Draw Clouds from Life Tutorial

Draw Clouds from Life

I’m very pleased to announce a new tutorial, Draw Clouds from Life. This is the second life drawing book I’ve published, and the first that focuses on graphite.

But don’t dismiss it because it’s not a colored pencil tutorial. The focus of this book is drawing, not graphite, and we all know that basic drawing principles apply to all media.

Even colored pencils.

About Draw Clouds from Life

I wrote this tutorial to encourage artists to take up the challenge to get outside and draw. So the tutorial begins with tips on setting up to draw outside as well as choosing a subject.

But it doesn’t stop there.

A step-by-step tutorial follows, showing how I draw clouds using nothing but graphite pencils and an eraser or two. I use the same drawing method described in Draw From Life in Three Easy Steps. This drawing method can be mastered by any artist from beginner upward who is willing to take the time to draw regularly.

Includes a Photo Collection

Drawing from life is beneficial to every artist.

But I realize that not everyone can get outside to draw. Nor can every artist easily view clouds or take pictures of them.

So I’ve put together a collection of some of my favorite cloud photos. The photos are my own so anyone can start drawing clouds the moment they download the tutorial.

Draw Clouds from Life

Draw Clouds from Life is perfect for anyone who wants to learn to draw clouds from life.

And once you master cloud drawing, you’ll be able to draw anything else you want to draw.

Skill Level

Beginner and higher.

This tutorial includes a complete, easy-to-get supply list and suggestions for drawing outside. It also contains a selection of reference photos so you can start drawing clouds today!

If you’ve ever wanted a good, basic drawing tutorial, this tutorial is for you. Start drawing better drawings now!

Read more about Draw Clouds from Life or get your copy by clicking here.

Tips for Drawing Clouds in Colored Pencil

Today, I’d like to share a few tips for drawing clouds.

Clouds can be majestic and towering, thin and wispy. Peaceful. Threatening. Calm. Stormy.

They are almost always intimidating to draw, and drawing them accurately takes time and patience. But it is possible to draw any type of cloud realistically if you follow these basic principles.

Tips for Drawing Clouds in Colored Pencil

Tips for Drawing Clouds in Colored Pencils

The following tips are universal to all clouds, no matter what tools you use, your favorite drawing method, or even your preferred artistic style. Master these four simple principles and you’ll find you can draw any cloud.

And almost anything else you want to draw.

Tip #1: Don’t Let the Scope of the Subject Intimidate You

Of all the tips for drawing clouds that I might offer, this is the most important, because it’s such a problem for so many.

You want to draw a cloud, but you look up in the sky or find a beautiful photo and are scared to death! Clouds are so big and awesome. There are so many details to get right, and all those colors. Especially in the morning or evening.

And for most of us that’s all the further the idea gets. We embrace the desire to draw clouds, but never follow through.

That’s a mistake! Clouds don’t have to be difficult to draw, and I discovered that lesson by trial and error.

Instead of focusing on all those details, focus on the overall shape and character of the cloud. Is it big and towering? Is it short and fat? Does it lean a little bit one direction or another?

Even slow moving clouds change constantly. By the time you do a quick sketch, the cloud you’re drawing will have changed, so let go of the idea that you have to get every detail right.

Adapt the same mindset when drawing from reference photos. The only way to get a 100% accurate drawing is by tracing it. There’s nothing wrong with tracing, but you still have to shade the drawing afterward.

So go for character. Forget all those intimidating details.

At least until you’ve drawn a few clouds.

Tip #2: Look at the Colors

Clouds are not always white. Let me rephrase that.

Clouds are hardly ever white. At least not just white.

In the middle of the day, with the sun on them, they can be full of shadow, half shadow, full light, and reflected light. Depending on where you live (it does make a difference) and what time of year it is, you could see grays, blues, yellows, and mixtures.

Tips for Drawing Clouds - Clouds are not always white.

Before you start layering color, take a good look at the cloud you want to draw. Identify the main colors you see, then the secondary colors. You can add other colors as you draw, but having the main colors handy will help you draw more quickly if you’re drawing from life.

