how to paint clouds with watercolor

How to Paint Clouds With Watercolor – An Easy Watercolor Sky Tutorial

Watercolor clouds are very easy and fun to paint. There are various methods to go about painting clouds in watercolor, but the easiest of all the various techniques is making clouds with paper towels. Luckily, the sky has no standard way of being as clouds and the atmosphere can often create a variety of shapes and colors. This allows for a lot of freedom to go about making various kinds of cloud shapes with our paper towels in whichever manner we please. However, we are familiar with certain shapes and this is where learning how to paint clouds becomes very helpful for landscape paintings. Learning how to paint clouds using some tissue is what we will be doing in this tutorial.



An Easy Watercolor Tutorial For Beginners

Painting watercolor clouds can be done so in various ways. However, one common and really useful way to go about doing this is to use paper towels to dab negative spaces in our paintings to create clouds. This process is really easy and can achieve a very realistic quality of clouds which is great for landscape paintings. This technique does make the clouds vividly white and can be used very well within landscapes that depict a sunny environment. With that said, let us go through the various steps to create white and puffy clouds.

beautiful watercolor sky


Necessary Materials

Learning how to paint watercolor clouds requires having the right materials for the best results. We will find that as we learn how to paint clouds in watercolor the right materials can change the quality quite drastically. However, because this is a tutorial for beginners we will not need too many materials for this tutorial. Essentially, all we need is paintbrushes, some good paper, watercolor paints, some masking tape, and of course some water in a jar for rinsing our brushes. Here is a list of the materials you will need:



When painting a sunset with watercolor we will find that it comes with moments of speediness. By this what is meant is that with watercolor you will find that sometimes it is a matter of waiting for paint to dry but in other cases, such as this tutorial, we want to work whilst the paint is still wet. 

So, a good suggestion would be to place yourself in an environment where you can focus and be interrupted during the process.



Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Paint Clouds

As we go through the process of painting our watercolor clouds we really want to make sure that we are working fast. This tutorial is going to show you a reductive process of lifting paint off of the page. When making a watercolor sky this technique is a very common way of making watercolor clouds. However, it requires us to act whilst the paint is still wet on the surface of our paper. As the paint dries throughout the tutorial we will find that we have left imprints of clouds. So, with that said let us go through the steps for this clouds tutorial and see how to make watercolor clouds.

easy clouds tutorial


Step 1: Painting the Sky

When learning how to paint clouds in watercolor, we want to go about it through a layering process. We do this by creating the sky first which we can only do on a well water-primed surface. Let us go ahead and put a thin layer of water on the surface of our page.

watercolor clouds 1

Painting a watercolor sky can be done so with freedom of color choice as skies can often be various colors. The color variation is completely up to you and will slowly start to tell the story of what time your landscape is set in. Whilst the page is still wet, let us begin to apply color making long side-to-side strokes along the top of our page.

watercolor clouds 1a

As you make the strokes from one side of the page to the other we want to make sure our page is still wet as we add the colors. This will create more seamless gradients in the sky once it has completely dried. You can add a variety of colors such as oranges and purples.

watercolor clouds 1b

We want to keep making strokes of color on the wet surface of our pages, allowing for more seamless gradients to occur within the sky. We can paint this sky down past the center of our page. This will make the sky seem larger.

watercolor clouds 1c


Step 2: Making the Clouds

We want to work with a little bit of haste as we will proceed to make drying marks on the wet paper which will become the clouds. This means we want to develop these marks on our pages whilst the paint is still wet on the page. We do this by taking some crumpled-up paper towels and beginning to make dabs on the wet paint.

watercolor clouds 2

We can also strategically position and mold our paper towels in a way that has a point. This may allow for some finer edges that you would like to create for your clouds.

watercolor clouds 2a

We can feel free to create different kinds of shapes and sizes for our clouds as all clouds are different from each other. However, remember that you don’t want to overwhelm your sky to the point where you can distinguish the clouds from the sky. So try to be strategic with the placement of your paper towel dabs.

watercolor clouds 2b

Another good suggestion is to perhaps make little spots around your larger clouds to give the effect of clouds breaking apart. You could also make smaller clouds around your larger clouds, in general, to indicate a sense of clouds in the distance.

watercolor clouds 2c

Remember, we want to act fast whilst the paint is still wet. Another good tip to remember is that different pressures applied to your dabs will have different effects. So try to keep a light hand in moments and explore harder pressures in others for a variety in shape and form.

watercolor clouds 2d

We should be left with a variation of clouds that depicts some kind of scenario in the sky. A good suggestion is to also stop when you feel there is a good ratio of clouds in the sky or when you feel there is a good balance of the number of clouds in the sky.

watercolor clouds 2e


Step 3: Painting the Landscape

We can now proceed with our paintings painting a landscape that contextualizes the sky a little bit. Let us begin by making a light wash of yellow and proceed to make strokes of paint moving from side to side near the bottom of the page.

