Draw & Paint CLOUDS | In-depth Explanation with Watercolor, Gouache, Digital paint demos | Sarah Burns | Skillshare

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Draw & Paint CLOUDS | In-depth Explanation with Watercolor, Gouache, Digital paint demos

teacher avatar Sarah Burns, Painter / Teacher / Photographer

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

10 Lessons (58m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Drawing Tools

    • 3. Drawing Clouds

    • 4. Watercolor Basics

    • 5. Watercolor Cloud Demo

    • 6. Watercolor Sunset

    • 7. Gouache Demo

    • 8. Experimental Skies

    • 9. Digital Painting

    • 10. Final Thoughts

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About This Class


In this class you will learn how to get started drawing and painting skies and clouds using graphite, watercolor, gouache, and digital paint. I’ll walk you through my process of how I observe, learn, strategize, and paint clouds with these mediums. 

I’ll also show you ways I experiment in order to expand my understanding of watercolor skies, which are (in my opinion) the most fun!


(Example of the 3 "experimental sky" watercolor demos)

My Teaching Style

My goal as a teacher is for students to take away a deeper understanding of the topic rather than just copying what they see. I always try to give repeatable strategies that are easy to remember. That way, students can go off on their own and find success within their own practice.


(Example of Watercolor Sunset Demo)

Class Outline

  1. Intro
  2. Drawing Tools
  3. Drawing Clouds
  4. Painting: Watercolor Basics
    1. Key techniques for successful skies
  5. Painting: Watercolor Clouds
    1. 2 Demos
  6. Painting: Watercolor Sunset
  7. Painting: Gouache Clouds
  8. Painting: Experimental Clouds
    1. Three ways to experiment with watercolor skies
  9. Painting: Digital Skies
  10. Final thoughts on continuing your growth

Classes In This Series

For Intermediate / Advanced Students

I have several tutorials on Patreon. If you are a $5 member you get access to all of them for an entire month (and until you stop your subscription).


(Example of digital demo #1)

Materials Used in This Class


  • Mechanical Pencil
  • 2B Graphite Pencil
  • Derwent Charcoal Pencils (Medium and Dark)
  • General’s (and) Derwent White Charcoal
  • White computer paper
  • Strathmore 400 Series Toned Paper
  • Hi-Polymer Eraser & Soft Kneaded Eraser
  • Blending Stick
  • Tissue

Watercolor Materials:

  • Fabriano Artistico Hot Pressed Paper
  • Arches Cold Pressed Paper
  • Silver Black Velvet #12 Round Brush
  • Daler Rowney ¾” Aquafine Flat Brush 
  • Colors: Schmincke and Sennelier Brand
    • Mainly Ultramarine Blue Finest, Neutral Tint, Potter’s Pink
  • For the experiments: Windsor and Newton Ox Gall Medium (and) Granulation Medium

Gouache Materials:

  • Holbein Artist’s Gouache
  • Cheap Flat Brushes
  • Fabriano Artistico Hot Pressed Paper
  • Small Palette Knife
  • Colors: Cerulean Blue, Titanium White, Black

Digital Paint:

  • iPad 12.9 inch
  • Procreate 5.0
  • Apple Pencil


Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Sarah Burns

Painter / Teacher / Photographer


Hello! My name is Sarah. I'm a full-time artist and illustrator living in the Highlands of Scotland.


What I Do

My focus is on landscapes, but I do all sorts of things! Drawing, painting, photography and my three biggest joys.

I have self published one book, Tree Girl, and have begun work on two other books since 2019.

My days are spent painting and teaching others. I stream my process on Twitch and Youtube, and provide educational content on several platforms such as Youtube, Gumroad, and Patreon.


My Art Style

My style is a mixture of realism and expressive marks.

See for yourself


My Teaching Style

I truly believe that everyone has the ability to express themselves, but sometime... See full profile