And even if you’re not drawing for life, it’s helpful if you don’t have to search through your pencil box every time you need to change colors. Some of us even prefer the “handful of pencils” method in which we keep our pencils firmly gripped in one hand!

Tip #3: Light Pressure, Sharp Pencils, Smooth Color

Smooth color is key to drawing realistic clouds. Even dark, stormy clouds require smooth layers of color and soft, sometimes subtle shading.

The best way to achieve that is by drawing several layers with light pressure and very sharp pencils.

If you’re still learning about pencil strokes, I suggest you make circular strokes your go-to stroke. The reason is that you can overlap layers without creating unwanted edges where strokes begin and end as might happen with back-and-forth strokes.

That’s not to say you can’t draw smooth color with other types of strokes, but it can be easier with circular strokes. If you’ve learned to make other strokes work for you, use them.

It’s important to keep your pencils sharp, too. Sharp pencils get into the nooks and crannies of paper tooth better than blunt pencils. The more you fill in the tooth of the paper, the smoother your color layers will be.

Tips for Drawing Clouds - Use sharp pencils and lots of layers applied with light pressure.
Use sharp pencils and lots of layers applied with light pressure.

Tip #4: Don’t Quit Too Soon

The biggest mistake most artists (myself included) make with colored pencils is thinking a drawing is finished when there’s color all over the paper. That is so not true!

Most subjects benefit from vibrant color and clouds are certainly no different. Especially those colorful clouds that happen around sunrise or sunset. The best way to get vibrant color is with enough layers of color to fill in the tooth of the paper.

When you think a drawing is done, set it aside for a day or two, then evaluate it honestly. Start by asking the following questions:

What areas can I improve on?

Are the dark values dark enough?

Are the colors rich enough?

Does one area look more finished (or less finished) than the rest of the drawing?

Work on the drawing until you can honestly say it’s as good as you can make it. Even if all you end up doing is one more hour of work, you will be able to see the difference. Especially if you scan or photograph the drawing before and after you make those changes.

Which, by the way, I highly recommend.

These Tips for Drawing Clouds are Great, But is That All?

No.

The reader who asked about drawing clouds actually asked specifically for help drawing the clouds of evening or morning. That sounded a lot like a tutorial to me and that was beyond the scope of a question-and-answer post.

So I’m planning a tutorial post with evening clouds as the subject. Probably a series of posts. So watch for that.

In the meantime, if you enjoyed these tips for drawing clouds and would like to read more, sign up for my free weekly newsletter. Click on the group labeled “Weekly Newsletter” in the “I’m Interested In” section of the sign up form to get the newsletter of new posts.

Two Ways to Get Smooth Color with Colored Pencils

One of the biggest challenges for most of us is getting rid of paper holes in our color layers. No matter what the subject, we’re always looking for better ways to get smooth color with colored pencils.

That’s especially important if your subject includes a sky. Unless they’re filled with clouds, most skies move seamlessly from one shade of blue to another, and from light to dark. You simply can’t afford to have edges between those shades. Nor are paper holes acceptable.

“But aren’t solvents or complex techniques necessary for absolutely smooth color?” you ask.

No. Let me share two ways I use to get smooth color, and you already have the tools!

The first sample is on 140lb hot press watercolor paper, which is fairly smooth.

The second sample is on Canson Mi-Teintes, which is not so smooth. These two methods can be used on most papers suitable for colored pencil.

Two Ways to Get Smooth Color with Colored Pencils

Get smooth color by careful layering.

The best way to get smooth color with colored pencils is by careful layering. It doesn’t matter what you’re drawing, or what pencils or paper you use. Draw each layer so carefully that the color needs little or no blending.

For the smoothest color, use light pressure through several layers. Each layer you add fills in the tooth of the paper more, creating steadily smoother color.

You can use heavy pressure to get smooth color. The darkest stripe in the sample below was drawn with very heavy pressure. The other values are multiple layers of repeating strokes applied with light pressure.

Two Ways to Get Smooth Color with Colored Pencils - Layering

Layer multiple colors to create new colors or subtle variations, as well as create smooth color.

