting

Block in the basic forms of the figure with a simple Hard Round brush. Get the basic feel for ice at this stage before doing any fancy texture work. Think of all the forms as simply as possible; as basic cylinders, spheres and so on. Don’t overcomplicate things.

Introduce textures

Start introducing some basic textures on top of the smooth surfaces. Paint studies from photos if you do not know how to depict the different materials in your piece yet. The point is to get enough variation to the surfaces in order to give you a good grounding when it comes to painting in the details.

Reflections and highlights

Start painting reflections and highlights. Think of the light source and how the light is behaving with the materials. Make colour adjustments if necessary. The shadows don’t get very dark as light is bouncing around all over the place and also penetrating the surfaces and illuminating them from the inside.

The finishing details

Paint lots of small cracks and other details to finalise the effect. Try to get enough variation in the different surfaces. Don’t be afraid to change the design even at a late stage if you feel like something isn’t working the way you want. Make the final level and colour adjustments to punch up the tones, and that’s it!