The great thing about watercolour is how many ways there are to paint the same subject! You can try many approaches, keep the ones you like, and combine them to make different pictures in new ways!
Today we’re focusing on different ways to paint skies, using techniques from Katarzyna Kmiecik’s Live Demo. She uses a variety of brushes, but I’m demonstrating using only a round brush so that you’re more likely to have the same supplies at home.
Let’s begin, starting with some sunsets!
Step 1: Gradient
For this sunset, wet the page first. Then, paint the bottom part yellow. Since the top of the sky is going to be blue, and the wet-on-wet technique makes the paint blend together, you’ll need to do something to stop the sky from blending into the green.
Katarzyna adds some magenta and brown to neutralize the area where the blue and yellow meet, just sparingly so that those colours don’t show in the finished result.
Step 2: Clouds
Drop-in grey and brown paint, allowing it to feather into cloud shapes. Make the clouds smaller toward the bottom, so that they look farther away. Clouds aren’t such precise shapes that you need a perspective grid for them, but they’re still affected by perspective!
You’ll notice how the clouds in front of the blue are blue-grey, and the clouds over the yellow are brown. You might want to put brown on the bottom of a few of the blue clouds so that the sun appears to reflect off of them.
Step 1: Gradient
Make a gradient just like the blue gradient, except it’s a bit easier this time! You won’t need any neutralising colours to prevent unwanted mixing, because you’re combining the yellow/orange area with a colour that’s already neutral.
Make your beautiful grey out of brown, blue, and purple, and adjust it until you like it. Then, use that for the upper half of the wet-on-wet gradient!
Step 2: Clouds
The paper won’t be as dry for this as it was for the previous clouds. Let it be a bit damper than mine is here (I had to go in and rewet a few times for the clouds to turn out nicely), but don’t wait too long.
The clouds here are going to be more heavy and choppy than the ones from before. Use the grey colour you used on the sky, and make them nice and dark.
Experiment with water and paint to see what gives you the effect you like the most. You can see where I rewetted the page to let my clouds blend more.
For realism, do the same thing as before where the clouds at the bottom are smaller and more orange-brown. I also did the trick here where the undersides of the clouds are brighter, to show the sun reflecting.
Here you can see the effect after adding yellow to the bottom of some of the clouds! This technique is tricker than the first, and it takes some finesse, but after practising I think you’re going to enjoy it. The stormy, moody effect is so pretty!
Fluffy Sunny Clouds
Now, let’s shift away from sunset gradients to some other techniques! To paint clouds on a sunny day, let’s start by spraying the page with some water from a spray bottle.
Step 1: Basic Cloud Shapes
With the page sprayed instead of wet with a brush, the paint will have hard edges in some places and soft edges in others. This is perfect for clouds because irregular shapes come naturally!
Take a blue you like and start intuitively painting how you think the clouds should look. Leave plenty of gaps.
Step 2: Setting the Mood
Here we are setting the mood with some deep blue-grey and some yellow at the bottom! You’ll want to blend these colours while they’re still wet so that there aren’t any unnatural edges or out-of-place value shifts. Your result here will be an ethereal evening sky with lots of cheerful clouds!
For some expressive, imaginative evening clouds, let’s use a wet-on-dry technique!
Step 1: Orange
Apply some orange paint in fluffy strokes, and let the shapes radiate out from the centre kind of like water rippling after a splash. Don’t be too precise, because clouds aren’t very precise.
Step 2: Rich Purples
Orange and purple are so pretty together, and the combination is often overlooked! Use some purple-grey and some muted magenta, and let those colours flow into the orange before it dries.
You can also accent the corner away from the purple with some richer orange if you like! Use your intuition and follow your sense of balance.
After trying all four of these techniques and colour combinations, I’m sure you’ll have some ideas for cloud paintings of your own! These techniques are meant to be mixed and matched, so whether you’re painting from life or imagination, you’ll have the perfect method for completing your painting.