How to Draw Sky and Clouds

Clouds comes in almost limitless variety of shapes, sizes and the feel they evoke. Scientifically, clouds are organised in few different shapes but I won’t go into details of that here. My aim in this tutorial is to explain simple strokes and techniques that can be used to render any type of clouds and sky. After learning these techniques, you will be able to use them for drawing any specific type of clouds and sky appropriately and be able to evoke the right feel in your drawing. Pen and ink is used as the medium of illustration here but same concepts apply for other mediums as well.

Drawing Clouds in Outline:

One of the simplest technique is to draw clouds in outline and leave the sky implied. For simple drawings where clouds are not the main centre of attraction, this is often enough. Study how to draw outline of clouds below to give them proper open airy feel.

drawing clouds

Simple clouds with implied sky can be added to a drawing using this technique as shown in examples below.

drawing clouds

Instead of leaving the sky implied, parallel lines or dots can be used to create background sky as shown below. This is often referred to as drawing clouds as negative space. By using different density for background sky, different feel can be obtained.

drawing clouds

Here is another example.

If you are not good at drawing parallel lines, dots can be used to draw background sky as shown below. Again, by using different density of dots, different feel for background sky can be obtained.

drawing clouds

Above we used parallel lines and dots to draw background sky with clouds in outline. We will now learn how these strokes can be used to draw clouds as well.

Drawing Clouds with Stipples:

Stipples or dots is the most simple and effective way to draw clouds. Compared to a line, dots create a lighter feel and gives clouds the desired feel of lightness. If clouds and sky is not the main focus of attention in a drawing, then simply indicating few clouds using stipples as shown below is often sufficient. Any shape of clouds can be easily drawn with this technique.

drawing clouds and sky

It is generally more appealing to draw smaller clouds closer to far away horizon and bigger clouds above and closer to the viewer as it reinforces feeling of perspective and depth in the drawing. Following example illustrates this.

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In the above examples, few clouds are drawn and the sky is left white/implied. This is enough to give a nice impression if sky/clouds are not the main focus in the drawing. Same stipple technique can be used to draw sky as well as we saw before and by drawing both background sky and clouds, more involved sky and cloud formations can be done. In the following examples, a background layer of stipples is used to lay down sky and then clouds are indicated by using more density of stipples appropriately.  By using darken tone for background sky, a more foreboding feel can be obtained. As the following examples illustrate, there is no limit to the type and feel of sky and cloud formation that can be achieved by using this technique.

Putting stipples down takes time. Don’t hurry and enjoy the process.

Drawing Clouds with Parallel Lines:

Using horizontal parallel lines is another technique to draw clouds. Compared to stipples, horizontal lines gives more tone and hence a darker feel for the clouds. Often drawing few clouds is enough to give a nice feel as shown below. Keep the edge of clouds wavy when laying down parallel lines.

drawing clouds

If you have fine control over drawing parallel lines, then same technique can be used to draw more involved sky and clouds. In the following examples, a layer of fine horizontal lines is laid to create a backdrop of sky and then additional horizontal lines are added to draw clouds. Stipples and lines can be mixed as well as is done in the first drawing.

Drawing a Morning or Evening Sky:

A nice and simple way to draw sky and clouds with a feel of sunrise is to draw clouds that leave a streak of white between them. Make sure to keep the edges wavy as shown below.

drawing clouds

Such clouds can be used effectively to indicate a ‘glow’ and very effectively indicate a sunrise or even a sunset where there is often a streak of glow behind the clouds. Notice that the streak of white extends from the bottom to the top in a wavy manner to give this feel.

drawing clouds

This hopefully gave you some ideas on drawing clouds with pen and ink. Keep practising and have fun.

Feel free to reach out to me for any help.


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