There are so many ways to paint clouds in acrylics and this blog describes the method I use most. As an artist I love clouds. They are so interesting and make a great feature in a painting. Clouds can add atmosphere and movement to a painting. Clouds are a perfect way to add perspective and scale to a painting as they do in my work, “Endless Horizons” pictured here.
Most people associate Australia with big blue skies so I tend to leave out clouds in most of my works. Clouds can also make a picture appear cluttered and distract from your focal point, so its best to really think about why you are adding clouds to a work. Just because they were there does not mean you have to paint them! I often add clouds to cover my mistakes in a painting. The most common mistake is when I accidentally splash some paint on my perfectly blended sky or I discover a flaw in the canvas that distracts from the blending.
Scroll down to see the step by step instructions on paint clouds.
I am using Matisse Flow paints for the sky and then Matisse Structure for the clouds. The flow is ideal for the background as I want a smooth, matte, self leveling finish. The extra body of the Structure makes it ideal for dry brush work which I will use for the clouds. My brush is a cheap stencil brush made out of bristle. I often buy cheap brushes and trim the bristles to make them shorter which makes the brush easier to control.
First paint a graduated sky by blending the colours from darkest to off white on the horizon. I describe this method in detail in my blog Painting Skies in Acrylics. Allow to dry completely.
Using a very small amount of white paint on a dry bristle brush, begin to paint the clouds. Use a light touch to start and more pressure as you run out of paint so you achieve a fairly even and light application of paint. I am using a stencil brush.
Work your brush in a circular motion to create the fluffy edges of the clouds. This brush technique is called scumbling. I usually work from a photographic reference to get the shape of the clouds.
Keep expanding the edges of your clouds with the same brush. As you run out of paint the marks you make become more transparent and wispy. So this is your basic white cloud…..the next step is to add some shading.
Mix a grey for the shadows under the clouds. I am using Cobalt Blue and Deep Rose Madder and some Burnt Umber. This makes a violet tinted grey that is quite warm. Never over mix your colours so that when you load up your brush you get a variety of tints. The other colours pictured can be used to change the grey slightly.
Next use a totally dry brush with just a smidge of the grey on it. If you have too much on the brush you will not get the cloud like effect but a heavy stripe of grey. I often wipe any excess colour off on a towel.
Now scumble this grey along the bottom of the clouds to create a shadow. Move reasonably fast as this will dry quickly. You can repeat this process as many times as you like but make sure the colour underneath is totally dry before you start.
Make sure you add some perspective into the landscape by making the clouds smaller and more elongated as you approach the horizon. Notice how I am using different shades of grey to add interest to the picture.