Exercise 28: Let’s Draw Clouds

How do Exercises work and how can I participate?

  • Every other Monday we will create a new exercise with a new topic and goal with a 2 week timeframe.
  • The community will submit their own work along with myself and provide feedback or tips on the submissions.
  • On Friday, August 1, THIS post will be updated with the new images and any tips and techniques learned along the way.
  • How can I participate? – Read the exercise challenge below and submit your image via the “Submit Image” button below.

Exercise 28 (E28) – Let’s Draw Clouds

EXERCISE:  Being confident in drawing different types of clouds and how to add lighting accurately

  • Two (2) Week Exercise!

This is a good starter for learning environments. Clouds are a staple in creating and establishing grand scenes. Clouds themselves are not easy to draw at first without using reference or understanding how lighting affects different clouds. You often see “cloud stamps” used in matte painting but those don’t accurately teach you how to shade and render different clouds. Brushes can be recommend and one will be created as a Concept Cookie Citizen exclusive.

THIS IS NOT a color exercise, so colors can be whatever you choose, but be wary and try learning with conventional colors first before trying fantastical color combinations. Once you learn how to shade clouds accurately first, then your clouds will be much more impressive with any color scheme you decide on.

There are plenty of names for different clouds based on their altitude but lets focus on 3 different types, Stratus, Cirrus, and Cumulus. These are the main three types of clouds and then Nimbus describes clouds that create precipitation, whether that be rain or snow depending on the temperature. On the handout worksheet below there are four clouds to draw in this exercise. Here are some basic guidelines on each:

  • 1. Stratus Clouds (low, uniform ones) – These are the clouds that hang low, close to the lands they hover over. Focus on create a flatter bottom with some atmospheric perspective.
  • 2. Cirrus Clouds (the “wispy” ones) – These are tough because of how wispy and undefined they are. Try using a soft edge brush to create the illusion that these clouds are drifting throughout the air.
  • 3. Cumulus Clouds (the puffy, solid ones) – The most fun to draw. These are the clouds that have shaping and form to them. Keep the surface irregular and the lighting consistent.
  • 4. Nimbus Clouds (rain, storm clouds) – This takes a combination of stratus and cumulus clouds. Take the lighting behind the clouds and use reference to see how light passes through. The rain below will add some blur and a soft edge brush may be best here or the blur tool to create the accurate effect.

DOWNLOAD: Download this Exercise 28 Practice Sheet .PSD HERE.


(You can hide the green extra tips and guidelines)



Although we see clouds almost on a daily basis, we might not accurately know how to depict those clouds when we draw them. Use a search engine and find reference images that relate to each of the four cloud types above to get started. Work with a combination of hard edge and soft edges to create the perfect blend of cloud building.

GOAL: To strengthen your cloud building abilities and how to render lighting passing through objects such as clouds

Having the ability to know how to shade and light a cloud is a must for those wanting to create environment concept and illustration pieces. The more practice you have, the better. So don’t stop with just this exercise, keep practicing on your own time and adding different color schemes. That is where the fun begins!


The Results Update

This was a tough exercise, especially for me, since I do not normally work on environments so I had to teach myself first before figuring out what tips, tricks, and techniques work to create the appearance of clouds. I wanted to focus on creating a reference sheet that focuses on the “puffy clouds” that are most seen in digital art and paintings in general. These are cumulus clouds (sometimes cumulonimbus clouds) and these have the most forms and shape to them. So below is some tips to remember when creating your own clouds!

BRUSH DOWNLOAD! The FREE brush that is mentioned in the reference sheet can be downloaded HERE.



My favorite user submission this week is from paulette, who did a phenomenal job creating the illusion of clouds in the atmosphere along with working with different hues and times of day. Great job and I appreciate the different moods each sky has, with their own story to tell. Thanks to everyone who submitted and look forward to seeing the next exercise results!


Remember: You can always submit even after the week is over! These are meant to act as exercises to practice and strengthen your work!

Leave Comment


13 Responses to “Exercise 28: Let’s Draw Clouds”
  1. Posts: 13
    braweria says:

    Just the last days I was really fascinated by clouds and thought an excercise would be awesome and now there is one!
    I will probably do it. :)

  2. Posts: 1
    terfanaybara says:

    Funny, just the two days ago I really needed to draw clouds for a picture, but I couldn’t figure it out too well. So
    Glad that there’s an exercise for this now :3

    • Posts: 385

      Awesome timing, maybe you telepathically sent me the idea since I just thought of it out of the blue over the weekend!

  3. Posts: 34
    paulette says:

    I trully enjoy painting clouds with watercolour, this great exercise was a fantastic way to paint clouds digitally! :)

  4. Posts: 1
    vmopb says:

    Oh, subscribe to this really great!
    Every time a good information, helped a lot of people!

      • Posts: 2
        steven488 says:

        I’m like really a beginner at digital painting. I don’t exactly get how to use the brush I downloaded to create the contrast in the clouds. like do you erase it with opacity or something. All this is telling me is how to contrast and add light in. It want to know what exactly to do with the brush setting and what brush to us exactly.
        Then again I’m am really new to this and maybe this exercise is too advanced for me so it’s nothing too serious. None the less great website over all man. Hope I get more out of it later.

    • Posts: 385

      Thanks man, so to create that contrast I do use a mix of the brush and eraser tool, both with the same “cloud” brush. Usually i keep the transfer turned on in the brush settings but keep the shape dynamics turned off. Try practicing getting familiar and comfortable with your tablet and how it responds to the pressure you apply to it. It can take a while but once your hand-eye coordination kicks in, you will be able to do this no problem!

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