Learning to paint clouds requires practice and a touch of imagination. While there isn’t a strict “how-to” method for painting, seeing a step-by-step visual progression can be immensely helpful. In this tutorial, I will guide you through easy cloud painting techniques using oil paints.
Cloud Painting Compositions Covered in this Article
We will begin by learning how to paint a single cloud in the sky. Later on, we’ll dive into painting multiple clouds together in a cloudy sky tutorial. So let’s get started!
How to Paint Clouds – A Single Cloud in the Sky
Begin with painting the sky
To start painting clouds, begin with the sky. Paint the blue of the sky first, creating a contrast with the “white” cloud. Mix ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, and a hint of cadmium orange to get a muted blue color. Lighten the blue by adding a touch of white. This will prevent the blue from being too dark and vibrant.
Mix colors for your first cloud
After painting the sky, mix the colors for your cloud. Painting clouds involves subtle shifts in tone and color. Use primarily white, a little ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, and cadmium orange. Blend these colors to achieve a “darker” shade of white. Avoid making the white overly orange or blue. The goal is to maintain a white appearance, but slightly toned down.
Create a sense of light in your cloud painting
For a sense of light in your cloud painting, mix a lighter shade of white. Add a small amount of ultramarine blue and more orange to the white. You can also incorporate a touch of cadmium lemon to brighten it. Place this brighter white next to the “darker” white of your cloud. Create another spot of white, slightly darker, by adding a small amount of muted orange.
When painting clouds, it’s important to establish a sense of light from the beginning. Start by painting the sky, then add the shadow area of the cloud, followed by the light area. This approach ensures a strong foundation for your cloud painting.
Add shadows to your cloud painting
The lower part of a cloud is typically darker, but be careful not to make it too dark. Balance is key. Use white, ultramarine blue, and orange to create a slightly darker shade than the other white cloud colors.
To help with color mixing shadows, refer to a complementary color mixing guide. Vary the shadow area of your cloudy sky painting, keeping the upper area of the cloud lighter and the lower area darker in value.
Paint clouds and sky together
Continue painting the sky and cloud together to create a cohesive composition. Avoid painting the cloud by itself without considering the sky. This ensures that the cloud appears to be in the sky.
For the blue sky, mix cobalt blue, ultramarine blue, and orange to mute the blues. Then add some white. The sky should be darker at the top of the cloud, gradually becoming lighter as you move down. This mimics the natural appearance of the sky receding in space.
Pay attention to light and subtle shadows
Notice the subtle tonal changes in the shadows and the lightest part of the cloud. Clouds have many similar tones, making these subtle variations crucial.
Completion of our singular cloud painting composition
Here’s the completed painting, photographed in better lighting.
Clouds offer endless possibilities for artistic expression. Feel free to let your creativity guide you, even when painting realistic clouds. Cloud formations change rapidly, so you often have to imagine and interpret them.
Now that you’ve mastered painting a single cloud, you’re ready to create a full cloudy sky painting with multiple clouds. Find the tutorial directly below!
How to Paint Clouds – Painting Multiple Clouds Together
In the previous tutorial, you learned how to paint a single cloud. Now, let’s explore how to paint a cloudy sky with multiple clouds!
Sketching your cloudy sky painting composition
Before starting, sketch out the basic composition of your painting. Capture the main areas where you plan to position the clouds. Keep the sketch flexible in case adjustments are needed during the painting process.
Starting with a patch of blue sky
Begin by painting the blue color that represents the sky in your cloudy sky painting. Start close to the center and mix ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, and cadmium orange. Lighten the color with white.
Establish a strong sense of light with the first three colors
For the first three colors, aim for an intersection of light and dark. This creates a pleasing contrast in your painting. Use blues, oranges, and whites to create a balance of dark, medium, and light values.
Creating soft edges in the cloud painting
To achieve a smoother transition, use your finger or a brush to create soft edges between the light and shadow areas of the clouds. Soft edges are essential in capturing the essence of clouds.
Painting subtle shadow colors in the clouds
Clouds consist of subtle tonal changes, even on sunny days. Mix blues, oranges, and whites to achieve different shadow colors. Experiment with varying amounts of orange and white to create the desired effect.
Adding darker shadows and warm lights
Create darker shadows for the upper part of the cloud by reducing the amount of white in your paint mixture. Notice the difference in value between the dark shadows and the lighter areas in the cloud. Expand the blue sky of your painting, with the upper part darker and the lower part lighter.
Painting small clouds in your cloudy sky
Add smaller clouds to your painting to enhance the composition. These clouds can have different characteristics, such as darker shadows or softer edges, depending on their position in the sky and distance from the viewer.
Painting clouds with warm light shadows
Incorporate warm light areas into the shadows of your clouds. Mix whites with cadmium orange or yellow to create warmer tones. Softly blend the transition between the light and dark parts of the clouds.
Finishing touches for a cloudy sky painting
To complete your cloudy sky painting, ensure the upper part of the painting is darker while the lower area is lighter. This creates a sense of depth as the sky recedes into the distance. Darker colors appear closer, while lighter colors appear further away.
In both tutorials, I used oil paints. If you’re interested, I have a guide on painting clouds in watercolor as well. You might also enjoy learning how to paint landscapes or asking yourself five questions before finishing a painting.
Paint Colors Used in this Cloud Painting Tutorial
- Ultramarine Blue
- Cadmium Orange
- Cobalt Blue
- Titanium White
- Cadmium Lemon
If you have any questions or thoughts, please let me know in the comments below!
How to Paint Clouds (Video Tutorial)
If you’d like to refer back to this tutorial, save it to your favorite Pinterest board!