Cindy Briggs


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How to Capture the Sky with Watercolor Painting

Watercolor painting of a cloudy sky with brushes and palette

How to Capture the Sky with Watercolor Painting

Do you like looking outside and seeing what the sky offers? We awake to a blue sky, and we celebrate a sunny day. A partly cloudy sky provides us with a delightful gallery of shapes and colors as the day progresses. Fleeting moments can be captured with your paintbrush or your camera to paint later on. Watercolors are a wonderful way to capture the ever-changing sky. Each time you paint a sky, the experience will be unique, unpredictable, and so worthwhile.

Three Tips for Painting Skies:

1. Your paper is key.

I use Fabriano 140# Cold Press 100% Cotton paper. This paper has sizing on it that makes it easier to mingle and move the color around. It also is easier to lift color. I use Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors for consistency of color. Remember, it’s easier to use watercolor that has been squeezed into your palette and thoroughly dried before painting.

2. The easiest way to paint a sky is to paint wet-in-wet.

Brush water onto your sky area, covering it completely, then quickly paint your blues (I like Cobalt Blue mixed with Phthalo Blue-Green Shade) and other chosen colors around the cloud shapes, saving the whites. This goes quickly and creates soft edges throughout.

3. Painting Cumulus Clouds

For Cumulus Clouds, I paint wet-on-dry, painting the sky color around the clouds and softening the hard edges now and then. Then, I add a shadow at the lower edge of the cloud, usually a gray mix of Permanent Brown & Blue, and then I drop a touch of Peach (Naples Yellow & Pyrrole Orange) in the clouds for warmth.

The key is to get in and get out. You’ll be tempted to keep brushing into your sky. However, the less you mess with it, the better it gets. Let the watercolor do its thing, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

🌟 Want to practice your sky watercolor painting skills at home? Download our free PDF with a beautiful sky painting image that you can print and use for your practice sessions! Get your copy below.

Three Tips for Fixing Your Sky:

  1. If you paint your sky and immediately don’t like it, you can rinse it off, let your paper dry, and then try again.
  2. If your sky is too light when it dries, you can wet the sky again and reapply paint.
  3. If you have a lot of hard edges and some unwanted blossoms, you can gently lift them with a thirsty brush (Dip your brush into clean water and lightly squeeze out water with a dry paper towel). You can lift the color by gently applying your thirsty brush to desired areas and then dab with a paper towel. Doing this takes practice and is useful for almost any subject.

If you want to build confidence in painting skies, try painting a sky a day for a week. Or pick a skyscape and paint it three times in one day. You’ll discover what works for you and what doesn’t. Most of all, let go of expectations and be open to surprises each time. Enjoy!

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