Exercise 28: Let’s Draw Clouds


– Overview 


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.

Below is the practice worksheet that you can download! You can find this on the “Downloads” tab under the header image near the top of this exercise!



(You can hide the green extra tips and guidelines)

– Tips



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.

– The 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


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.


– The User Submitted Images


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!


When you finish the exercise, remember to submit the result to the “Submissions” tab near the top of this exercise. You can see other submissions alongside your own!

Exercise Criteria

Images submitted to an exercise must meet the following examples to be given a pass rating.

  • Download and open the practice worksheet for exercise 28: Let's Draw Clouds
  • Learn the ability to know how to shade and light a cloud is a must for those wanting to create environment concept and illustration pieces.
  • Submit your work for exercise 28: Let's Draw Clouds

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