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How to Paint Realistic Clouds


By careful observation and collecting reference photos, you will be able to paint all manner of cloud, from fluffy bunches of cotton wool to moody storm clouds.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: On-going

Here's How:

  1. Clouds aren't pure white, they reflect the colour of the sky. This is clearest at sunrise and sunset, when clouds turn shades of yellow, red, and pink. They also pieces of shadow in them.
  2. Similarly, skies aren't simply blue. They're build up of various tones of blue. Experiment by adding colors such as ocher and crimson to your blues.
  3. Don't try to paint every detail in clouds. Simplify the surface details, concentrating on pattern.
  4. Learn to identify the different types of cloud as each has its own characteristics. Don't simply paint generic clouds. For example, cumulus (thunderstorm) clouds have some hard edges to them.
  5. Take photos of different types of clouds at different times of day to create a reference portfolio. Label each clearly.
  6. Remember that the rules of perspective apply to clouds. As they recede towards the horizon, their colors become paler and their shapes less distinct.


  1. To get rays of sunshine coming out the base of a cloud, tip up the paper and let the paint run down.
  2. Experiment with unlikely or bold colors. Your paintings will have more feeling in them.
  3. Try painting the shadows in clouds, rather than the light parts.

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