How to paint a person in the rain

Digital artist Sara Forlenza explains how to create a character caught in a downpour.

Sara Forlenza's Mermaid caught in the rain

Desaturated colours, wet surfaces and visible rain drops create a convincing rain storm

There are three important factors to keep in mind while painting a character caught in a rain storm: the atmosphere in the image, the effect of water on a body, and how the water drops create an opaque halo around the subject.

A cloudy sky turns the scene dark, and the few rays of light that filter through them will be dim and cold-looking. So it's appropriate to choose cool and unsaturated colours, and adjust the light level depending on the time of day in the image. The character's skin, hair and clothing will be strongly influenced by the atmosphere in the artwork and this will sell the image to the viewer.

To simulate the wet effect on the skin you should use a very bright colour with your brush strokes, which indicates that the water is reflecting light. Next, paint a foggy, indistinct area where the rain hits the character. You could also add a few little light touches to paint drops that bounce off the character.

Watch the full video tutorial

01. Background details

How to paint a person in the rain step 1

Although the background is relatively simple, it's crucial for determining my character's environment. In this case it's a seascape, which is stormy, dark, grey and foggy. When you're satisfied with the background, select flat colours for your character that match the mood of the scene.

02. Rain-dering

How to paint a person in the rain step 2

Choose a cold and diffuse ambient light that's appropriate for the environment. Lay down shadows with a warmer colour, then select a Hard brush and simulate the appearance of wet skin. With a Soft brush paint a halo of mist on the head, arms and shoulders and then add small droplets around it.

03. Raindrops

How to paint a person in the rain step 3

Next, add the rain on a new layer. Choose a light colour and create a regular dotted surface. Then go to Filter> Blur>Motion Blur and, depending on the type of rain that I want to show, choose the parameters. If the result is too static then I can add some drops at different angles, to make the image more realistic.

Words: Sara Forlenza

Sara Forlenza is a freelance illustrator living in northern Italy, where she works on book covers, digital card products and role-playing games. She's also a keen PC gamer.

This article originally appeared in ImagineFX issue 115.

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