Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Ten Tips for Painting Rainbows

Here are some tips for painting rainbows in oil: 

1. Plan the scene so that the lighting is frontal, with the antisolar point at the center of the rainbow's circle. 

2. Lightly pencil the arc using a homemade beam compass (basically a long wooden bar pivoting on a sharp nail).

3. Paint the scene around it the arc. Don't paint the colors of the rainbow yet. Leave the area of the rainbow's arc whitish and lighter than the background, but still a little transparent so you can see forms through it. Sometimes you can use a rag on your beam compass to lift pigment out of the arc. 

4. Remember that the rainbow is composed of light added to the light of the scene, so it should be lighter than what's beyond it, even after you add the color pigment.

5. Let the background painting completely dry. Then use your brush with the beam compass to glaze colors in individual bands along the arc.

6. Let the edges between the bands blend into a smooth gradation. You can do this by strapping to the beam compass a flat white synthetic brush which is wide enough to span the full width of the rainbow.

7. Colors should start with red on the outside edge of the arc, then orange, yellow, green, blue and violet on the inside.

8. If you want to add the secondary rainbow, remember that is should be weaker than the primary one, with reversed colors.

9. Plan for the region between the rainbows to appear relatively darker (Alexander's Dark Band). In effect, that means that the region inside the primary rainbow should be just a bit lighter than the area just outside the primary rainbow.

10. Objects overlapping the rainbow should partially occlude it, depending on how far they are from the viewer, and how much illuminated atmosphere there is between the viewer and those objects.

Think of the rainbow not as a solid "thing" occupying space but rather as a region of added light—light that is bouncing back to your eye from millions of hovering raindrops.

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Huemalgamation said...

The perfect post, a bit of technique for future projects and better understanding, a bit of science to increase our knowledge and creattvitiy, and good art with relatable subject matter to go along with the post. Loved it and thnak you for the information.

Marina said...

Very useful post, thanks!

Jim Douglas said...

The #1 Tip for Painting Rainbows...get a tall ladder! Ba dum tss :)

Susan Krzywicki said...

You do make beautiful rainbows!