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Old 01-31-2011, 03:46 PM
readbob readbob is offline
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How to paint clouds

I paint in oils. I have tapes from Bob Ross and Wm F Powell and have also checked out artists on the web. But when I try to paint realistic or even impressionistic clouds, they simply end up flat and often muddy.

I have also tried filling my brush and dabbing or painting in swirls...same result.

Does anyone know where I can find online good instruction on clouds?
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Old 01-31-2011, 03:57 PM
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treeshark treeshark is offline
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Re: How to paint clouds

There is no "trick" to painting clouds or anything else for that matter. Get good reference and copy the tones and shapes. At first you will most likely fail, but I'm afraid hard work and persistence is the only way I know of.
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Old 01-31-2011, 04:15 PM
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Re: How to paint clouds

Clouds are dimensional and so have form and volume-shadow and light- as well as temperature and texture. Go outside and look at clouds- really study them, and take some photos. Paint clouds from life, or if that is impossible, take photos and use them for reference.
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Old 01-31-2011, 04:45 PM
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Crystal1 Crystal1 is offline
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Re: How to paint clouds

When you learn how to paint from Bob Ross, he uses a wet on wet technique that is difficult to use for a beginner when painting realism. I think most oil painters start with a wet on dry technique. Jerry's Artarama has many art demos to watch for free on-line. There are also many demos available here on Wet Canvas. You might want to read the "Stickies" at the top of the page on the first page of the Oil Painting Forum. They have listed a lot of different information especially for the beginning painter. Happy Painting!.
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Old 01-31-2011, 05:08 PM
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Re: How to paint clouds

When I do clouds, I paint wet onto semi-dry. If it's too dry, the clouds have edges, as they do not in real life. Do some practice pieces of clouds on a practice piece of canvas so that you can discover for yourself how dry it needs to be for your clouds to look believable. Keep reminding yourself that clouds are only water vapor, somewhat reflective and somewhat absorbent. Your experimental pieces will serve as a better guide than any advice you get.

You don't want them to have too much form unless your painting is only about clouds.
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Old 01-31-2011, 05:42 PM
schravix schravix is offline
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Re: How to paint clouds

Quote:
Originally Posted by NancyMP
If it's too dry, the clouds have edges, as they do not in real life.

These clouds have some fairly defined edges.



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Old 01-31-2011, 07:13 PM
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Re: How to paint clouds

I've found that the following approach seems to work for me:

While my freshly-painted sky is still wet, I rough in the clouds using white paint--no particular detail, just basic shapes, and positions. While the entire structure is still wet, I use a 1-inch clean, soft, dry, Taklon brush and gently blend the cloud into the sky. This softens the edges, and it also flattens the brush strokes.

I allow the entire sky and cloud to dry.

Then, using a filbert brush with a rounded tip, I use thicker, white paint, and I paint the upper edges of the clouds. This upper edge can be quite a hard, sharp line.

At the same time, I mix a bit of the sky color (usually some blue), with some Burnt umber, to gray, and darken it a bit, and I paint the underside of the clouds. I usually paint this under part with a softer edge than the top.

I then allow this entire structure to dry.

When dry, I mix just a tiny bit of transparent yellow into a large portion of white, and I re-establish the top edges of the clouds.

At every step, I try to enhance shadows, shapes, and values in the cloud, as I paint.

I may employ several layers of this method, for painting a cloud. I paint clouds a bit different every time I paint them, because no two clouds are absolutely the same. But, there are general "tendencies" by which most clouds seem to be characterized, and I try to follow those general trends.

I'm sure there are as many "ways to paint clouds" as there are painters who paint them, but that is basically my method.

This may not be the best example of clouds, but they may offer some idea.
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Old 01-31-2011, 08:22 PM
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Re: How to paint clouds

Here is a plein air painting I did a few months ago featuring clouds- I was specifically watching for temperatures. It is helpful to keep the edges a little transparent.

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Old 02-01-2011, 02:06 AM
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Re: How to paint clouds



Unless you intend to paint clouds as the focal point of the painting, a light touch with them can add to the mood. Try not to worry too much, and just practice them in your own style.
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Old 02-01-2011, 06:07 AM
Doug Hoppes Doug Hoppes is offline
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Re: How to paint clouds



Here's some of my examples of clouds.

1) Clouds are just like landscapes. The farther that they are in the distance, the less distinct and muted they become (Due to atmospheric effect).

2) Clouds have volume. I think of them as 1) a plane or 2) a series of balls on top of each other. If they are a series of balls, then they have a top, bottom and side. The bottom of the cloud is the darkest, the top is the lightest and the sides are rounded.

3) The best way to learn to paint clouds is to practice with some pictures to get the general volume/shape correct and then to go outside and paint what you see. That will help in getting the color correct.

4) Clouds are never white. Generally, they have hints of red/orange/pink/yellow, blues, greys, etc... whatever the surrounding sky's overall tone is. The closer the cloud is to you, the more intense the color will be.

When I'm painting clouds, I first lay down just a general grayish white mass to indicate where I want clouds and where I want sky. From there, I lay down my middle-values to indicates the sides of the clouds. Then, comes the modelling. Laying down the various darks for the bottoms of the clouds will start to give it volume and indicate where the clouds come forward and their shape. The bright part of the clouds comes last.

Remember to soften different parts of the clouds so that you get that misty feeling and also create hard edges for the clouds.

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Old 02-01-2011, 09:54 AM
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Re: How to paint clouds

According to Edgar Payne in Composition of Outdoor painting, the ratio should be one third to two thirds- meaning that either clouds take up 2/3 sky area or blue sly takes up 2/3 sky area.
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Old 02-01-2011, 11:08 AM
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Re: How to paint clouds

I paint 'em like I paint lemons, trees, lips, hair, etc.
The beard in my sailor man avatar could be a cloud.
Like any other abstract object with shape, edges, perspective, values, highlights, shadows, and colors, I just paint them all the way I want to.
Some are dark and in shadow, have yellow highlights, and are smaller when farther away:

Others are fluffy and white:

Peacecorps, I bet your clouds look better than you think they do

Last edited by sidbledsoe : 02-01-2011 at 11:17 AM.
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Old 02-01-2011, 11:38 AM
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Re: How to paint clouds

Obviously, by the examples posted here, there are as many ways to paint clouds as there are different kinds of clouds to paint!

When I was first learning to paint (and I am still learning), my clouds were horrid. In my case, it's because I tend to be very tight and literal when I paint, and clouds are naturally meant to be painted loosely - at least imho, they are just vapor after all..

What my teacher taught me, was to paint in the sky, leaving blank areas generally where I wanted my clouds. Then she dipped the inside of her index finger into white paint (tinted with a teensy bit of orange), and basically 'finger painted' the clouds in with circular motions. As her finger moved into the wet blue of the sky, it picked up a bit of that too. (If you don't want paint rubbed into you skin, you can by those little latex finger gloves at the pharmacy.)

Maybe these weren't clouds worthy of Frederick Remington, but they are a good start, and the technique is a good basis, then if you choose, you can move in with dry brushes to soften and blur as needed, paint with loaded brushes to tint, etc., either on the wet or dry cnavas. I still don't think my clouds are all the great, but nobody complains.

Best advice I have seen, is just to keep practicing!
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Old 02-16-2011, 09:44 PM
readbob readbob is offline
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Re: How to paint clouds

Thank you all for your good advice. I'll post something here once I have something to show.
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