Let’s Build a Snowman!

Rules of the Exercise

  • 1
    Search and find reference images of snowmen!
  • 2
    Draw out, shade, and color a snowman with distinct materials that are discernible from each other.
  • 3
    Submit your snowman to the submissions tab!


  Winter is in full swing and what better way to embrace the cold and build a snowman, digitally that is. This exercise is focused on Materials and creating each to showcase rendering the different surfaces to be recognizable as the materials they represent.


Snowman Basic Materials

  • Snow - Snow has a unique look to it. It is more than just a flat white paint bucket fill in. I will get some reference photos uploaded this week to show a visual example. Think about the different shines and color you can add to it without making it feel like plastic. It is a scattered look that may do that trick or you.
  • Carrot - The carrot will draw attention, most likely having the most color to it, depending on the fabric if you choose to add it. Try giving your carrot some distinct characteristics rather than being the perfect carrot. Add the lines the wrap around it and make it uneven. The small crevasses and bumps will give some neat rendering effects.
  • Coal - Just like the snow, coal should be given more just a black slate, it can be rendered either absorbing the light or reflecting it. It is up to you to decide which coal you want to use!
  • Wood - Assuming you add the representative sticks for arms, this one is tricky. the area is so thin that it makes adding value a challenge. Try adding it subtly and how a twig looks.
  • Clothing - Lastly if you add a hat/scarf/mittens/etc. Work with the fabric and make it feel like it has weight and it being placed on the snowman with accuracy.
You are more than free to add other elements and materials to your snowman, but keep it relevant and focus on the properties of those materials. Make sure they are "reading" like the surfaces of the materials correctly. It doesn't have to be hyper-realism but even a cartoon style can show the different between a shiny and dull material effectively with a minimalistic approach. I can't wait to see what you come up with and hopefully you will have just fun creating it as much as you are challenging yourself!




To start off, snow is not easy. It also plays on the fact that White and Black objects are more difficult to shade due to the lack of hue and hence it's own Exercise! Being the main subject for this exercise and to get that texture quality of snow, try using the Chalk Brush, or even a Speckle Brush to top it off. This will give the snow an impression of being handled and put together by hand. For cartoons, or stylized shading a nice smooth quality may work better. Rather than working on a greyscale, try adding color depending on the placement of your light. Snow can often have blue hues included because the light is reflecting the color of the sky and as it gets closer to night or if a yellow light is in the scene, snow can look pink or purple.

For the materials the one that should be given the most attention is the carrot. The color alone will attract attention. A neat trick to give the vegetable some substance is working with a slight subsurface scattering effect (when the light bounces inside of the object making it appear as if the light is slightly passing through, but not all the way, depending on the thickness of the object) Try making the tip or end of the carrot lighter in color and more dulled out as it connects with the snow. Also having a cast shadow will help direct the sense of lighting in your scene!

As for the scarf, hat, and sticks keep the lighting consistent and if you want to add the effect that he has been there for some time, try adding some light snow lines on top of these areas. Overall have fun but constantly think about the choices you are making and try to improve on the overall quality of your piece!



These were some of the user submissions that show some of the concepts very well. The first one shows the best quality of the carrot and had some nice color mixing to it overall. The second is an awesome demonstration of stylized coloring and how the shadows could be that nice blue hue and really add a nice compliment with the warmer colors in the mix. It didn't even occur to me at first but this is a great 3D practice as well, getting the textures and materials to read as believable qualities. This was a great example of a warmer bounce light hitting the underside of the snowman's dips and imperfections that help show the direction of the lighting as well as the surface texture. You can always learn something by working in 3D as well as 2D and is something you should at least check out if lighting quality and rendering interests you as a concept artist!

When you finish the exercise, remember to submit the result to the "Submissions" tab near the top of this exercise. You can see other submissions alongside your own!