How Can I Make Beautiful, Fluffy Cumulus Clouds?

There’s an unlimited way of making clouds. I will share just a few with you.

First off, do not be concerned if your white is old or new. What you should be concerned about is the dryness of the paint. The dryer, the more difficult the paint to work. The more flexible, the better. Titanium White is thick to stand up to the severe brush strokes used to make clouds and highlight mountains.

So brand is perhaps the most critical criteria for successful clouds.

Given you have sufficient quality of the white paint the next question is what brush are you using? That will determine the application of paint onto the canvas. I typically use a large fan brush (#10), the 2″ brush, the 1″ landscape brush, or the filbert.

The easiest method is the 2″ brush. Than the fan, the 1″ and finally the filbert.

Do not use pure white. Always tint your color, even slightly with another color. I typically use yellow ochre for bright, bright red or alizarin for sunny days, blue for cloudy days, grey for darker moods and sets of colors. I guess my most common tint is either Alizarin Crimson or Yellow Ochre.

The next consideration is your canvas. Is this a black or white canvas? Are there other colors background painted onto the sky?

The reason for this question is you do not want a really dark sky and then untouched white for clouds. The contrast is too great. Match the intensity of the color of your sky with the intensity of the color of the clouds. For beginners, this may sound complicated. But if you learn to ask yourself one question each time you mix color, it will dramatically improve your skills. This is the question.

Do I need a lighter or darker color because I sure don’t want to use pure white?

Now, surprise, surprise. Making clouds is not about how you put the paint on the canvas. The secret of beautiful clouds is in the blending. You can mix the best color in the world. You can apply the paint to the canvas with perfection. You can shape the cloud during application more dramatic than this planet has ever seen, but if you have a heavy hand during blending, you destroy everything.

Cultivate the light touch. Beautiful clouds are the product of proper blending.

I use either the two inch or the blender brush only to blend. To develop a light touch, I suggest you learn with the 2″ brush.

Preparing the paint for the clouds is a matter of tinting with a warm, light or cool color. Than deciding if you want to soften the paint. I never use liquid white. If anything, I may use a slight amount of liquid clear.

Notice the word “slight.” That means very little.

The only time I use the liquid clear is if the paints or the canvas or the lack of humidity is drying the paint really quick and I’m having trouble getting the paint to stick. Than I’ll add a bit of liquid clear so the paint will stick and I’ll have an easy time to blend. I must use more caution and an even lighter touch for blending.

Another decision to make is on the use of a shadow in the cloud. I’ll typically use a blue or red lavender or a blue grey. You swirl this color into the area which will be the darker portion of the cloud, blend and then apply the lighter cloud color above the dark. Blend the border so one cannot tell where one color begins or the other ends and fluff the tops of the cloud.

Application of the paint to the clouds can be done with several brushes as previously stated. For the 2″ brush I will tap the top 20% of the bottom edge of the brush into the paint until a lot of paint is loaded. Than I will tap in the same fashion onto the canvas shaping the clouds as I go. Once this is completed, and I’ve outlined the entire top shape of the cloud I will tap in the body of the cloud and then blend. For the 1″ brush I will load the brush as though I was making a bush and then using small circular strokes, shape the outside edge of the cloud. Once this is completed, I will swirl the remainder of the paint to fill in the body of the cloud and then blend.

For the Fan brush I thoroughly load the tips of the large fan brush so that each side of the brush has a narrow, but plump bead of cloud color. Than using tight circular motions, I will apply the paint to shape the cloud. Once the shape of the cloud is completed, I will fill in the body of the cloud with the remaining paint on the fan brush and blend.

Blending is the process of smoothing out the paint onto the canvas to remove the brush strokes, but leave in the color variation. It requires a light touch that is developed over time. Most problems with cloud making comes from too heavy a hand when blending. Lighten up. Begin at the bottom of the cloud using just the top 10-20% of the bristles on the 2″ brush. It’s long length is what makes it an excellent brush for blending. Using a small, tight circular motion lightly blend the bottom of the cloud and move up toward the top of the cloud. Stop just short of the edge. You do not want to blend the edge. Once the cloud is blended, than you need to fluff. Fluffing is taking your brush and lightly arching up the edge of your cloud. You’re using very, very little pressure.

It’s like almost three hairs of the entire 2″ brush. Always fluff toward the center top of your canvas. This will catch the edge of your clouds and lift them up slightly and toward the canvas center.

Stand back and you should have perfect clouds.

If you find the edges are too dull, reapply paint with a pallette knife to the edges you want to brighten and refluff.

I cover all of the steps above on my Basic Techniques DVD which I give away free. This is a special offer I’m giving people who visit my website this summer. It will end shortly, so take advantage while you can.