Four Simple Tips for Painting Skies and Clouds


Painting is perhaps one of the most important arts and crafts activities every artist, young or old, would appreciate. One of the most exciting and beautiful things anyone can learn to paint is the sky. Though skies and clouds are often a great source of inspiration for art and craft enthusiast, the big question that exists is how does one paint them with oils?

When painting cityscapes and landscapes one should focus on achieving a convincing and homogenous result in terms of composition, tones, colors, and brushwork. That means the sky shouldn’t be treated as an afterthought but rather be painted in connection with everything else. Here are a few tips to help you when painting skies.

Study the Colors

Before beginning your painting, it’s crucial that you take as much time as possible to observe the sky and clouds. If possible, take some notes and reference photos. You might even consider sketching cloud formations. The idea is to paint the skies and clouds with your eyes, not your brain. Focus on the colors with your eyes so you can express them freely.

The sky is rarely pure blue as the brain makes you think. If you check closely with your eyes, you’ll see hues of green, pink, yellow, and blue. Rather than using pure colors in your painting, harmonize the entire scene by embracing the different mixes with pigments present in the rest of the work.

Paint confidently and be Bold with the Brushes

When it comes to painting skies, don’t be afraid to showcase your brushwork as well as personality as an artist. Even though you’re an adult, it’s not a bad idea to reconnect with the younger version of yourself that used to have fun with brushes. This is the part where you freely convey energy and drama with those big brushstrokes. Be as loose as you’d want to. Who said you have to paint and show everything as exactly as it is. Be free to make adjustments so you can convey the right mood and improve composition Be as convincing as you can.

Don’t forget to use a Ground Color

To bring in some of the highlights and achieve vibrant sunsets, consider using the ground color of the background. Using the flow of the sky and sunlight to move the viewers’ attention to the focal point is a great way to make your painting even more dramatic and interesting. Before adding the blues, greys, and clouds, consider priming your canvas with a bright yellow or orange color. Allow for this color show through in your painting to bring in some highlights.

Paint in Clouds

As mentioned, it’s quite hard to match the exact cloud you’re seeing in the sky. So, the idea is to try to capture the mood of the sky. View the clouds in the sky as three dimensional objects affected by the sun. When painting, make the sides closest to the sun lightest and the ones furthest away darkest. You can use strong brushstrokes with hard edges for whiter/thicker clouds and more subtle marks for paler/thinner clouds.

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