Keep your pencils sharp, so they reach down into the tooth of the paper. Small strokes are also best for layering smooth color. Many artists also recommend circular strokes because they don’t leave edges. If you’re new to colored pencil and learning how to draw, then it is better to learn circular stroking.

But if you’re an established artist, you may already have developed other strokes that produce the desired results. Continue to use those strokes.

Get smooth color by blending with paper towel.

The second way to get smooth color with colored pencils is to blend it with paper towel. This method works especially well on Canson Mi-Teintes and other toothier papers.

Let me show you how to blend with paper towel.

Fold a piece of paper towel into quarters or smaller, depending on your hand size and the size of the area you want to blend. The paper should be small enough to hold firmly, but large enough to blend effectively. I usually fold a sheet of paper towel three times.

Rub the paper towel against the drawing. It’s next to impossible to cause damage (other than by blending over the edges,) so don’t be afraid to use heavy pressure.

Two Ways to Get Smooth Color with Colored Pencils- Paper Towel Step 1

Some color will come off on the paper towel. That’s okay. You can continue to blend with this paper, but be aware that if you begin blending an area of a different color, the first color will come off on the new color, especially if the second color is lighter than the first color.

Two Ways to Get Smooth Color with Colored Pencils- Paper Towel Step 2

The illustration below shows blending on the left side, but not on the right. It doesn’t seem like it would do very much, but on Canson Mi-Teintes, it’s very productive.

Two Ways to Get Smooth Color with Colored Pencils - Blended Sample

I have blended with paper towel on just about every type of paper I use regularly. That includes Stonehenge, Canson Mi-Teintes, and 140lb hot press watercolor paper.

If getting smooth color with colored pencils is one one of your big challenges, give these two methods a try.

How to Draw Clouds with Colored Pencil

Two of the more popular posts here are How to Draw Thunderhead Clouds in graphite, and How to Draw a Clear Sky with Colored Pencil. Today, we’ll combine those two subjects with a tutorial showing you how to draw clouds with colored pencil.

In a blue sky, of course!

How to Draw Clouds with Colored Pencil

About the Demonstration Art

The sample study was painted on Canson Mi-Teintes 98lb paper, Azure. If you use Canson Mi-Teintes, make sure to use the smooth side. You can use the front if you wish, but the texture will be more difficult to work with and finishing will take longer.

My cloud study is quite small, 4″ x 2.75″, and is a Drawing of the Week. I used a combination of layering and solvent blending, along with the direct method.

It was also the first time I’d used Canson Mi-Teintes‘ Azure paper, which is a very soft, light shade of blue.

How to Draw Clouds with Colored Pencil

Step 1: Lightly outline the clouds and land and shade the sky.

Use very light pressure to outline the clouds and the horizon. You can use the same color for both, or use a medium blue to outline the clouds and medium gray-green to outline the horizon.

Keep the edges somewhat soft since clouds very rarely have crisp edges.

TIP: Use at least two shades of blue, one medium and one light. The colors you choose should reflect the color of the sky you’re drawing, since skies are not the same shade of blue everywhere.

Next, shade the sky with the same blue you used to outline the clouds. Use light pressure and the stroke that gives you the most even color. Start at the top with a sharp pencil and layer color about three-quarters of the way down the sky. Work carefully around the clouds.

Follow that with a lighter value blue. Start at the top again, but this time, layer blue all the way to the horizon.

If you’re using a very light blue, start at the horizon and layer that upward to a little past the halfway mark.

Use light pressure with all the colors and do at least two layers of each, rotating through the colors as you work. You want smooth gradations in color and value.

How to Draw Clouds Step 1

Step 2: Lift a few more clouds with mounting putty.

Use mounting putty to lift a little color from the sky to create thin, wispy clouds if you wish.

Shape the putty into small shapes, press it lightly against the paper, then reshape it. If you don’t, you may end up with a pattern of lifted color that’s too regular in shape to look like clouds.

How to Draw Clouds Step 2

Step 3: Blend with odorless mineral spirits or other art solvent.

You can use a brush (the most common way.) Dip the brush into a little solvent, then “paint” it over the color. The solvent dissolves the color and allows the different shades of blue to mix almost like paint.

