How to Paint Acrylic Clouds

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Painting clouds, like almost any other art or craft project, requires study and practice for reasonable results. The more time and effort that you put into it, the better the work will turn out. One of the keys to obtaining a satisfactory image of clouds on your painting surface is to treat the cloud as a multicolored, three-dimensional object.

Things You'll Need

  • Acrylic paint (in several colors) Canvas or acid-free paper Paintbrushes Pencil and drawing pad
  • Go outdoors and observe the clouds. Do this on a sunny day, when each cloud can be seen as an individual unit. Take along a sketch book and record your results on paper with a pencil or a piece of charcoal.

  • Study the way other painters have handled the subjects of clouds. The best way is to go to an art museum or gallery and look at landscape paintings firsthand.

  • Prepare the surface for your painting. If canvas is being used, you need to make sure the surface is primed with gesso. Paper usually needs no preparation. Once the surface is ready, sketch the clouds.

  • Try to obtain a realistic color in the top half of the cloud. This is the side of the cloud where the sun strikes the object, so the colors should show the presence of sunshine, plus reflect some of the blue sky. Pure white is seldom seen in clouds. Mix some colors that reflect what you see when you look at the top of a cloud.

  • Paint the bottom half of the cloud. This part of the cloud will be darker than the top part. Dark grays dominate here, but study your subject closely because colors change during the course of a day. At sunrise and sunset, warm colors go wild in the sky, so save the rendering of a sunset or sunrise until later. Begin with normal lighting conditions.

  • Fill in the background color of the sky, which is sometimes close to a cerulean blue. At other times, the background can be a muddy gray with some blue mixed in. In the West and at high altitudes, skies are much bluer than at sea level. Many painters on the East Coast just use their rinse water to get a realistic sky color.

Tips & Warnings

  • Acrylic paint is water soluble and can be mixed heavily with water to act like an aqueous paint, or it can be applied thickly to obtain an impasto effect.
  • Acrylic paint dries quickly, so don't leave your brushes out in the sunshine for very long.

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