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1. Intro: When we sit down to draw or paint a landscape, we can easily overlook this guy. I've always loved the beauty and the mood that a sky can add to a landscape, And I'm always driving to capture that drama that I find all around me in the beautiful landscape of Scotland. In this tutorial, you will learn the basics for drawing and painting skies and clouds. I'll start you off with a crash course in drawing from the tools you'll need to different strategies for drawing on either white or toned paper. Then we'll dive into painting techniques, and I'll talk you through my strategies for painting different types of clouds with watercolor, wash and digital paint. I'll also show you some experimental techniques for painting dramatic skies, and everything I share with you in this tutorial is exactly what I do to continue to grow my own skills. You'll also receive some beautiful reference photos, as well as only show notes and Leinart, so that you can easily reference at any point in the future. As always, my goal is a teacher is to provide you with repeatable strategies so that you can continue to practice and grow on your own. So grab your sketchbooks, your pencils or brushes, and let's get started 2. Drawing Tools: here some tools that I recommend for drawing clouds. And in fact, these are the same tools I would use for pretty much any landscape. Future mechanical pencils are really great for a quick, gestural drawing, but the tricky part is that they will always be pretty sharp, and that might make it more difficult to fill in larger soft areas of Grafite. A softer pencil, like a to B or higher is great for filling in these larger soft areas, and you can turn your pencil more parallel with the paper and take advantage of that larger surface area of graphite. It makes filling in these bigger areas just a little bit quicker. Just take care that when you're wiping your paper or your hand is touching the paper, you don't smear because the this type of pencil leaves a little bit of extra graphite on the paper. Charcoal sticks or pencils are another great option, and these can actually get really, really dark, depending on the hardness level. They're extremely versatile because of that, so you can get a wider tonal range. But again they leave a little bit of extra material on the paper, so be really careful not to smear it. To get really soft edges, we can utilize blending tools like these. You can purchase blending sticks, which are basically just strips of paper curled up into a pencil shape. Or you can use something that you have at home like cotton buds or little pillows like this . Believe it or not, erasers not only get rid of mistakes, but they are really versatile drawing tools, especially for clouds. And I'll show you how I use thes high polymer erasers as well as the needed soft erasers. Later in the drawing tutorial, I'll mainly be using regular computer printer paper today, but you can use whatever paper you prefer. Toned paper is really wonderful for drawing landscapes, and I especially love the Strathmore 400 Siri's. You can get different tones like tan or gray, and there are also so many other great brands and colors out there. So just use what you love. If you're using toned paper, I would recommend having a white pencil and these air my two favorite brands, generals and Derwin their white tinted charcoal. They'll never let me down. You can get really bright whites with ease, which you'll need for your highlights of your landscape 3. Drawing Clouds: before we start, it will help to familiarize ourselves with common cloud shapes. Getting used to identifying the highlight and the shadow side of the clouds is also really important. Typically, the brightest area will be facing the sun, and we can get used to really quickly identifying the overall shapes of the clouds. The more restudy these types of scenes. Sometimes you might have to minimize the detail to create an interesting composition. And that's okay. We should really pay attention to the values in our references so you can squint your eyes to reduce the detail and allow your mind to see bigger shapes and more simplified areas of light and dark. Here's a simplified version of this photo in black and white. Hopefully, that helps you get an idea for how I simplify these scenes. I typically start with very loose gestures, and for me it's mostly important to establish the overall composition of the scene. And if a majority of that composition includes clouds, I will just use very quick, loose, gestural lines to establish the overall shape of the cloud and or the cloud clusters. So in your sketchbook, I recommend trying a couple different compositions Just practicing this. It might be a little easier to start with spheres or ovals to ensure that the clouds are a little bit more soft or fluffy. But it's up to you. And for me, this is just the way that I like to do gestures. If you want your clouds to be bright, you'll have to practice drawing around the cloud or using negative space. So it's similar how we would approach watercolor, leaving the white of the paper showing through. In this case, the sky is darker than our cloud. Therefore, in our drawing will need to fill in a big, soft, slightly darker area of sky around the actual shape of the cloud. Keeping the pencil parallel to the paper so that the larger portion of graph is pressing down will give you a nice big soft fill as opposed to using the tip, which will lead to a little bit more of a scratchy look. You can see here that I'm working pretty quickly, and if you like, you can take extra time and care to fill in a nice even sky color. Alternatively, you can use your eraser to wipe away some of that graphite and make sure the edges of your clouds are nice and soft and fluffy. A lot of times, you'll notice that the base or the bottom of the cloud is a little bit darker, so we can come back into our sketch after we've soften those edges and add a bit of a darker value just at the bottom of the cloud and as well as right underneath any of the big , fluffy bumps that we see using simplified shapes as our underlying structure will help us visualize our forms in three D, And that's really important because it helps us understand how light and shadow will interact with our objects and drawing clouds is challenging because they aren't like solid objects. Therefore, it's it's even more important to visualize that three D form because it comes down to our shading to really define the cloud. As you can see, I'm drawing the same scene over and over again, trying different ways of mark making as well as practicing different levels of darkness and lightness. This is something I recommend you do in your sketchbook a lot. It'll help you just get used to the strategy I'll provide you guys with the Leinart for this scene, in case you're feeling a little bit overwhelmed with just establishing the overall forms. But I really recommend that you use some of the reference photos that I give you or go outside and reference the actual landscape and the sky and draw from life. I think that will really help you start to see the shapes in person and really internalize all of the things I've talked about. Drawing on toned paper is a little bit different because the actual color of the paper is our mid tone of the landscape, so we can start off with a very simple value scale just to get our minds graft around that . So if you do a