how to draw realistic clouds

How to Draw Realistic Clouds – Pencil Skyscape Drawing Lesson

Clouds are such beautiful structures that can come in all kinds of forms. They are a great reminder of nature’s beauty, and learning how to draw realistic clouds can be such a great addition to many artworks. Learning how to do a realistic cloud drawing can be a good challenge as clouds seem complex, however, it is because of their complex nature that we will find them to be quite easy to draw. Clouds are abstract, which means we can create and form them in any way we choose. However, this tutorial on how to draw realistic clouds will guide you, and teach you how to draw realistic clouds through a few simple steps.



An Easy Guide to Drawing Realistic Clouds

If you ever did geography in school, you will have come across the term cumulonimbus. This is the term for the most common or classical-shaped cloud, which is what we will be learning how to draw today. In this tutorial on how to draw realistic clouds, the cumulonimbus is a great cloud to draw!

This is because it is the most identifiable to us like a cloud.

cloud sketch Learning how to draw this type of cloud will also give you a good base for drawing other clouds, as we will learn the fundamental principles associated with how clouds are formed through a drawing. We will break down these principles into digestible steps as we go through the process of how to draw a cloud.


Necessary Materials

Learning how to draw a cloud requires the right materials, in this tutorial we will be doing a pencil drawing. Pencils allow us to erase and shape the cloud with our erasers. Learning how to draw a realistic cloud requires a medium that we can smudge.

This is because clouds are soft, which we want to mimic to create a realistic cloud drawing.

We also want to have the right paper; the right paper goes a long way and can make a massive difference when you are constantly adding marks and erasing. We will also want to have a sharpener to keep our pencils sharp for finer details. Lastly, we want to have an eraser, which we will use to rectify mistakes as well as to shape the cloud. All materials can be found through the links below:

  • Pencils
  • Eraser
  • Sharpener
  • Good paper (200 g/m – 250 g/m recommended)



Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Draw Realistic Clouds

In this tutorial, we will first break down the form and shape of the clouds. The shape of a cloud is often the most misinterpreted part of the cloud. Clouds are quite geometric when we break them down into a fundamental structure.

We will begin by defining these geometric structures first. Once we have done that, we start to develop a light cloud sketch around these shapes, to guide us in the way we form the cloud.

We then start to do some light first-layer details and shading, where we add some dimension to the cloud. As we proceed with our realistic cloud drawing, we will then slowly work with our erasers and pencils, as we keep adding layers and forming the cloud until we come to the final result. This is the basic process and what we can expect. Let’s get going!


Step 1: Shaping the Clouds

We want to begin by taking a 2H pencil and drawing a large triangle onto our page. We want to draw the general shapes that the cloud will be formed around. Cumulonimbus clouds generally have a triangular shape, so we want to establish this shape first.

We then proceed to draw a smaller triangle near the left side of the larger triangle’s base.

realistic cloud drawing 01 We want to then proceed by drawing a few triangular shapes around the larger triangle. We want to keep these other shapes significantly smaller, as they will define different segments within the cloud. We can add other shapes in the triangular shape to give the cloud various protruding segments.

Again, we will develop a cloud sketch around these shapes, as they guide us in shaping the cloud.

realistic cloud drawing 02 Once we have our shapes drawn on our page, we want to then proceed by lightly erasing these pencil marks so that they do not interfere with the drawing process. Establishing the general shape of a cloud with these geometric shapes will help us to form the cloud much easier.

This is because a cloud is fundamentally made of such shapes.

realistic cloud drawing 03


Step 2: Sketching the Clouds

We now want to move on to lightly sketching the cloud by drawing a general outline of a cloud around the edges of the shapes. We want this part of the tutorial to be loose, as we want these lines to be sporadic and squiggly.

We don’t need to make perfect bubble-type lines, rather add some zig-zag movements as you outline around the shapes.

realistic cloud drawing 04 We want to keep this part of the tutorial very loose. Clouds don’t have perfect outlines, allow movement in your hand as you outline around the edges of the shapes. We want the shapes to guide this process, as we start to create segments by working line work around the shapes.

realistic cloud drawing 05 Allow yourself to be playful, as we begin to add some line work inside the cloud. Again, let the light sketching marks move in all sorts of directions. Don’t let the lines be perfectly straight, as cumulonimbus clouds rarely have perfectly straight lines.

Let your hand have a shaky motion as you draw lines in the cloud.

realistic cloud drawing 06


Step 3: First Layer of Shading

Once we feel satisfied with the general linework within and around our clouds, we can start adding some light shading. We want to use our erasers and pencils in tandem, with one another as we begin shading various sections of our cloud.

We want to keep our shading predominantly on one side.

realistic cloud drawing 07 As we allow for darker shading to remain on one side of the cloud, we are defining the light source. We do this by shading from the lines that we drew within the cloud. As we create dark to light gradients, moving in one direction we are slowly depicting a shadow-like quality within the various segments of the cloud.

cloud sketch 08 A good suggestion is to create the darkest parts near the base of the cloud, as this will depict the hovering effect of clouds. We want to create a dark to light gradient from the base upward into the various segments of the cloud.

