It can be difficult to paint clouds if you don't know the right technique. If done badly, clouds can appear heavy. We must proceed with subtlety. Also, how you should go about it depends on the type of paint you are using. In this article, you will learn techniques for painting clouds in acrylics, watercolors, and oils.
Method 1 of 3: paint clouds with acrylics
Step 1. Start by making the bottom
Whether you're making a gradient blue sky or a sunrise, paint the background before adding the clouds.
Step 2. Start with a dry brush
In other words, do not wet the brush before using it. Put white paint on your palette. Take some white paint with your brush.
Step 3. Decide where you want to make the clouds
You can paint a landscape with clouds only at the top or the clouds can fill the whole composition.
Step 4. Apply the white paint in light brush strokes
Make slightly curved dabs of white on the canvas. Do not press hard.
Step 5. Push the limits
Extend the edges of the clouds outward with your brush. Try painting the edges when you start to run out of paint. This technique will give the clouds softer, faded edges.
Step 6. Wait until the white is dry
This will make it easier to add shadows below.
Step 7. Add shadows
Prepare some gray for the shadows. You can make a gray of a dark purple tone by mixing dark blue, pink, and reddish brown. You can also compose your own shade of gray.
Step 8. Use another dry brush
Take a tiny bit of gray with the brush. Remove excess paint. Use light strokes on the lower part of the clouds to give them depth.
Step 9. Make clouds smaller near the horizon
Distant objects appear smaller so make the clouds smaller and blurrier the closer you get to the horizon. To make them blurry, put even less paint on the brush when painting them.
Method 2 of 3: Paint clouds with watercolors
Step 1. Make sure there is enough paint in your mixture
The paint will be lighter when it dries so the color should be a little more intense than it is natural when you start painting.
Step 2. Lightly dampen the paper
Use a paintbrush to run clean water over the surface of the paper so that it is slightly damp.
Step 3. Add a little yellow ocher at the bottom
Paint a very light layer of yellow ocher at the bottom of the sky.
Step 4. Load your brush with ultramarine blue and water
The paint should be quite dark. Apply a coat to the top of the sheet.
Step 5. Paint a lighter strip below the first one
Pick up more water and ultramarine blue with your brush. Paint below the top color so that the two bands overlap. This second band should be lighter than the first.
Step 6. Continue adding lighter and lighter bands
Your goal is to create a gradient all the way to the bottom layer. This will consist of a mixture of light yellow and a little light blue, since you have already painted the lower part of the sky in yellow ocher.
Step 7. Dry your brush
Clean the brush in water and dry it with paper towels.
Step 8. Roll the brush across the sky
The dry brush will pick up the paint on the sheet, leaving white areas for the clouds. You can bend the brush slightly while rolling it to create the shape of the clouds.
Step 9. Dry the brush again
You need to dry the brush again between each cloud. Otherwise, the brush will leave paint on the paper rather than absorbing it.
Step 10. Add gray
Use an intense gray (for example a mixture of red and ultramarine blue) which you apply to the lower part of one side of the cloud. Leave the other side blank to show where the light is coming from.
Step 11. Think about working quickly
Watercolors dry quickly so you have to work quickly to achieve this effect.
Method 3 of 3: paint clouds in oil
Step 1. Create a background
Depending on the time of day in your composition, you can choose a light blue or a dark grayish purple. Paint the entire background in large, even strokes.
Step 2. Let the paint dry
If you don't let it dry, the background color will end up in the clouds.
Step 3. Sketch the clouds
Use a dry paintbrush to add some white and black paint to the color used for the background. Quickly paint the basic cloud shape with this brush.
Step 4. Layer lighter colors over the clouds
Create shapes with the lighter colors. Make circular movements to achieve the shape of the clouds.
For lighter colors, add white to the base color as you work
Step 5. Add spots of the background color
If you want the clouds to be quite distinct, you can add areas of the background color around them.
Step 6. Add cream highlights
Highlights shouldn't stand out too much from other colors, so use off-white or cream paint. Apply it with light touches around the shapes you created previously to enhance the top of the clouds.
- Don't use too much paint when painting the clouds.
- Make small circular motions. You will get a better effect than with large movements.