little bar like this on one end, you'll start with your really bright brights, and then you'll in the middle, leave a little more. The paper showing through and that'll be our mid tone and then at the other end will get darker and darker. And those will be our darkest values of the drawing, so we can start with a similar strategy. As before, I'll just do like a quick, gestural sketch to lay in the bigger shapes that I need in the landscape and will slowly build up the values from there. Once we're ready to add the clouds or are highlights, we can reference our value scale and really figure out which area of that value skill we're gonna be using. If we look at the reference photo, we can tell that the darkest values are in the lower area, the landscape part and like the mountains. But the sky doesn't get that dark, so we'll stay in the left side of the value scale from that kind of Mentone color to the bright whites for our clouds. I like to start with the highlights of my clouds and then come back in and add the rest later, because it's a lot harder to draw this white charcoal on top of graphic. It ends up getting a little bit just really strange and muddy. So if I do the highlights first, I know that they're there. Then I'll come back in and I'll start filling in the sky around the clouds, and you can see I'm leaving some of that paper and the highlights alone. I'm not drawing over them. I'll start slowly laying in some of the darker values at the base of the clouds. And this is where I'll probably start using the blending tools as well. Because I wanted to stay really soft and it doesn't take much, you just have to slightly rub the blending tool across the surface, and all that loose graphite is going to start moving and blending across the paper. I will caution that it's a little bit addicting to do the blending, and you don't want to overdo it on the entire sky and every single element in your painting or your drawing. And because if you do, it's just gonna look too soft and just too unrealistic because in reality, if we add if we have a few harder edges on our clouds, even though that may seem, um, un intuitive, it will lend itself to a more realistic form. My final touch will be to come back in with a bit of brightness and just do some harder, bright edges on the cloud, especially facing the sun, depending on how bright I want them to feel ill. Add more of this highlight now. Otherwise, if I want them to be a little bit darker. I'll let some I'll let more of that toned paper show through. If you're going for more of a heavy storm, you look, you can blend in more graphite into the middle and lower sections of the cloud. And if those darker sections but up against the bright sections, it's gonna feel even more dramatic. I don't often sit down to just draw landscapes for the sake of having a landscape drawing. I use these very specifically to study the values of a scene before a paint it. So when I'm outside painting, I'll do a quick study like this. So practicing it now and again in my sketchbook is really good, because you know you can always get better. Um, but if you're interested in doing more like hyper realism, you can start off with these techniques, but you're really gonna have to work on your draftsmanship and just focus more on copying exactly what you see. So hopefully what I share with you in this little crash course will get you started. But I'm really excited to see what you guys come up with, so feel free to drop your sketches in whatever form there in in the class projects 4. Watercolor Basics: before we jump into painting with watercolor, I want to show you a few basic techniques that are going to be crucial when painting clouds practice thes over and over again in your sketchbook and on scrap paper whatever you have, and it will really, really help you improve your water control. Grady INTs are going to be very important for us. It's basically just of soft blend between colors, and it could be several colors. But in this case, I'm just pointing out how you can identify what the Grady in is in your scene. Usually you wanna look behind the clouds to find this base color of the sky, and then, from there we can start thinking about the clouds separately. So one of the first things we want to do is practice our ingredients. What I like to do is start off with just a very big pile of color on my palette, so I'll get a little pig men. I'll get a lot of water on my brush, and I'll dilute it down until I just get whatever color I'm going for. So having these premixed colors is gonna be really important because we have to kind of work quickly go ahead and premixed a couple different piles. You can use two or three colors, and I'll show you how we can get a really smooth blend between them when doing the Grady in gravity is your friend. So I recommend making sure that you can either tilt your paper up in some way by attaching it to a board or using one of those tabletop easels that is up. Addis Lee Angle, starting with our first color, will load up the brush and then do a solid line across the entire page and will continue to lay in these lines of color across the page, slightly overlapping the previous line will read. Load the brush each time, and when you're ready to shift to your next color, just start picking up paint from that other pile. We need to work rather quickly because we only have a few seconds before the paint starts settling into the fibers of the paper. Ah, and before fast enough, we can touch in a bit more color to some of our previous brushstrokes. But if you wait too long and you do that, you might end up with uneven splotches or streaks, so you just have to be careful on. And this is why we practice. After you've laid in each color and you reached the bottom, continue toe. Let gravity do its thing, and you'll start to see that Grady and become even more smooth. Soak up any extra water or pigment that threatens to drip down the bottom. We don't want a puddle of color here because when it dries, it will start creeping back into our painting, and it'll ruin that smooth, radiant we just created. As you can see, mine is a little bit uneven, so this is just something that naturally happens and we can continue to practice. I will point out that it is a lot more difficult to get a smooth Grady in on hot pressed paper, which is what I'm using here. I much prefer cold press paper for a lot of reasons. Ah, it's so much more forgiving and easy to work with. So if you're having trouble, maybe you're getting a lot of streaking or splotches. Perhaps you will want to try switching to a nicer, high quality cold press paper. Let's do it again with cold press papers so I can show you what I mean. This is the arses cold press. It's one of my favorite kinds to use. I love the texture of this paper. It handles a lot of water really, really well. So it's wonderful for Grady INTs, and I'm showing you kind of close up so you can see how those colors blend so wonderfully together. And as you can see, I'm just reloading the brush after every single brushstroke and overlapping my previous brushstroke just a little bit. So practice doing this a few times, maybe try one with two colors and then one with three colors, and really start getting used to that. Water control. Another important technique for watercolor, is painting around our highlights. So we're going to try filling in a large portion, kind of seeing it as our sky painting around a square or a circle, whichever