If you’re working on a landscape or a sky composition painting, you’ll likely want to include clouds. While clouds may seem easy to paint at first, getting the blending and shape right can be challenging. But don’t worry, you’re not alone in this struggle!
There are various techniques for painting clouds, and I’ve demonstrated several of them in my tutorials. The technique you choose will depend on the time of day and the type of cloud you want to portray in your painting. It will also depend on your personal painting style, whether it’s realism, abstract, or stylized. In this post, I’ll focus on a simple technique that is perfect for beginners. I’ll show you how to paint basic, fluffy white clouds in a blue sky.
How to Paint “Dreamy Clouds”
In this tutorial, I demonstrate how to paint a night sky with puffy clouds.
Before we begin, let’s talk about brushes! I personally love using #12 bright brushes for painting clouds, but you may prefer using a filbert brush or a round brush. A filbert brush has curved corners, which allows you to create more “curvy” strokes.
- In photo: Bright Brush, Filbert Brush & Round Brush
Step By Step Directions:
1. Paint your sky
Start by painting your sky. For a daytime painting, you can use a light blue to white gradient. I recommend using cerulean blue or light blue permanent for your sky.
Take your 3/4 wash brush and paint cerulean blue at the top with horizontal strokes going halfway down the canvas. Then blend titanium white into the cerulean blue at the bottom. The goal is to create a gradient blend from cerulean blue to a very light blue at the bottom.
2. Paint the base shape of your clouds
You can work “wet on wet” or “wet on dry” for this step. If your sky is still wet, it can work to your advantage as the blue will blend nicely with your first layer of clouds. If your sky is dry, mix a little blue into your white to get a darker base color for your clouds.
For wet on wet, water down your white slightly to achieve a thin consistency. You don’t want it dripping wet, just thin enough for a nice, thin layer. If working wet on dry, mix a little blue into your white to create a “dim” first layer.
I recommend wiping off some of the paint from your brush so that only a little is left. Remember, less is more because an overloaded brush will result in overly bright first clouds. Using the very tip of your brush, start at the top of your cloud and form a bumpy, uneven basic cloud shape. These clouds are somewhat stretched, with a slightly flat bottom. However, you can make the bottom of your clouds more bumpy if you prefer.
Repeat this process to make more clouds, ensuring that each cloud has a different shape and size. To create perspective in your sky, make the clouds on the bottom smaller, closer together, and less defined.
3. Paint the brighter parts of the clouds
This is where it can get tricky! We’re working from dark to light, so the next layer of white should be lighter than the first layer. Load more thin white onto your brush or add more white if you mixed white and blue for the first layer.
Start by painting the far upper-left edge of the cloud and blend it down. You can try using your finger or your brush to smudge and blend it. Gently work in a circular motion to paint the rest of the cloud, making sure the edge remains brighter.
For more dimension, paint another layer of cloud that overlaps the previous one. Load your brush with more white to make it appear brighter, then define a new cloud shape that overlaps the previous cloud. Add more pure white to the upper-left edge of the cloud to define its light source. Remember to blend this second layer down with your finger or brush.
Repeat these steps for the remaining clouds, ensuring the light source is in the same spot each time. You can even add a fourth layer of brighter white to create further definition. When painting the edges of the clouds, use just the corner of the brush to achieve better control.
For the clouds at the bottom, define them with more layers, but keep them less bright and less defined since they are further away.
Clouds can be one of the trickiest techniques to master with acrylic painting, and many beginners express frustration with them. The more you practice, the more confident you’ll become in adding clouds to your paintings.
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Some of My Painting Tutorials with Different Types of Clouds:
In this dreamy cloud painting tutorial, I demonstrate how to use the dry brush technique to make your clouds look puffy.
In this lightning storm painting, I depict dark clouds with the light reflecting mostly on the bottom due to the lightning.
In my Lighthouse Beach Painting, I use cotton (yes, an actual cotton ball) to paint the light, misty-looking clouds in the sky.
In my moon painting, I portray night-time clouds using the “dry brush style” technique.
Lastly, in my Desert Golden Hour Painting, I paint your basic cumulus-style clouds that I will further demonstrate below.
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Keep practicing your cloud technique, and soon you’ll feel more confident in adding them to your paintings. Happy painting!