I used a cotton swab instead of a brush. In the blue at the top, I tapped the color repeatedly with the end of the swab. Too many times, as it turned out, because I began lifting color (as you can see below.)

In the rest of the sky, I rolled the side of the cotton along the sky in horizontal strokes. Once to moisten the color, then again to blend it.

If you lifted color to create light, wispy clouds, work around them unless you want to reshape them by blending into them. Don’t wet them completely.

How to Draw Clouds Step 3

TIP: If you need to soften edges, blend over them as shown around the clouds around the center patch of blue sky, and in the clouds leading toward the upper, right corner.

Step 4: Continue layering and blending until the blue sky is finished.

Layer color and blend with solvent, until the sky is finished to your satisfaction.

If you need to, you can also do the final blend with a colorless blender.

How to Draw Clouds Step 4

Step 5: Draw the landscape using the same methods.

Draw the landscape using the same layering and blending method. The landscape is really the stage for the main subject, the clouds, so you don’t need to put a lot of detail into it.

Since this tutorial is about the clouds and not the land, I’ll show the first round of color, and the finished landscape.

How to Draw Clouds Step 5

I did three or four rounds of layering color and blending with solvent to reach this point (below.) The landscape isn’t completely finished, but I’ll do the clouds before making any changes to either the sky or the landscape.

How to Draw Clouds Step 6

Step 6: Shade the dark values in the clouds

Carefully sketch in and shade the darkest values in the clouds with a medium value blue-gray color. Use a sharp pencil and put down multiple layers to create a variety of values.

Pay close attention to the overlap of clouds. Each set of clouds is different, so don’t rush, and don’t draw generic clouds.

How to Draw Clouds Step 7

After you’ve put three or four layers of color into the shadows and darker middle values, blend with solvent.

Step 7: Layer the same blue, a medium gray, and a lighter gray-blue into the shadows and darker values.

Darken the shadows and darker middle values with alternating layers of the same blue you used in Step 6, plus a medium gray, and a gray-blue lighter than the previous blue.

Focus your attention on the shadows, but also layer the two shades of blue into the middle values.

Very lightly layer the lighter blue into the lighter middle values.

How to Draw Clouds Step 8

Step 8: Blend with solvent, and pull dissolved color into the lighter parts of the clouds.

Blend with solvent. Blot the brush before touching the paper to remove excess solvent.

Begin blending in the darkest areas. Observe the edges of those shapes carefully, especially where they overlap lighter areas.

Also pull color from the darker middle values into the lighter middle values to create even lighter middle values. Work around the white areas. They will be the highlights in the clouds, so you need to preserve them.

How to Draw Clouds Step 9

Step 9: Continue layering and blending until you get the color, values, and saturation you want.

Since this small piece was a study and a Drawing of the Week, I didn’t push the details. The finished study, below, represents two more rounds of layering color and blending with solvent.

I finished by burnishing the clouds with a light blue Prismacolor pencil. Prismacolor because they’re wax-based, and good for burnishing. Light blue to unify the values in the clouds and because the color was just the right touch for the hint of shadow in the brightest part of the clouds.

How to Draw Clouds Finished

As already mentioned, this is only a color study, so isn’t as detailed as a larger painting.

But it is enough to tell me this type of painting is not only fun to do, but worth expanding into a larger, more complex piece.

Conclusion

Learning how to draw clouds is a challenging, but satisfying process. You’ll have an endless variety of subjects, even with the same cloud, since they change so quickly.

It’s also an excellent way to improve your powers of observation, and you ability to sketch and draw quickly.

In other words, it’s well worth the time!

Colored Pencil Plein Air Drawing Week 3 Report

The sky was my theme again this week.

The drawing from last week revealed my need to find better ways to put color on paper quickly and draw smooth color.

One of the ways I thought of to do that was woodless pencils. When Sue Schuetz mentioned using Koh-I-Nor Progresso Woodless pencils on Broken Prismacolor Pencils and How to Repair Them, I decided to get a set. I was familiar with the name, but had never used them. What better way to test them than with a plein air drawing?