you prefer M and creating like a really soft blend there. So my strategy is to lay in a bunch of color very quickly, and then before that dries, clean off my brush, get it just a little bit damp and come back in and smooth out that internal circle that edge that you see there. You have to be really careful not to get too much water on your brush at this point because any water that you introduce back into that color you laid down is going to start flowing. And if you have too much, it's gonna really start creating like, noticeable splotches as it spreads. So this is a really great thing to practice, and I still do it all the time. Just toe, you know, continue to brush up on my water control. Alternatively, we can use the lifting method. So, basically, if your paper your pigment is still wet, you have a little bit of time where you're able to lift it, and sometimes you can do that when it dries. It just depends on how staining your color is, but I find it a little bit easier when it's wet, so just get your brush clean, get it a little bit damp and start lifting the lifting that color. We can also use a paper towel or a tissue to lift any of the pigment that still wet, so it'll just give you a little bit of a different look. A lot of times it's a little bit of a harder edge. Lastly, let's talk about a wet into wet strategy, so this basically means the paper is wet either with clear water or another color of pigment, and will lay in a big area of color. Perhaps this is our sky. Then we'll touch in another color like, say, you want to do really stormy clouds. Maybe you'll grab some of your black or you're neutral tint, and you'll drop in that wet pain into the wet paint. Do this a few times with your different colors, to understand how much they flow because not all colors are the same. For instance, this is my neutral tint by Cinelli A. And it flows like crazy. So this is actually a really common color for me to use or add to my mixes if I want to get very stormy, swirly flowy clouds, and it works great with pretty much every color and mix it with. This technique also works for Clearwater, so if you have your sky color down, you can just use pure clear water, touch it into that pigment and start letting it flow by either like tilting or or moving your paper, you can really see how it pushes the pigment. This can be a strategy in creating clouds and waves. Actually, it's really versatile, but you do have to give up some of your control, which I know is difficult for a lot of people. But honestly, I think that's one of the most magical parts about watercolor when you kind of let it do its thing. So something that I'm always driving to do is create pieces that allow the watercolor to do its magical thing with the minimal amount of control by me. And that means a lot of my work is a little bit more stylized. But I mean it just it's my aesthetic, so to each their own. But I think it's important to continue practicing these two different techniques, and depending on your watercolor brand and what colors you have and what papers you have, you're going to get different results. Lastly, it's a good idea to have swatches of all of your colors, but also doing a lifting test of each one is going to give us more information. So this way you know which colors will give you an opportunity to manipulate them after they dry, which comes in really handy for clouds. So wait for your swatches to dry, then weaken. Scrub out the color with a damp, stiff bristled brush. Go as far as you can with this without causing damage to the paper. Some lower quality papers will disintegrate really quickly. This is just another reason of many to use higher quality papers. 5. Watercolor Cloud Demo: Now I'll show you two ways that I love to paint clouds with watercolor. For this first demo, we will start with a wet into wet style, so start with getting your paper completely saturated with clear water. It's not to the point where it's dripping off the page, but it is really, really damp, and you might see it pulling up just a hint in a couple areas. We're going to start with a really strong sky color. So in this case, I'm using my ultra Marine finest, and we're going to start laying it in towards the top of our paper. You can see him using a pretty big flat brush here, and you could really use any brushy want as long as it's big enough to fill in this area really quickly, because we do have to work relatively quickly, although if you have more water on the paper, you'll have a little bit extra time. It's easier to do this than it is to do like dry brush technique, which means there's less water and it tends to drive really fast. Next, we're going to get a scrunched up tissue or bathroom role. So as long as it's a really soft fiber paper. It'll work for this because we don't want to scratch the paper or get, like, really stiff, um, edges. And all we're gonna do is just dab that pigment up. The harder we pressed, the more pigment is gonna soak into the paper. So if you want a really bright spot on your cloud, you can hold it there for a second or press really hard. But if you want more of a softer, wispy edge, you can just dab it really, really quickly and really lightly. It's up to you to design where your clouds were gonna be. But I highly recommend studying clouds from life or from reference photos, because it's sometimes hard to invent them when you're just starting out. Next, we're going to take a soft bristle brush like I'm using my round brush here as long as it has a bit of a fatter edge on it, and it can hold just a little bit of water. You don't want it soaking wet or anything like that ice. I actually wiped it off quite a bit before I did this, because all I'm doing is using it to blend between my drier areas and the wet areas, and I really don't want to introduce any water into the wet area. If I do, it's going to start bleeding into that blue sky and disturbing the pigment there. And I'm going to get a really uneven kind of splotchy look. I pretty much just do this here and there to get a couple soft edges, and I wipe my brush continuously so that I have not like dragging wet pigment around the painting. And before that dries, I'm gonna mix up a hint of like a shadow color. So here I'm using the same blue I started with, and I'm adding just a teeny tiny bit of neutral tin, which is my grayish black and my potter's pink, which is a really neutral pinkish color. Very, very granulated ing, and I love how it looks in clouds. I'm gonna dab it onto the cloud here, and they're letting it kind of touch into that wet pigment that's already there as well as the dry areas, and it might look really dark and dramatic right now, but it's gonna dry, really, really light once I get a decent amount on there. I'm gonna come back in with a clean brush, so I'll just, like, wipe it off, get a little bit damp and start swishing around. Ah, that pigment and kind of soften it a bit here and there. I like to use directional brushstrokes to sort of indicate the movement of the cloud in the sky. Occasionally I can come back in with my tissue and just dab up a little bit more of that pigment If I thought maybe I went too far M And then after this, we're just gonna let it dry. I'm going to add even more shadow underneath my cloud. So I'll need the paper to be wet again. And I don't want to disturb it too much. So I don't want to scrub it with a brush to get wet again. So I'll just missed it a little bit with my little spray