By doing so we give the realistic impression that the cloud is below the sun, or light source, therefore its darkest shadows are beneath it.

cloud sketch 09 However, we still want there to be a range of shadows within the various segments of the cloud. We can do this by adding shading in each segment, we can be playful with how we add these moments of shading. This is because clouds are abstract and light hits various parts of a cloud that protrude outward.

cloud sketch 10 In some instances, we can shade from the lines that we drew to define a segment. However, in other parts of the cloud keep your drawing marks soft and smudged to provide texture in the cloud. We can do this by adding fine details with our pencils and then in another space smudging with our fingers to keep the marks unrefined.

how to draw a cloud 11 A good suggestion as you do this is to allow the softer parts of the cloud to be closer to the light source. As if the light source is illuminating one side of the cloud, thus taking away harsh shadows. We can then do the opposite on the other side of a cloud, by adding some more distinct lines and darker shading.

Also, use your eraser to add highlights within the cloud near the darker areas.

how to draw a cloud 12


Step 4: Second Layer of Shading

Once we have added the first layer of shading and details, we want to now work with our erasers and pencils again to refine them. Add darker pencil marks in the darkest shadows, use a 4B pencil to do so. We want to make the darkest shadows have a little more contrast compared to the lighter parts of the cloud.

how to draw a cloud 13 We want to, patiently, go about adding darker pencil marks and highlighting with our erasers in various areas of the cloud. erasing little sections in the dark areas of the cloud will make those sections seem as if they are sticking out.

Remember to add the harsher gradients and lines near the side of the cloud that would be least exposed to the light source.

how to draw a cloud 14 As you slowly redefine your cloud drawing you can smudge some of the edges to make the cloud appear as if it is moving. Most importantly, the darkest area of the cloud is beneath it. These shadows should be greatest beneath and to one side of the cloud. As if the shadows are being illuminated as the cloud becomes more exposed to light on one of its sides.

There you have it! A few easy steps on how to draw a realistic cloud.



Tips to Remember

  • Take your time. Clouds are complex and require patience, so take your time.
  • We can be quite playful; this is because clouds are abstract. We can create various segments in our clouds simply because there is no singular shape to a cloud.
  • Use your eraser. The eraser is a tool to be used both for mistakes and for shaping the cloud.
  • Drawing requires practice, so don’t worry if it doesn’t come out perfectly. Keep practicing.
  • Most importantly, have fun! Have fun with the process and see it as something to refer back to when you need guidance on drawing clouds in the future.


Learning how to draw realistic clouds can be tricky if you do not understand the fundamental principles of how a cloud is formed. The cumulonimbus cloud is a great structure for cloud drawings as the protruding and multilayered nature of the cloud makes for a beautiful cloud drawing. In this tutorial on how to draw a cloud, you learn how to develop the shape, refine the shape through a light cloud sketch which then is further developed into a realistic cloud drawing. It is all about adding layer over layer, slowly working in different pencil marks, giving some light smudging, and using our erasers to form the cloud. A crucial point to take away is the concept of the light source. The light source will always affect the shadows of the clouds, so try to keep that in mind when you do another realistic cloud drawing in the future.



Frequently Asked Questions


How Do You Add Dimensions to a Cloud Drawing?

When drawing realistic clouds, you want to start by assembling the basic geometric shapes that will form the shape of the cloud. As you draw these shapes, you then begin to form a cloud sketch around the shapes. We want to slowly add the little bubble-like shapes and sporadic lines around the edges of the shapes, using them to guide the sketching process. Once we have that we start creating segments in the clouds by adding light sketching line work that moves in all sorts of directions. From there, what makes the cloud have the three-dimensionality quality is understanding which side the light source is coming from. Once we understand this we can then start adding shadows, by shading with darker pencils. We use the segments as a way to guide our shading process, keeping the cloud darker on one side. This will give the cloud a bulging quality, making it seem three-dimensional.


What Is the Easiest Way to Draw a Realistic Cloud?

Figuring out the shape of the cloud is the most important part of drawing a cloud. In this tutorial, we use different shapes to define the form of the cloud. We do this by drawing different shapes such as triangles, circles, and squares, next to one another to form what will become the cloud. From there you add linework around the edges of these shapes. We then add linework inside the cloud to create partitions and segments on the cloud. Then you start adding in shading whilst simultaneously using your eraser to shape the clouds further. We want to work shading around the segment lines within the cloud. We carry on this process, layering shading marks over one another until we are satisfied with our realistic cloud drawing.


What Is a Good Shaped Cloud to Draw?

A cumulonimbus is probably the most common and most identifiable cloud to draw. This shaped cloud is perfect for learning how to draw realistic clouds. This cloud generally takes the form of a triangular shape. The way it is drawn is by drawing a triangle with smaller shapes around this triangle. You then proceed to shape the cloud with line work, creating more sporadic-like lines around the edges of the shapes. From there it is simply a matter of adding in segments and shading around these segments to create shadows and dimensions within the cloud. You can use your eraser to take away some pencil marks to create highlights in the cloud drawing, otherwise, the cumulonimbus-shaped cloud is a great shaped cloud to draw. It has interesting features and is quite simple to draw and turn into a realistic cloud drawing.


Cite this Article

Matthew, Matthysen, “How to Draw Realistic Clouds – Pencil Skyscape Drawing Lesson.” Art in Context. June 30, 2022. URL:

Matthysen, M. (2022, 30 June). How to Draw Realistic Clouds – Pencil Skyscape Drawing Lesson. Art in Context.

Matthysen, Matthew. “How to Draw Realistic Clouds – Pencil Skyscape Drawing Lesson.” Art in Context, June 30, 2022.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *