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  5. Paint a Winter Wonderland

Paint a Winter Wonderland

Snowflakes from Salt

Snowflakes are masterpieces of our cold natural world. Each snowflake is different in its spectacular and intricate pattern.

When it's cold outside, these fascinating ice-crystal structures take form. Snowflakes begin as an extremely cold water droplet that freezes onto a tiny dust particle or pollen grain in the sky. As snowflakes fall towards the ground, more water crystallizes.

Snowflakes always form as a hexagon—a six-sided shape!

The temperature and humidity in the air determine the snowflake's final shape. Warm, wet conditions create snowflakes with delicate and complex branching. Cold, dry conditions result in simpler plates and columnar crystals.

Next time it snows, enjoy some winter exploration: take a close look at the snowflakes' crystalline shapes.

Paint a Snowfall Using Watercolour and Salt

Create your own painting of a winter snowfall using watercolour paint, paper and salt.

Download a PDF of these instructions.

Pierre Poirier © Canadian Museum of Nature


Pierre Poirier © Canadian Museum of Nature


Pierre Poirier © Canadian Museum of Nature



Thick white paper (sketching or watercolour paper is ideal)
Tape (painter's tape is ideal because it is easy to peel off after)
Watercolour paint Salt (table salt or sea salt)
Paint brush (large)
Black marker, crayon, or pencil crayon


1) Tape your piece of paper securely to a table. You may wish to place some newspaper under your paper for absorbing drips.

2) Choose the colours for your sky background. Get your watercolour paint really wet and load your brush. Repeat as you go for each colour.

3) To paint the sky background, brush your colours onto the paper. Cover the entire space inside the taped border. Puddles are ok!

4) Sprinkle salt to create the falling snowflakes. The salt will make a crystal effect in the paint. The higher you hold your hand, the more broadly the salt spreads around.

5) You want the salt to dissolve, so if it's not dissolving, drip a bit of water over the crystals.

6) Let the painting dry completely.

7) Using your black marker, crayon, or pencil crayon, draw a scene in silhouette on your snowy sky.

8) Remove the tape and you have a beautiful painting to enjoy!

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