bottle here. I'm gonna mix more of that shadow color, but make it just a tiny bit more saturated and I'm gonna start touching it into mostly the bottom portion of my cloud because that's usually where the heavy, heavier part is. The weight is and tends to have that shadow we look to it. So it's mostly just touching it into that water that I sprayed on. But occasionally I go past that point and I get into the dryer part of the cloud, which is going to give me a harder edge and really quickly. I want to show you something with this brush. If you have a nice round brush like this that holds a lot of water in the body of the brush , you can use it in a couple different ways. So if you point the tip down at the paper, you're going to get these really sharp lines. But if you press the body of the brush into the paper, you're gonna end up with a softer edge. So a lot of the pigment is going to come off at the tip. But closer to the handle of the brush, words fatter. It holds more water there. You're going to get a softer edge so you can actually direct your brush in whichever angle you want. And just knowing that, you know, the body's gonna make a softer edge and the tip is gonna make a harder edge. You can utilize that in your paintings. So that's exactly what I'm doing here. I'm trying to use the fat part of the brush anywhere that I want it a bit of a softer edge . And I'm going to use the tip of the brush to deposit more pigment and get a bit of ah, harder edge. I like to mix my soft edges and hard edges with my clouds because I just I like that look. But if you want just like a purely soft, fluffy cloud in the sky with like, no hard edges, you're gonna just use a lot more water and a very soft edge of your brush. And finally, I'll do the same thing I did before with a clean brush. I'll just come back in and kind of blend those areas between the shadow and the light side of the cloud. Just here and there and again, I'm using more of my directional brushstrokes. So have fun with this. I I think this style gives you a lot of room to play, and I really, really like doing clouds like this. Next up, we're going to do more of a dry brush approach, and in this case we don't want to get the paper wet. First, we just want to load our brush up with lots of that nice sky color and start sweeping that into the paper. And immediately we have to start painting around our cloud forms. So if you want, you can do a sketch first. But here I'm just kind of winging it. And again, I am using those directional brushstrokes here and there. But I'm really trying to work quickly so that I don't get too many patchy areas in that big blue sky. I'm kind of sweeping the pain underneath the cloud, but slightly diluting it as well, because usually the sky gets a little bit lighter near the horizon. You can see my brush is almost dry at this point, so I'm using very little water throughout this process. And since my arse is cold, press paper is rather thirsty. It's gonna pretty much immediately soca soak in all that pigment and water. So I want to work a little bit quicker now to add in my shadows before this blue sky dries . So mixing up a little bit of that shadow color and immediately sweeping it in so you can see how dry. My brush is still not using too much water, because again, the more water I introduce toothy layer that's already on there, that blue layer. It's going to start spreading into it and maybe cause some problems if I'm not careful, but just using really quick, gestural brushstrokes kind of sweeping it up into the cloud, giving it that movement. And this is exactly what I would do if I was outside doing quick sketches and from life. And I feel like this is a really fun strategy. It's a little bit more stylized, but I really, really like it. And as this begins to dry, I can show you hear what I'm talking about. With that water creeping into my background, it starts to push the pig been and you end up with a bit of ah, harder are a darker color, like a line almost an outline around your cloud. Which mayor may not work for you, but I wanted to show you because it's a common thing that happens, and it's really just about water control and working into that background while it's still wet. Here are a few cloud demos that I've done in the past and again. You can see there's so many different ways to do these. So if you want to practice the two styles I just showed you and continue to progress with your water control like the world is your oyster. After that point, you can really start having fun and experimenting with clouds. 6. Watercolor Sunset: The next demo is a watercolor sunset. Feel free to use any of the sunset photos I put in the class Resource is or use your own again. We're going to start off by pre mixing a couple piles of color, because this time we are going to start with a greedy int and because it's a sunset and it has a lot of bold colors, and we know that watercolor tends to dry a little bit lighter. We want to make sure we add a little bit extra pigment into our mixes this time. And once we have those colors ready, we can go ahead. And what, our paper again. We just want to make sure its overall just saturated nice and damp. It doesn't have to be dripping or anything. And as I previously mentioned with radiance, we want gravity to help us out. So I'm attaching my paper to a piece of board and then we'll go ahead and lay in our ingredient. I'm using a bit of extra pigment here, as I mentioned, because I know it's gonna dry lighter, and I'm going to let this Grady int start settling into the paper. Then I'm gonna come back and add wet pigment into this wet background, and that's gonna be our clouds. One thing that I could have done better in my ingredient is I probably should have used a bigger brush. The bigger brush, the better in this case, because the more you have to continuously lift your brush, put it in the pigment, then put it back on the paper. The more likely you're gonna end up with streaks or different sections of color rather than one really smooth radiant, especially if you're using a bigger piece of paper. So just throwing that out there, you might want to invest in a larger flat brush or something specifically for Grady INTs. And as you can see, I am keeping my paper completely vertical. Camera is not loving that, but basically we just want to let the pigment flow down as much as we can. While it's what, and as soon as it stops visibly moving on the paper is when we will start our clouds regarding bright pink pigments. There are a few paints on the market that are not light fast, so you're gonna want to just double check to make sure that the pigments that you're buying our light fast. I've done the whole video about my entire pallet on YouTube. If you want to go check that out. But here I'm using quinacrine own magenta. It's one of my newer colors, and it's super, super vibrant and just really wonderful. And the great thing is that it is really light fast. So here is where we're gonna kind of let go of a little bit of our control. I am basically just loading up my brush and I'm dripping it down onto the paper and then holding the page vertically so that it starts flowing in whatever direction I'm angling it at. And I'm letting gravity help me here. So if you know it's a little bit hard to see, but in a second Yellow sea. But basically I'm just kind of like sweeping directional brushstrokes, which ever way I want the clouds to flow and also turning, tilting