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How to Draw a Cloud

Learn how to draw clouds from artist Rebecca Schweiger in this Howcast drawing tutorial.


We're now going to focus on drawing clouds. My favorite clouds are these big puffy clouds. I always think that when I'm in an airplane how fun it would be, in my imagination of course, to bounce from cloud to cloud. Those are the types of clouds I love drawing. What we want to do, clouds obviously live in the sky, and a lot of what makes them feel so puffy and so white is because they're against blue tones.

I'm going to very quickly shade my paper. I'm using chalk pastels, they come in many, many different colors, many different brands. Any brand and any color is fine. Even though I'm making a blue sky, maybe you want to create a pink sky or an orange sky. You always want to bring in your own ideas and your own imagination to anything that you're drawing. What's great about pastels is they blend wonderfully. I'm going to very, very quickly blend this blue and white together.

As I continue, one thing to think about with the sky is that it tends to get a little darker on tops and it's typically a little lighter on the bottom. I'm just going to put a little darker tone of blue with my pastel. I'm not even using the tip as if I were writing with a pen, I'm using the side. I'm using the side to just cover more surface. I'm going to add a little more blue, now it's a lighter tone of blue. To the bottom third, I'm going to put white over it. Again, typically skies tend to get lighter and lighter when they're closer to the earth, and darker and darker when they move up. For blending with pastels, I'm just using my fingers, as you can see. You can use a few fingers, you could use one finger. This all comes out when you wash your hands, so you don't have to worry about making a mess.

I want to think about my clouds. I always suggest finding a photograph of something that would inspire you. A lot of people think drawing can come straight out of imagination, but in fact, most people don't have the capacity in their brain to remember exactly what something looks like. With something like a cloud, there are no two clouds that are the same.

What you want to do first is choose some clouds that would inspire you, and you're going to start sketching in the shape. For clouds, what you typically have are these little bubble forms. It's not a circle; it's almost like a half-circle, and it's a lot of different shaped half circles that start to connect. Instead of thinking about the whole cloud, just pay attention to one little half-circle at a time. I'm going to start sketching in my cloud. I'm just moving around, I'm looking at whatever it is that's going to be my inspiration. All along the top I'm looking for these little half-circles, looking for the outline of the cloud. A lot of times, the bottom of a cloud is not as puffy, it's not that cotton feeling, it's almost more of a smooth, soft form. What I'm going to do now is I'm going to draw, basically, straight lines, but the straight lines will connect with one another. Instead of a perfect straight line, maybe it's like a soft line. I'm going to create these very soft lines. Again, because no two clouds are the same, as you're drawing this, if it's not exactly what shows in the photograph, it's okay. No one will know.

Now I'm going to think about what colors are in the cloud. Typically if you're looking at a white puffy cloud, the sun will be shining, and because the sun is shining, you'll have areas that are very light, you'll have areas of the cloud that are in shadow, and then you'll have different colors in between. What I'm going to suggest is first find the area of the cloud that is the darkest, the shadow area, and what you want to do is block in that entire shape. Just look for, is there a curving line of the shadow? Is there a straight line of the shadow? What general shape the shadow looks like? For my shadow, it curves up around, and then circles right down. Again, around, up, and down. I'm just going to, with the side of my charcoal, shade that right in with the side of the pastel. I'm choosing purple because I love purple. I don't have to use grays all the time; I can use any colors that I want.

I'm going to take the white and I'm going to draw and sketch in, and add the white to show the lightest part of the cloud. You're going to continue to bring in the absolute lightest areas, the absolute darkest areas, and then you're going to think about other colors that might show in this cloud. Perhaps there's a little bit of a peach color shining through, perhaps there's a touch of yellow, perhaps there's a touch a blue. You're going to start, with your, mixing these colors together. Always coming back to, what are the darkest areas? What are the lightest areas? What shape do they make? You can come back in; redefine the tops of those white clouds. I would continue doing this. I would probably bringing in more clouds, as well. I will probably also go behind the cloud; bring back in that blue tone. I would continue to work on it until I feel really happy about how the cloud looks, and until I've expressed myself creatively, and have allowed myself to expressed myself through my drawing.

Here's an example of more of a finished drawing of that cloud. I have used the exact techniques that I have described: I added some clouds, I had added a puffy cloud underneath, then a softer cloud here, and a little bit of a softer cloud here. Again, through looking at the shapes, simplifying the shapes, drawing these little half-circles on the bottom, it's more of just soft lines bringing in those areas of darks; looking for the shape of dark, looking for the shape of light, and then coming back into the background, adding a number of shades of blue from light, from the bottom the dark at top, and bringing in any colors that are inspiring to you.

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