However, the sky I drew was mostly cloudy and getting cloudier by the minute, so the resulting drawing looks more like an abstract than a skyscape.

2016-09-12 Plein Air Drawing Week 3

The Method I Used

I chose a very limited palette for this drawing—just three colors, shown above. White, sky blue, and light grey.

I began by layering blue on the paper and blending it with a fingertip. This method of blending isn’t usually recommended because skin oil can affect the paper or the drawing, but since I’m using inexpensive paper and this is only a sketch, it seemed appropriate. The Koh-I-Nor pencils blended very well that way.

Next I shaded the clouds with gray and blended with a fingertip. The lighter patches are paper and the darker patches are multiple layers of gray.

Finally, I burnished with white. The Koh-I-Nor white is a warm white and appeared the slightest bit yellow on the paper, but that color was perfect for my subject. I burnished everything.

The clouds I was drawing were soft and vague. Like fog in the sky. To create soft, seamless transitions from blue to gray, I blended from one color to the other when blending with a finger, but also burnished from one color to the next.

Time Spent Drawing

20 to 30 minutes.

What I Learned

The wonder of woodless. These pencils are wonderful for drawing outside. They’re softer than the Prismacolors I’ve been using, so it’s easier to lay down color.

They also don’t have a wood casing, but are about the same size as a regular pencil, so the pigment core is much larger. Even a well-sharpened pencil produces a wider stroke than a well-sharpened traditional pencil.

Let Your Fingers Do the Blending. I confess, I used to blend with my fingers all the time. Then I learned about the hazards of skin oils and colored pencils and broke myself of that habit. But for this use and on this type of paper, it’s ideal.

Tools Used

Mead Academie Sketch Book, 9 inches by 6 inches, Heavyweight white paper

Koh-I-Nor Progresso Woodless Pencil

  • Sky Blue
  • Light Grey
  • White

I did a second plein air drawing this week. This time I started with water soluble colored pencils (Faber-Castell Art Grip Aquarelle) and finished with the Koh-I-Nor woodless pencils in the studio.

Colored Pencil Plein Air Drawing Week 3

I’ve submitted an article to EmptyEasel about last week’s work, and will link that when it publishes. Stayed tuned!

About The Autumn Plein Air Drawing Challenge

It’s not too late to join me drawing outside with colored pencils.

What: Get outside and draw at least once a week

When: September 1 through October 31, 2016

I’m posting my drawings here every Monday, along with a little information about how I did my drawing, what tools I used, and what I learned.

I’ve also set up a special group board on Pinterest where I’m posting my drawing (or drawings if I do more than one). If you’d like to post your drawings, all you have to do is request an invitation to join the board. You will need a Pinterest account, but they’re free and easy to set up.

Colored Pencil Plein Air Drawing Week 2 Report

This was the first full week of the Autumn Plein Air Drawing challenge, so I had time to do more than one drawing. However, steady sometimes heavy rain from Wednesday through Saturday kept me indoors the rest of the week. I seriously considered trying my hand a water soluble colored pencils during the rain, but wasn’t keen on getting wet myself!

My subject for this week was the sky. It was early evening and the light in the clouds was ideal for drawing. Lots of colors and shadows, too.

The clouds in the sky when I finished the drawing were not the same clouds in the sky when I began. It was a day of high winds and clouds were passing quickly, so rather than try to draw a specific cloud, I drew my impression of the overall pattern of the clouds as revealed by light and shadow. The only constant was the clear, blue sky.

The Methods I Used

I began by lightly and quickly sketching the general shape of the clouds, then laid down sky color as quickly as possible around that shape. I used blunt pencils and the sides of the pencils, to layer two shades of blue—Mediterranean Blue and Light Cerulean Blue—with hatching and cross-hatching strokes.

Blunt pencils and the sides of pencils also played a major role in the clouds. This time, however, I applied color in strokes following the contours of the clouds. You can see some of the initial layers in the unfinished parts of the clouds.

I used light-medium pressure in the early stages in order to get good coverage and color as quickly as possible.

Since I didn’t have much time for detail, I concentrated on color and values and on patterns of direct light and reflected light.