the paper up. And it's a really tricky balance between making sure you don't have a lot of extra water on your brush and making sure you have enough pigment because you wanted to flow. But you don't want a lot of extra water because that extra water will just dilute all the beautiful colors you have on your page and you'll come out with a very muted sky. Or it'll start pushing pigment around, and it won't really look like anything but a bunch of splotches. So it does take a little practice, a little finessing. You'll find your sweet spot, the more you do this. And if you're a bit uncomfortable with letting go of that control, um, you know, because I'm really not doing that much, except just like laying in a sweep of color and letting it flow vertically. The paper, the gravity, everything that's good. It's kind of doing its own thing. I personally love that. I think it's so much fun to see what's gonna happen and just offer a little bit of control . But then just watch the watercolor work, its magic and in terms of colors, I started off with a pink in the upper area, and as I got closer to the horizon, I introduced a little bit of orange into it up in the, um, higher part of the sky. I'm going to come back in with more dark pigment like Ah purple e color and do a little bit more pigment there because you can see it got COIT diluted and spread out a lot. However, you don't want to continue to touch it and fuss with it for very long because the longer the pigment and the water is sinking into the fibers, the less it wants to be disturbed. And if you try to mess with it later, you're gonna end up with really strange reactions. Like, for instance, one thing that happens is a blooming effect, or you'll get like hard edges and you don't want them. So it is one of those things that you just kind of have to do it and be done. And if it doesn't turn out the way you wanted it to, just do another one. Just try it again. And I promise, because this is exactly how I learned. The more you do it, the better it will get. So once you've got enough color and there, it's time to just set it down and let it dry. You know, if your intention was to just have a painting of a sky, then you're done. But in a lot of cases, for sunsets. I really like to have something in the foreground kind of silhouetted against that beautiful sky. It just makes it pop out even more. It makes it look brighter and more vibrant, and it gives me some sense of skill. So I'm gonna mix up a super super dark color. It's kind of a purple lee color and ah, lay in a bunch of foliage. I'm just kind of, you know, flicking my brush around. I wanted to be very loose and expressive. Um, and if you want, you can, you know, paint painstakingly detailed branches and trees and such down here. But I just wanted to show you an example because I really love how these silhouette informs , Look against sunset skies. 7. Gouache Demo: Let's talk about doing clouds with an opaque, medium like wash. Of course, you could also use acrylic or oil. Whatever you have. I'm using hot pressed paper here, so it's extremely smooth. And in order to get a nice even coding in the background for the sky color, I'm trying not to use a lot of water. I just use enough water to get the pigment flowing nice and smoothly, and I continue to lay in the color left and ray up and down kind of cross crisscross action . And then towards the end, I'll just use really, really quick, smooth, flowing brushstrokes horizontally left to right, and I'll slowly work the white back up into that sky before it dries. And this will give me that nice Grady in from the brighter blue sky in the higher area. Teoh, later blue in the lower area near the horizon. If you use too much water here, it's probably going to dry uneven, so try to use as little as you can to indicate the shadows of the cloud. I'm going to start with a really light gray color, so I'm just mixing my black and my white and I like to mix it with a palette knife to make sure it's nice and even otherwise, the bristles up, the brush will get clogged up really quickly, and the shadow color goes on the left lower side of my cloud. So I'm just starting by laying it in, kind of using a directional brushstroke. And next we'll come back in with some wispy clouds in the background, using a little bit of that same color and on the horizon because it's a lighter area. I'm going to use a little bit of a darker blue there to make the cloud stand out against that later blue sky in the background. And then I'm gonna take just pure white, and I'm gonna start touching into the cloud on the highlight side and immediately that is going to start blending in with that existing gray color so I can just use big, chunky brushstrokes here. I don't have to worry too much about form because I'm going to come back in with a palette knife and do some interesting, thicker paint there. So for now I'm just laying in the color so I have something to work with. There's no rush at this point because the lovely thing about Gua Shi is that it never really cures. It doesn't fully dry into a permanent film, so you can always come back in and blend into it, even if it's completely bone dry. So at this point, I can kind of work back and forth between my shadows and my highlights until I get a nice base there. At this stage, you could also add other colors to the cloud because you know, if you have a sunset or something and there's light and there's color reflecting off your cloud at this point, you can blend it in, so it has a nice, smooth blood there. I'll load up my palette knife with pure white, and I'll start sweeping it from the outside in so that the remaining brushstroke is pure white. If I started at the gray and moved outwards, it would pick up that gray and dilute it with gray so it wouldn't be pure white. So, you know that would work if I was going for a darker cloud or something. Um, so you can kind of work back and forth, depending on where you want your really bright brights to be and you can see it gives you a really nice imposter of style. Result. A lot of depth, like physical depth. It's just something that I love doing. Don't go too thick, though, because Gua sh can crack and like, flake off of your page. If it's really, really thick. Next, we'll show you a really quick strategy for doing a sky with a little bit more color so we'll do another Grady in this time. I'm using a warmer color at the horizon, and I'll work it back up into a bluish tone at the top. You do have to be a little careful with your color choices here, because if you mix a yellow and a blue, you're obviously going to get green. So, you know, play around with your colors that you have and do some mixing charts to see what colors you can actually use for this. I actually have some water color here that I'm gonna add some whitewash to, and I'll mix it up until I get a nice, almost peachy orange color. And this is gonna be the brighter clouds against the top part of the sky, where it's darker. Blue in terms of design. This is kind of imitating those longer wispy clouds that create the context radiation pattern across the sky. Then, in the lower half of the sky over that brighter horizon, I'm gonna lay in a blue color, and I'm just continuing those same clouds the same lines down into the lower part of the sky. So basically, you can think about this strategy as whatever the lower half of your grade Ian is. That's gonna be the color of the clouds in the upper half of the