How to Paint Clouds with Watercolor for Beginners

Painting clouds with watercolor can be rewarding for beginners. In this article I will share a video and tips that are perfect for beginners.

How to Paint Clouds with Watercolor for Beginners
Cloud study (close up) by Robert Joyner

In this step-by-step guide, we will explore the techniques to paint clouds with watercolor, perfect for beginners looking to add depth and dimension to their artwork.

Watercolor painting is a versatile and captivating medium that allows artists to create stunning landscapes, seascapes, and skies. One of the most challenging yet rewarding aspects of watercolor painting is capturing the ethereal beauty of clouds.

Let's get started with painting clouds with watercolors for beginners

Painting clouds with watercolor can be rewarding for beginners. With practice, create ethereal artworks. Have a look at the short video below and continue reading the tips under it when you are done.


Before we delve into the techniques, let's gather the necessary materials for painting clouds with watercolors:

  1. Watercolor paper: Choose a high-quality, acid-free paper that can handle the wet-on-wet technique without buckling or tearing.
  2. Watercolor paints: Opt for a basic set of watercolors that includes essential colors like ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, titanium white, and Payne's grey. These colors will help you create different cloud variations.
  3. Watercolor brushes: Invest in a few good-quality watercolor brushes, including a large round brush for applying washes and a smaller detail brush for finer work.
  4. Water container: Use a clean container to hold water for rinsing your brushes and diluting your paints.
  5. Paper towels or a cloth: Keep these handy to dab excess water and control the watercolor's intensity.

Here's a great article that covers my favorite watercolor supplies we use and recommend. Have a look!

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Watercolor Supplies
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced artist, choosing the right watercolor supplies is crucial to achieving stunning results.

How to Use Layers that Start from Light and End Darker Colors

Creating realistic and lifelike clouds in watercolor often involves building up layers of paint to achieve depth and dimension. Follow these steps to paint clouds using a layering technique:

Step 1: Wet your paper - Wet the entire area where you want the clouds to be with clean water. Use a large brush and apply a uniform layer of water to prevent uneven drying.

Step 2: Apply the first layer - Using a mix of ultramarine blue and cerulean blue, apply broad, horizontal strokes across the wet paper to establish the overall shape of your clouds. Remember to leave some areas of white paper to represent the brightest parts of the clouds.

Step 3: Work on darker values - As the first layer starts to dry but is still slightly damp, use a stronger mix of ultramarine blue and cerulean blue to add shadows and definition to the clouds. Focus on areas that would be more shaded or tucked behind other cloud formations.

Step 4: Add depth with Payne's grey - To deepen the shadows and create a more dramatic effect, introduce Payne's grey into your mix and apply it selectively to the areas that require the most contrast.

Step 5: Blend and soften - With a clean, damp brush, gently blend and soften the edges of the clouds to achieve a seamless transition between light and dark areas. This step is crucial in creating a natural and realistic cloud appearance.

How to Paint Clouds with Watercolor for Beginners
Cloud study by Robert Joyner

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How to Use Negative Space Techniques for White Clouds

In watercolor painting, utilizing negative space is a powerful way to create the illusion of white clouds against a colored sky. Negative space refers to the untouched areas on your paper that represent the lighter elements of the painting. Here's how to employ negative space techniques to depict white clouds:

Step 1: Paint the sky - Start by painting the background sky with a light wash of colors like cerulean blue or a soft orange hue to create a sunrise or sunset effect.

Step 2: Identify cloud shapes - Imagine the cloud formations within the sky and visualize where the white clouds will be.

Step 3: Leave white spaces - Instead of painting the clouds directly, leave the shapes of the clouds as untouched white spaces on your paper. Be conscious of the negative space you are creating.

Step 4: Define cloud edges - Use a damp brush to soften and define the edges of the white spaces to give them a cloud-like appearance. This will help the clouds blend seamlessly with the colored sky.

Watercolor Landscape Workshop

Here's a great beginner course for learning to paint landscapes using various techniques. It covers skies, trees, grass, rocks and more. You'll love it!

Learn to Paint Amazing Landscapes


Painting clouds with watercolor can be both challenging and gratifying for beginners. By mastering the layering technique and utilizing negative space effectively, you can bring depth and realism to your cloud formations. Remember to practice regularly and observe real clouds to understand their shapes, shades, and subtleties better.

Watercolor painting is a journey of exploration and self-expression, so don't be discouraged by mistakes. Embrace them as part of the learning process and an opportunity to grow as an artist. With patience, practice, and a touch of creativity, you will soon be painting captivating and breathtaking cloudscapes with confidence. Happy painting!