Try Your Hand at...

The Snow at Night with Matthew Palmer

Matthew Palmer uses watercolour to capture a chilly moonlit winter's scene


1/4 Imperial Fontaine watercolour paper

SAA Gold Brushes

  • Size 20 round
  • Size 6 Round
  • Size 2 Round

SAA Watercolours

  • Prussian Blue
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Aureolin
  • Alizarin

Matthew Palmer Colours

  • Natural Yellow
  • Natural Grey
  • Natural Blue


  • Board
  • Masking Tape
  • Pencil
  • Iridescent Medium

Let's get started...

1 Sketch in the scene.

2 Get prepared before starting this stage. Using the large size 20 brush mix up a medium strength wash of Prussian Blue, a good strong wash of Natural Grey and a pale wash of Natural Yellow and wrap a penny in some tissue ready to lift out the moon. Start by wetting the sky area then add the Natural Yellow followed by the Prussian Blue working your way down from the top. Finally add a strong Natural Grey right to the top. While the sky is still wet press your tissue wrapped coin onto the paper to lift out the moon - use the opposite side of the tissue twisted into a little ball to lightly roll out a few clouds.

3 Using the size 20 brush again, mix a pale wash of Prussian Blue and paint a thick line all the way across the bottom of the picture then, using a clean brush blend this completely upwards so it fades to nothing.

4 Use a pale Natural Grey for the distant hills, watering it down towards the horizon line to create distance and recession. While this is still damp squeeze all of the water out of your brush and lightly lift away a few highlights then leave to dry.

5 Mix a pale wash of Alizarin Crimson and Natural Blue for a perfect snow shadow colour. Use the size 6 brush to add shadows to the edge of the water then add water to the brush and blend the shadows upwards creating the water’s edge effect. Try to avoid making it look repetitive.

6 To paint in the water start off with a good strong Natural Grey with a little bit of Burnt Sienna. Paint a very clean and crisp edge along the top and down the right side, this will give a wonderful depth to the water. Then paint the left side of the water by using a pale Natural Yellow. Blend this with the dark colour from the right side, by dragging the paint with it. While this is still damp clean your brush, squeeze it through your fingers and drag a few horizontal lines across the water. If the paint is too dry to do this simply use a square brush or chisel brush to wash the lines at a later stage

7 Using the medium Tree & Texture Brush mix some Natural Grey with Burnt Sienna and gently stipple some mid-ground bushes, using a card mask to give a straight edge. Don’t use too wet a wash as it may seep down behind the card. Add strong Natural Grey to the bottom of these hedges to help give depth. Do this all the way across the foreground area and then use the small Tree & Texture Brush to add some smaller hedgerows to the fields. Once you have added a few of these, use the small Tree & Texture Brush, clean and damp to fade them off into the distance. Use the size 6 brush and a pale Natural Grey to paint the fields fading off into the distance. For a free video lesson on this technique visit Matthew’s website

8 For some foreground detail add little spots for dirt and grasses poking out of the snow using the size 6 brush and the same dark colour you used for the hedgerows. Use a drybrush technique flat against the surface and apply gentle pressure to give random spots of dirt. Add more of these to the foreground and also darken the water’s edge where it meets the snow. Use the medium or small tree and texture brush, working upside down with the brush so the tall hairs are at the bottom to gently stroke in a few tall and random grasses. With the size 2 rigger and the same colour add the gates and if you feel like it include some ‘ticks’ for the birds.  And as a finishing touch use your size 6 brush and iridescent medium to lightly add sparkle to the water and crispy frosty snow to the foreground.