sky. Whatever the upper half of the sky background color is, that's going to be the cloud color in the lower half. So you're kind of working in opposites there. And the nice thing about this strategy is that it's very repeatable. You can basically do this with any combination of colors. If you find that a little too boring, you could always come back in and blend some other tones into those clouds. So for now, I'm gonna add in just a hint of a lighter lavender color, and it'll sort of bridge the tones together. You could use something really vibrant, like red or pink. Um, it just have a lot of fun with the color placement in this 8. Experimental Skies: as you have probably deduced, painting clouds requires a lot of repetition. Not only do we need to improve our understanding of our own pigments and water control, but so much of it comes from just putting the brush to the paper over and over and learning with every single painting and then applying what we learned to the next one and so on. So when I feel like it's time to level up my skies, I do a lot of experimenting. I'll walk you through three of my typical type of experiments, and I'll let you know some of my thoughts along the way. This first painting started off by spritzing the paper with my little Mr, and this lays down a very fine mist. That kind of dap als the surface with water droplets, which is very different than brushing water onto the paper, which is going to ensure that you get a nice even coat. So when I dropped the pigment into that dappled surface, you can see it spreads outwards, almost like veins, and it gives me a really dramatic and unique form. Effects like this just can't be replicated with other mediums, and I think That's something so magical and wonderful about watercolor. From here, I can start dropping in some of my background color and even some of the shadows underneath that first color. When I started this painting, I honestly had no idea what would happen, and I'm merely reacting to it in the moment. I honestly think I learned way more doing stuff like this than when I watch a professional tutorial over and over again. It's just about getting that brush onto the paper A lot of times with my experiments, I try to use as little brush input as possible so I can really test the limits of my pigment and the water. This is really beneficial because in my preferred style of painting, it's very expressive, and I don't want it to be overly tightly rendered. So if I can include some areas of the painting, some some elements that are very spontaneous and maybe even abstract, I'm much more happy with the final result. Sometimes they'll even just go into these experiments, knowing of feeling that I wanna create or capture, and in this case, it was something about a storm over the water over the coast and I love a certain place called Isle of Skye here in Scotland, it's very dramatic, moody coastline, and I love painting the skies, and it's not like it's storms all that often. But even just regular clouds over there just are so incredibly dramatic. And there's a lot of times there's like a wall of a rain that comes towards you. You can see it in the distance, and it's always something I'm working towards with my watercolors. I really want to get better at creating interesting atmospheres. Therefore, I have to do a ton of experimenting length us. The next painting was done on hot pressed paper, which, in my opinion, is much harder to work with. But I'm always testing my abilities on it because I tend to learn quite a lot. I went rather simple with wet into wet technique, but with way more water than usual, and I really just wanted to see what would happen when I allow the paint. Two really flow, with almost no brushing after the initial pigment was on and I went into this painting trying to create a sense of a spring storm over kind of just a typical green fields here in Scotland, so I used a lot of water. I let the paper just do its thing kind of like letting it flow across the smooth surface of that hot pressed paper and lay in a simple landscape underneath. I find that Ha press paper is a little bit more unpredictable when doing these big wet into wet washes, because the paper is so slick that the pigment flows really, really fast. And depending on how much pigment and water is in every single brushstroke, you're going to get a totally different effect and speed at which the paint flows. And I do think that some of the most beautiful atmospheric paintings I've seen are done on hot press paper for that very reason. There's just something really wonderful about letting the pigment do its thing without hardly any input. I think allowing the watercolor to really shine, just like be itself on the paper is one of my favorite things. However, I'm still not quite brave enough to do my typical landscapes on hot press paper. Maybe the more experiment, the more all ah kind of force myself toe get used to it. This last painting is an example of experimenting with adding granule, ation, medium and ox gall. Both of these offer very unique effects. Many pigments are naturally granulated, meaning they have a lot of really visual texture, but adding this medium increases it quite a bit. I mainly used it in the sky here in combination with some bigger washes of pigment and water. And then I added a little bit of the ox gall ox school is usually added into the manufacturing or like in the binder of our pain when we buy it. So by adding it a little bit here and there I was watching how it affected my ability to make those walls of rain because I was hoping that it would help draw the paint down really quickly. It worked a little bit, but I really need to experiment with my ratios. I have to admit that when I first started painting with watercolor, I was very timid and I looked up to artists and artwork that was so expressive and had this very loose flowy feeling to it, and I just really longed to be able to do that. So I think it was just one day. I sat down with all of my supplies spread out around my table, and I just went for it. And that day changed everything for me. And it opened up my eyes to so many cool things we can do with watercolor. So I Oh, I oh, that leap forward to experimenting. This painting was also a chance to go really bold and store me in this guy, which I love. But I'm often too afraid to do that in my landscapes. So I'm hoping that the more I do these experiments, the less afraid I'll be. Because I just find that, you know, the more often you do something you're afraid of, the less it scares you. I really hope that you guys enjoyed watching these experiments, and I plan on posting a lot more of this kind of stuff on my YouTube channel. Um, but feel free to ask questions or share your own experiments in the class projects 9. Digital Painting: I'm using the procreate app here on my iPad and to keep it simple, I'll stick with E standard brushes that came with the program. I'll start off the painting with a really nice warm blue sky to make it feel like a summer day and just as we discussed in the watercolor lesson, will need a bit of a Grady in in this background. So using slightly lighter blue near the horizon and a hint darker at the top of the page, I made this on its own layer so that I could reduce the opacity as needed. The most basic cloud would be something like this, using a really soft round brush just white on blue sky. We could add a bit more depth by adding some grays. However, I would