Painting Clouds

Painting Clouds

In landscape artworks a good rendition of clouds can be amazing when painted well. There are tricks to painting clouds well but the key element is getting the shadows right, just as you would on anything else, for example clouds are made up of water particles and as they get more dense they become larger and cluster at the bottom due to being heavier before they become rain drops, this is what makes them darker underneath for example. Of course a scientific explanation would go further but this is in a nutshell for artists sort of explanation!

Where do clouds get their unique names from and how can you tell what’s what? Let’s see if I can paint an imaginary picture for you to describe their individual characteristics. Clouds are classified into a system that uses Latin words to describe their appearance as seen by an observer on the ground.

Cirrus is curly while a stratus is a layer that appears like layers or lines of wispy cloud kind of like choux pastry or curls of white wispy hair and a cumulus is a heap as in the rounded bubbly cotton wool ball type cloud and then we have nimbus which is a rain cloud and is often darker in colour.

Here are some tips for painting clouds-

  1. Believe it or not clouds aren't actually pure white; in fact they reflect the colour of the sky. You can see this more so at sunrise and sunset, when the clouds change to shades of yellow, red, and even pink.
  2. When painting clouds don't try to paint every single detail in the clouds. Simplicity is the key.
  3. Identify the different types of cloud as each one has its own characteristics as described above, have a look at clouds on Google images for exact images.
  4. Take reference photos of different types of clouds at different times of day to create a reference portfolio and label each one clearly. You will get to know what one is which pretty quickly.
  5. The rules of perspective apply to clouds too. As they disappear towards the horizon, their colours become paler and their shapes are less distinct.

Often copyright of artworks is judged by cloud formation as its never the same so if an artist copies another artist’s artwork or a photo for example, it can proved that it is a copy by how the clouds are as obviously the same scenery can be painted by anyone, just rarely ever things like people being there, boats, and yes clouds unless they happened to be there the same day at the same time!

The image is of a cloud chart, my Dad had one in his garage and I was always fascinated by the different types of cloud, he was a pilot and such things are obviously important to them but for me it was obviously the art angle I liked. I highly recommend getting one of these charts so you have a handy reference chart for painting clouds. Link to the site here CLOUD CHART


Posted: Monday 23 August 2010


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