It took about 30 minutes to draw this. Maybe a little longer (I need to find a timer of some sort and then learn to use it!)

Colored Pencil Plein Air Drawing Week 2
Autumn Plein Air Drawing Challenge, Drawing 2

After the initial color was on the paper, I continued adding layers to build up color and value. I added warm tones on the bright sides of the clouds and in the reflected lights between clouds.

To finish, I burnished first with a colorless blender, then with white.

Time Spent Drawing

I’m estimating a minimum of 30 minutes, but no more than 45. I sat on the front step without a back support and that’s about all the longer I could sit without getting painfully uncomfortable.

What I Learned

Use methods and tools that allow me to lay down fields of color quickly. I’m a purist by nature. I prefer using colored pencil and only colored pencil on my drawings. Solvents for blending are acceptable, but I prefer not to use them.

However, that attitude doesn’t go very far for plein air drawing unless I’m drawing a stationary subject and/or I can revisit the subject as often as I need.

For everything else, I need to unbend enough to incorporate other drawing methods and, maybe even other mediums.

Burnishing is My Friend. I’ve never been a huge fan of burnishing, either, for the simple reason that it often left my drawings looking flat and waxy. But there is a place for burnishing in plein air drawing and I have better results when I use it. It doesn’t matter whether I use a colorless blender or a colored pencil, though using a colored pencil speeds the drawing process by allowing me to adjust color or value as well as burnishing.

Tools Used

Mead Academie Sketch Book, 9 inches by 6 inches, Heavyweight white paper

Prismacolor Pencils

  • Mediterranean Blue (Sky)
  • Light Cerulean Blue (Sky)
  • Slate Gray (Clouds)
  • Jasmine (Clouds)
  • Powder Blue (Clouds)
  • Colorless Blender (Burnishing, Sky)
  • White (Burnishing, Sky & Clouds)

How to Draw a Stormy Sky in Colored Pencil

How to Draw a Stormy Sky

Today I want to show you one way I draw a stormy sky with traditional colored pencil.

The sky sets the tone for landscape art; even in graphite. Get it right, and you have an excellent landscape drawing.

Get it wrong…. Well, lets don’t go there!

Clear skies can be difficult enough, with all those subtle gradations of blue. Add a few clouds and the difficulty increases.

A stormy sky?

The lighting may be dramatic, but is it possible to draw a stormy sky that looks realistic?

Yes!

How to Draw a Stormy Sky in Colored Pencil

I’m using the direct method of drawing for this demonstration.

I’m also using Prismacolor Thick Lead/Soft Core pencils unless otherwise noted. You should be able to match colors in whatever brand of pencil you prefer if you don’t use Prismacolor.

How to Draw a Stormy Sky in Colored Pencil

Laying a Foundation – Slate Grey

I chose Slate Grey for the foundation color because it’s a cool color (as opposed to a warm color.) It also combines gray with a strong blue tint that’s ideal for dark and stormy skies.

Since my reference photo features a brightly lighted foreground, I wanted a cool color against which I can contrast all that bright, warm, foreground light. Your stormy sky might do better with a warm gray. Try a few colors and don’t be afraid to experiment. Just do most of your experimenting on scrap paper first!

Outline objects that overlap the sky, and then fill in around them using the point of a very sharp pencil and light pressure. In the trees in my sample, I used circular strokes and light to medium pressure to fill in the gaps around the edges of the trees and within the foliage. The strokes are so close together, it’s difficult to see them in this detail, but the type of stroke isn’t as important as getting an even layer of color.

The darker areas around this yellow tree are the result of several layers of Slate Grey. The lighter areas (lower right) are fewer layers. The lightest area has no color at all.

How to Draw a Stormy Sky Step 1 Detail

TIP: Unless your stormy sky is flat gray, it’s important to begin defining values from the beginning.

Building on the Foundation

In the open sky, use light pressure and horizontal strokes with the side of a well-sharpened pencil. Overlap strokes and use multiple layers to create the lights and dark values that represent breaks in the clouds.

Layer flat color into the trees overlapping the sky. This is the method that works best for me because it gives me a better sense of the landscape than the line drawing.

