Watercolor clouds are one of my favorite things to paint...but they weren't always. Actually putting brush to paper an painting on the perfect cloud is tricky. This is what I struggled with until I realized that I had the wrong approach... I needed to reveal them!
In this article I will show you 6 examples of how to paint clouds with watercolor. You will notice that many of these are actually lifting techniques instead of painting techniques!
All of these techniques are going to start the same way, place your sky color down on your paper and then you want to work fairly quickly while everything is still wet.
For the first technique you will want to get a paper towel, scrunch it up, and tear it. You want to reveal the raw edges of the ripped edge.
Then scrunch it up to be fairly roundish. Whatever shape you make here is the shape your initial cloud will be.
Then while everything is still wet, simply press that raw edge into your painting where you want your cloud.
Repeat the pressing until you are happy with your cloud shapes and placement.
Like the first technique in this one you need to paint your sky color on the page. Once this is done wash your brush well, and dry it off on a rag or paper towel.
Then you can use your dry(ish) brush to lift the color of the page. I love using the brush to make high wind wispy clouds that streak across the sky.
You can also use your brush to lift out more traditional cloud shapes, I just tend to prefer the paper towel method for that. Try both, and see which works best for you!
Technique 3 is modification of the first, with just very different results. You will start the same way of scrunching and ripping a paper towel to create a rough edge and then pressing it onto the wet paint.
After you have the top of your cloud shaped. Then you want to smoosh your paper towel to be flatter, hold it at an angle and lightly connect the ripped fibers the page.
Drag the paper towel down quickly and lightly. This will give you a bit of a rain burst coming from the cloud!
This is our first technique that isn't exactly lifting. We won't be lifting anything off the page, but we will still be revealing the clouds instead of directly painting them. For this one we will be harnessing the beauty of blooms.
Start the same way as before where you put your cloud color down. Then wash your brush well so you have clean water in it. Lightly tap your brush off. Not too much! You still want water in it, just a controllable amount of water.
Lightly tap your wet clean brush into the wet sky, in the general shape of the clouds you want.
Tap along in the shapes and the important part here is to stop before you think you are really done, because this changes a lot as it sits!
The image above is the last bit of water I added, and not even a minute later, this is what appeared!
Modifications on Technique #4
You can modify the above technique by instead of dropping in clean water, using colors! Or even both.
One trick I have for this is you want to be very careful about the amount of color you are depositing. I like to take the color I want on the page and smear it on a flat part of my palette allowing it to dry along the edges, then this is where I will grab my pigment from. This allows me to easily control how much pigment I have in the brush.
As before once you have the color in your brush, tap it into the wet background.
You can do this with dark colors like grey as shown above, or bright colors as shown below.
The pink example I added small amounts of pink, and also fresh clean water to give them a bit more depth.
If you prefer to watch the techniques as a video, I have that all ready to go!