watercolor clouds 2f

We can continue to paint this yellow in the foreground of our painting toward the center of the page until we have made a horizon at a height that we are satisfied with.

watercolor clouds 3

Another good suggestion is to perhaps give some hints of mountains in the distance by painting some little pointed tips along your horizon. A good idea is to paint these little mountains quite small, giving a hint of distance. This will make the mountains seem as if they were in the distance.

watercolor clouds 3a


Step 4: Painting the Dark Tones of the Landscape

If you would like to give your landscape some concept of depth you can paint some darker tones in the foreground over the layer of yellow. We can do this by painting some darker marks toward the bottom of the page over our yellow paint.  This gives the impression of land in the foreground of our landscape.

clouds tutorial 3b

You can either make these darker marks scattered out in moments of your page or paint through the whole page giving the quality of more closeness. Painting darker strokes in the foreground helps to define the depth of a landscape in a painting.

how to color clouds 4

However, try to keep your darkest marks towards the bottom of the page. By doing so the depth of the landscape will seem more viable and have a more realistic quality once it has dried.

how to paint a cloud 4a


Step 5: Removing Our Tape

There you have it, a simple way of making watercolor clouds. We should be left with a variety of clouds within a landscape. Painting clouds this way is easy and fun, it is also a great way to enhance your skills for future landscapes.

watercolor sky 4b

Once our tape is all taken off we should be left with a dry painting that defines a landscape with a series of unique cloud variations.

watercolor clouds tutorial 5



Tips to Remember

Painting watercolor clouds in a watercolor sky can be tricky, to begin with, but with a little practice and experimentation, you can easily get a grip on this technique. Here are a few of our top tips and tricks to help you along. 

  • Always tape your paper down when painting with watercolor. This way we have our paper firmly placed on our surface for better control.
  • Always have two jars of water when doing watercolor. One for an initial rinse after using the paint and the other for a second cleaning of the brush for assurance that it is clean.

fun watercolor clouds

  • This does require some speediness in the process as we want to have vivid white moments in our clouds that can only be achieved by lifting wet paint. We want to work whilst the paint is still wet.
  • Explore color variations in your watercolor clouds painting. The sky often can have a variation of color in its composition.
  • Sometimes we can contextualize the clouds by more simplistic landscape details like a hint of a mountain and trees.


There are many ways to paint clouds, however, this method is probably the most effective when you want to achieve quintessential white clouds. How you dab your clouds out of your wet paint can also be explored in movement. By this what is meant is that you can make linear strokes like actions if you want to create a sky with more linear type clouds. The application of the dabbing action can be explored in the motions for various shapes of clouds. There you have it! Now you know the basic techniques of how to paint watercolor clouds.



Frequently Asked Questions


How Do You Paint Watercolor Clouds?

There is no one way to paint watercolor clouds, there are just ways that are slightly easier than others. This method is a more easy way of creating clouds in a landscape that can be achieved by the simple action of dabbing wet paint with dry paper towels or tissues. There is also a variety of shapes that you can achieve with this simple action which can translate into different types of clouds. The dabbing action is a great way to learn how to paint watercolor clouds that can still look quite beautiful and realistic.


What Colors Do You Need to Paint Clouds in Watercolor?

With the dabbing method of painting clouds, you can explore various color variations that you would like to exist in the sky. However, to create such color variety in the cloud itself what you can do is focus more on the pressure you apply to the dabbing of your clouds. By focusing more on the pressure, you will find that the harder you press the whiter the moments of the cloud will be, and the lighter you press will leave a slight color in the cloud. However, you could add some very faint and watered-down greys at the bottoms of your white clouds to give a slight shadow under the cloud, just be sure to make your color highly diluted with water.


How Do You Paint White Clouds in Watercolor?

Using a paper towel to dab paint off the landscape is the best way to create white clouds. We do this by creating a sky with watercolors on a water primed page which we then proceed to lift paint off the page with a dabbing motion with a paper towel or tissue. This lifts the paint whilst it is still wet on the page, allowing for the dry moments created by the dubbing of the paper towel to create stark white clouds on the page. The wet paint around these dry moments won’t seep into the dry clouds and will dry leaving white spaces that have been created to look like clouds, depending on how you dab your page.


Cite this Article

Matthew, Matthysen, “How to Paint Clouds With Watercolor – An Easy Watercolor Sky Tutorial.” Art in Context. February 15, 2022. URL:

Matthysen, M. (2022, 15 February). How to Paint Clouds With Watercolor – An Easy Watercolor Sky Tutorial. Art in Context.

Matthysen, Matthew. “How to Paint Clouds With Watercolor – An Easy Watercolor Sky Tutorial.” Art in Context, February 15, 2022.

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