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The Beginner's Guide to How to Paint the Sky

By darakshan

Tips and Tricks Guide

The sky might look like you can easily draw it, but it is a challenging and dynamic subject. This is because everyone has a different point of view of the sky. Some may imagine the sky as blue and sunny, whereas some may imagine them filled with rain clouds. You must be more creative and know certain things to draw a sky. This guide can help you learn how to paint the sky like a pro.

How to Paint the Sky?

Below are the tips to consider to paint the sky -

Shape and Form

The sky is ephemeral and fleeting by nature. However, this doesn't mean you must depart from all the creative ideas brewing. The concept of shape, form, and structure are very important as they allow you to decode the complexity of the sky and paint it easily.

Clouds are tricky as they have ever-changing shapes, forms, colors, and arrays. You can alter the shape and form of the clouds as per your wish, as they do not have a definite shape. The following tips can help you to help you see the clouds as per their structure. 

  • Do not get involved in the detailing. Drawing clouds isn't about perfection. This is important if you are a beginner and want to explore the subject. 
  • Keep in mind the terminator line. This is important for you to figure out the lights and shadows. The terminator line will vary in clarity based on the form and light. 
  • Figure out the hardest edge. The hardest edge usually lies around the highlights or areas of sharp contrast. Hard edges on the clouds will help you infuse more clarity. So ensure to keep them accordingly. 
  • Focus on the contours. Use your brush strokes to follow the form up, over, and around the area. 

The rest of the area will be blank space. This means apart from clouds, which are usually white (depending on the artist's mood), the rest of the sky will be vibrant. These blank spaces lack any sense and are considered flat shapes. You can consider the sky a set of building blocks, as this can map a way for a more artistic painting. If you do not get it right in the first place, practice and hone the skills of how to paint the sky.

Color and Light

how to paint the sky

Coloring the sky is a very challenging but important aspect of the sky. You have to get the colors right and see your sky shining bright. However, no one can save your art if the colors are wrong. The nature of the light is the determining factor in determining the sky's color. Also, the light's strength, temperature, and concentration determine how your sky will turn out. Below are some different light scenarios to help you get the right color -

  • On a warm midday, the light is strong and direct. You must use sharp contrast, bright highlights, and deeper shadows. The light will be relatively warm in the shadows, and there will be two sources of light - direct sunlight and ambient light from the sky. 
  • On a cloudy day, the light is diffused and indirect. This means you have to use soft contrast and weak color saturation.
  • The light is strong, warm, and low at sunrise or sunset. This means you must use more warm and brilliant colors instead of dark and cool shadows.
  • At a blue hour, the light is soft with cool tones. You can use pastel colors to enhance the paint. 

If your colors look off, they do not match the context of the light. This is the reason why color theory is important. It helps you avoid using colors that do not make sense in your painting. Also, you can use deeper and darker colors to create a night sky. In addition, you can use lighter colors to create a more day-like appearance. But remember to paint the entire in the same color palette. This is the key to maintaining the relationship between the sky and the surrounding.


A painting can't be moved. But an effect can change your paint game. You can create circular patterns to give an illusion of movement through the dexterous use of brushwork and color. The painting The Starry Night is the best example of movement illusion. The earth is constantly rotating, and we can see the sky moving. Here's how you can define the movement -

  • Use directional brushwork to determine comprehensive movements and to guide the viewer through the sky and the overall painting. 
  • Concentrate on the focal point and important areas of the painting. 
  • Use broken colors to add interest to calm and still skies. 
  • Arrange your clouds so that they can lead your viewer through your painting.
  • Vary your techniques

Consider the Role of the Sky

The sky must always be a part of the painting - a background or the focal point. A feature key demands attention. You need to use different colors and striking contrasts. You might also have to use thicker paint to replicate the lights and energetic brushwork to convey life and movement. A background sky plays a complementary role, and the job of the sky is to make the painting sing. That means you can use softer edges and push the ambiance to add rhythm to the painting. 

Brushwork and Techniques

The brushwork and techniques are based on the type of sky you are painting. However, you can follow some general rules -

  • Consider using thicker paints for the lights and thin paint for shadows. 
  • Also, you can use a broad brush technique to add depth to the sky and form clouds. 
  • Use tiny details.

Use Different Colors

The medium you choose will influence how you paint and set the restraints of your work. If you want to paint the sky in thick luscious colors, there is no point in painting the sky in watercolor. Below are the different types of colors you can use -


The sky can play different roles in the painting. You can control the sky's influence through your brushwork, color, value, and complexity. It is unimportant to copy what you see, but you can use your imagination to determine the high or low keys (light and dark values, respectively). You can build up paints with layers from dark to light, ending up with the thickest paint application for the highlights. However, you must prime your canvas properly before painting the sky.


The sky can be tricky, but with the right techniques, you can ace your painting game. Here's how -

  • For a bright and sunny sky, you usually see on a summer's day. You can paint a summer sky with some ultramarine and white color. All you need to do is mix some white with blue and start working with a damp brush. Start from the top of the page and continue in long strokes. Remember to keep the strokes as horizontal as possible. As you reach the horizon, make the blue more pale by adding more white. 
  • You can start painting off diagonally across the page for the rain effect. This technique is great if you are too impatient to mix your color. All you need to keep in mind is - it must be streaky. Grey and blue colors work best for rainy skies. Also, you can create your color combination. 
  • Lastly, you need to layer up the paintings for the stormy sky. Remember to let it dry before layering another paint on it. While painting, gently touches the brush on the painting. Use a tiny bit of the paint for that barely-there texture. You can use a worn-out brush to create the effects of storms. Purple-gray color can be great for storms. First, add a dark color, let it dry, and then add another layer. Repeat the process until you are satisfied. 


As said earlier, the sky is not a background but an integral part of the painting. We often see a change in color in the sky near the horizon - usually pink or yellow. However, many people don't notice some higher-value changes in the sky. Thus, it is important to add sensitive elements to add more depth to the painting. The main component of the sky is the cloud. The more you understand the cloud, the better the painting will be. Depending on the weather and type of cloud, they might seem connected, separated, or seen as opaque and translucent. 

You can also use many online tools that you can use to create your watercolor effect pictures without going through the hassle of painting them by hand. This will save you time and effort and will give you seamless results. 


Now that you know how to paint the sky, you can easily paint one, showcase your work on social media, and create your paint portfolios. In addition, with the advent of technology, several tools can turn your images and pictures into high-quality pixel, watercolor, and oil painting art - and being in a digital era, it is a must-try. 


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