avoid going too dark on a sunny day like this. So keeping that in mind, let's draw a basic cloud together. I find it a bit easier to start with my grey or mid tone, and then we'll come back in and add the highlights. First we can lay in a base of warm gray, and then we'll add a hint of shadow to the left and lower part of the cloud, and already it has a sense of weight to it. With that same soft, round brush, I can add a touch of some white on whichever side the sun is shining. No, this is clearly a very soft, fluffy cloud, which you can see here and there in the sky. But sometimes we will add a sharper edge to make the highlights really pop out against that blue sky. It will also help us to find the cloud form a little bit more. The simplest way would be to make the brush a bit smaller, because it would reduce the brushes ability to create that large Grady in. And it will automatically make the edges look a little sharper against that softer background. So I'm laying in that brightest white on the right side where the sun would be hitting. Okay, let's do that again, but with more detail and will use a combination of hard and soft brushes. I'll start with white so you can see that built in texture a bit better, and this is the Nico role brush included with the program, and it's really great because it allows a bit of that blue sky to peek through here and there. After laying in the basic shape of the cloud, I can use my blending brush to blend out some of the edges. The blending brush I'm using is very, very soft, just like the first soft brush we used. And having these hard and soft edges next to each other will immediately make the cloud appear a little bit more full and rounded because to our eyes, some of the edges are now disappearing into the distance. After that, we can add a bit of gray for the shadow, using the same textured brush and again weaken. Blend that in and out of the white part of the cloud. Then we can repeat this strategy throughout the sky. Until we have our overall composition. Feel free to add more color to the cloud. Like here, I'm touching in a bit of darker, grayish blue into the shadows. Of course, adding a bit of landscape below will help us get a sense of scale. In our painting, I felt my sky was a bit too empty, so I decided to add some longer wispy clouds near the horizon and in the background since these clouds air in the distance. I made a layer below my first clouds, and then I switched back to the soft round brush by observing different types of skies. I noticed. Sometimes there are clouds flowing in the opposite direction or perpendicular to other clouds, so I can do that here to give a bit more realism. Next, let's use the same sunset reference we used in the watercolor lesson and in this case will need to start with a Grady int in the background on its own layer. To make this Grady in, I'll start with the darker color that's gonna be at the top of the page, and then we'll come back in with a big soft brush and will lay in the lighter color near the horizon. As I do this, I'll usually switch back and forth between the two colors until I get a really soft radiant that I'm happy with. Now we can make a new layer and get started on our clouds. We'll be working from the background forward on these clouds, so what I usually do is squint my eyes in order to see the basic colors and forms in the sky. And by doing that here, I was able to figure out that the background clouds are more of a darker, darker purple color, and then they move forward to a bright pink and on an orange, and then, finally, a light, peachy color. I recommend starting with the soft round brush again, and we'll get a really deep purple color. In this case, we're using some really long directional clouds, which I love because they're so dynamic. After we get those in, we can lower the brush size and do a couple long, wispy ends so that there's a bit of variety back there. Then I'll take my blending brush and make sure it's a little bit bigger and softer, and I'll blend those two sizes of clouds together. As the sun rises, it will start to cast a warm light onto the clouds from below, so we can start working our way from this background purple color to a lighter color in the foreground. I'm on a new layer now, and I'll start laying in some bigger soft pink clouds. I'll switch to my textured rush because by adding a bit of edge to these foreground highlights, they will really start to stand out a bit more against that background, and as I go forward, my brush will get gradually smaller, and I'll shift from color to color from this bright pink. We can then move forward to that vivid orange and then finally will end up with that peachy yellow. And occasionally we can blend in and out of those colors with our blending brush. And the last touch will be to add some kind of silhouetted element in the foreground, just to give the painting a sense of scale and make it a little bit more vibrant. Okay, let's go back to a bright, sunny sky, and we'll start observing the variety of colors and values in our clouds by color picking from our reference photo. This is a really great exercise to start to see the variety. And then the more you do that, the quicker and easier it becomes, and you will no longer have to color pick to make it easier on yourself. You could even take those colors that you picked and put them on a new layer and start painting From there. I recommend practicing this a few times with different cloud photos until you start to notice the different patterns in the forms. I really urge you to experiment with different brush types and layering techniques because , after all, that is one of the great benefits of digital painting. 10. Final Thoughts: to continue developing your sensitivity to color and form. It's really important to observe our subjects from life and real references, but I find tremendous value in looking at what other artists dio, and this opens my mind to the endless possibilities in capturing these elusive forms. I am constantly building my internal library in order to expand my mind, and I really recommend that you keep some kind of inspiration board or folder on your computer to do the same. Two artists I recommend researching our Franklin Booth and John Constable. There are work, although from the 18 and 19 hundreds is just timeless and moving. They were both incredibly prolific, and they had such a unique way of capturing the subtleties of clouds, among other things. So I hope the strategies I've shared in this class will get you started on a good path for improving your skies and clouds, no matter what medium you prefer. If you want to dive deeper, I have tons of fulling tutorials on patron, many of which focus on clouds and skies, so feel free to check those out, and the link is in the description. Please feel free to share your progress with the class, even if it's just sketches. All you do is head over to my class, click on discussions, then choose an option. You can even upload multiple photos or simply ask a question. And if you enjoyed this class or found it helpful, please do leave a review and that'll let other students know what to expect. If you prefer to post on social media, just use the hashtag Sarah Burns tutor, and I'll be able to see your work. I've really been enjoying seeing all the amazing and creative work you guys have been posting from my previous classes. Thank you all so much for your support, and I'll see you again soon.