How to Draw a Stormy Sky Step 1

TIP: Unless the paper is extremely smooth, some texture will appear through the color layers when you use a blunt pencil or the side of the pencil. The lighter the pressure, the more “broken” the resulting color. Make use of the paper texture in the sky, where it helps create the look of clouds with a minimum of work.

Darkening the Sky

Continue layering Slate Grey over the sky, beginning with a sharp pencil and light to medium pressure to work around and within the trees. Outline the outside edges, and the edges of the “sky holes” before filling in the shapes.

At this stage, you can continue working even after the pencil becomes blunt. The broader tip of a blunt pencil covers paper more quickly. It also lets the texture of the paper influence the color. As the pencil grows more blunt, increase pressure slightly to medium pressure.

You can also alternate between horizontal strokes (visible on the right) and vertical strokes (on the left). I layered with horizontal strokes first, then added a layer of vertical strokes, but the order doesn’t matter.

The type of strokes you use is not as important as getting the look you want. Use whatever strokes work best for you and the type of paper you use.

How to Draw a Stormy Sky Step 2 Detail 1

In the illustration below, you can see the outline on the right and the filled in areas on the left.

How to Draw a Stormy Sky Step 2 Detail 2

TIP: Continue developing variations in light and dark values established in the first step. Although you darken the entire sky, there will still be light and dark areas when you finish.

Add Dark Umber

To get an even darker sky, add a dark brown. I like Dark Umber because it’s more neutral than Dark Brown. I also like browns because they create nice, natural looking dark values when mixed with dark blues, dark greens, or dark reds.

Using a sharp pencil and light to medium light pressure, outline the trees overlapping the sky, including the sky holes within each tree with Dark Umber. You may outline the horizon, but don’t have to. That edge should be soft and blurry.

Then layer Dark Umber over the darkest areas of the sky, keeping the pencil as sharp as possible. Around the trees, use directional strokes. In the open sky, alternate between horizontal, vertical, and cross hatching strokes to get the most even coverage possible.

Add more layers for darker values. I actually worked around some of the lightest areas so the cool, blue-gray color wasn’t muted by the brown.

How to Draw a Stormy Sky Step 3

Add Ultramarine

Once again, use a sharp pencil and medium pressure to outline overlapping objects. Then use medium to medium-heavy pressure to lay down color. Vary strokes and layers to continue developing variations in value and color.

How to Draw a Stormy Sky Step 4

Slate Grey & Cool Grey Medium

Continue layering color with sharp pencils and a variety of strokes to add more Slate Grey and Cool Grey.

Then burnish the darkest darks with Cool Grey and the slightly lighter areas with Slate Grey using blunt pencils and overlapping the colors. It may take couple of rounds of burnishing to completely cover the paper in the areas where you want intense dark, such as the left part of the sky and the upper sky.

In this detail, the top portion has been blended with both colors. The lighter, rounded area between the trees still needs to be done and the dark streak through the middle is a single, heavy application of Cool Grey Medium.

Clay Rose & Rosy Beige Accents

The light spots on the horizon have a pinkish tone compared to the darker sky. Layer Clay Rose with medium heavy pressure at the horizon in each place, then follow up with Rosy Beige applied over the Clay Rose and between the Clay Rose and the clouds.

Burnish with White

Burnishing with White is the final step. This step is optional. You can burnish with a light gray or you can skip burnishing altogether, depending on the result you prefer.

This illustration shows that area near the center of the drawing after it was burnished with White.

There is another left of the yellow tree, visible as soft, light color in the illustration below.

Finishing Touches

Once you finish burnishing, let the drawing—and possibly your hand—rest for a while. I usually allow drawing to sit for 24 hours before a final review. Sometimes, I find they are finished when I look at them again.

Sometimes there’s more to do.

I went over this drawing one final time, adjusting color and value to the get right look.

Conclusion

If I were to finish the rest of the landscape, I’d go over the entire composition once more and make any additional adjustments that seem necessary after finishing the landscape.

Once you understand how to draw a stormy sky, you should be able to draw any kind of sky, from a clear blue sky to dark and stormy and everything in between.