Painting Tutorial: How to Watercolor Sky Effectively

  • By: Michael Smith
  • Time to read: 10 min.
Michael Smith
I'm Michael Smith, the founder and creative director of Art and Drawing. With over a decade of experience in the art and design industry, my keen eye for detail and passion for creating inspiring artwork drive my work. I'm dedicated to capturing the world's beauty through vibrant, expressive pieces that spark imagination and emotion.

Welcome to our step-by-step painting tutorial where you’ll learn how to create a stunning watercolor sky with an atmospheric effect. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced artist, this tutorial will guide you through the process of capturing the beauty of a midday sky in watercolor.

With our easy-to-follow instructions and the right materials, you’ll be able to create a mesmerizing sky that adds depth and realism to your artwork. So grab your brushes and let’s dive into the world of watercolor sky painting!

Key Takeaways:

  • Learn how to create a realistic watercolor sky with step-by-step instructions.
  • Discover the essential supplies needed to paint the sky in watercolor.
  • Master the wet-into-wet technique to prepare the paper for the sky painting.
  • Explore different color mixtures and techniques to create clouds and atmospheric effects.
  • Utilize your watercolor sky as a versatile background for various subjects.

Supplies Needed to Paint the Sky in Watercolor

To paint a beautiful sky in watercolor, you’ll need the following essential supplies:

  • 140-pound, cold-press Saunders Waterford paper: This high-quality paper provides a sturdy and absorbent surface for your watercolor painting.
  • Natural sponge: A natural sponge will be used to prepare the paper for painting, creating a soft and blended background.
  • Paint colors: Use a combination of Lavender, Neutral Tint, Raw Sienna, Cerulean Blue, and Ultramarine Blue to create the various hues and tones in your sky. These colors will add depth and realism to your painting.
  • Large mop brush: The large mop brush allows for loose and expressive brushwork, enabling you to create smooth washes and blend colors effortlessly.

These supplies will help you achieve the desired effect when painting the sky in watercolor. Remember, if you don’t have the exact materials mentioned, feel free to use alternative products that you have on hand. The most important thing is to enjoy the process and explore your creativity.

Why Saunders Waterford paper?

Saunders Waterford paper is a popular choice among watercolor artists due to its exceptional quality. It is made from 100% cotton, which ensures the paper’s durability and ability to handle multiple layers of paint. Additionally, the cold-press texture provides a subtle grain that enhances the overall appearance of your watercolor sky.

Preparing the Paper for the Watercolor Sky

Before diving into the captivating world of painting the sky in watercolor, it’s crucial to prepare your canvas for the wet-into-wet technique. This process involves dampening the paper using a natural sponge, enabling the colors to blend seamlessly and create a mesmerizing sky effect.

Take your natural sponge and gently wet both the front and back of the paper. Don’t worry about preserving dry areas as the wetting process should cover the entire surface. This step provides a solid foundation for the subsequent layers of paint, ensuring a harmonious and cohesive result. The use of a natural sponge helps to create a soft and subtle texture that further enhances the overall appearance of the sky.

If you’re unfamiliar with the wet-into-wet technique, it involves applying wet paint onto a wet surface, allowing the colors to mix and blend naturally. This technique is particularly effective in capturing the fluidity and ethereal qualities of the sky, making it an essential skill for watercolor artists.

By preparing the paper with the wet-into-wet technique, you’re setting the stage for a captivating watercolor sky that will captivate viewers and evoke a sense of wonder and tranquility.

See also
Watercolor vs Acrylic Brushes: Know the Difference

Whether you’re a seasoned artist or just starting your creative journey, the wet-into-wet technique using a natural sponge is a fundamental step in achieving stunning watercolor skies. Now that your paper is ready, it’s time to bring the sky to life with vibrant hues and delicate brushstrokes.

Creating a Light Grey Color for the Clouds

To create the subtle color of the clouds, you can utilize the wet-into-wet painting technique and experiment with different colors. For this particular tutorial, we will mix Lavender, Neutral Tint, and a touch of Raw Sienna to achieve a light grey color that leans towards warm tones, representing the clouds in the sky.

Apply this light grey color to cover a significant portion of the paper, especially where you want the clouds to be prominent. The wet-into-wet technique allows the colors to blend seamlessly, creating soft edges and a smooth transition between the cloud formations.

Gradually darken the pigment as you go, adding depth and subtle shadow effects to the clouds. Remember to observe real cloud formations to guide your brushstrokes and mimic their natural shapes and movement in the sky.

Expert Tip:

Experiment with different color variations for the clouds. Depending on the time of day or the overall mood you want to create in your painting, you can adjust the color mixing ratio to achieve unique cloud effects. Don’t be afraid to step outside traditional color palettes and explore your own creative interpretations of cloud formations.

By mastering the wet-into-wet technique and using the right color combinations, you can bring the clouds in your watercolor sky to life, adding depth, texture, and a sense of realism to your artwork.

Adding Color to the Sky with Cerulean Blue and Ultramarine Blue

To bring life to your watercolor sky, it’s time to add color using Cerulean Blue and Ultramarine Blue. These vibrant blue hues will capture the essence of a clear sky, creating a captivating backdrop for your artwork.

When painting the sky, it’s essential to employ negative painting techniques. Rather than directly painting the clouds, paint around them to create subtle variations and textures. This technique allows the clouds to appear more dynamic and realistic, enhancing the overall visual impact of your sky.

In addition to negative painting, varying your brush strokes is crucial for achieving a natural appearance. Experiment with different brush sizes and techniques to create a range of textures, from soft and wispy to bold and defined. This variation will add depth and dimension to your sky.

As you move closer to the horizon, consider narrowing the cloud bands to create the illusion of distance and perspective. This technique helps to enhance the sense of depth in your painting, making it more immersive and engaging.

Gradually intensify the pigment at the top of the sky using more Cerulean Blue. This technique creates a focal point and adds visual interest to your artwork. The stronger pigment at the top draws the viewer’s eye and enhances the overall impact of the sky.

By incorporating these techniques and playing with the vibrant blues of Cerulean Blue and Ultramarine Blue, you can bring your watercolor sky to life. Remember to experiment, embrace spontaneity, and infuse your unique style into each brushstroke.

Using the Watercolor Sky as a Background

The watercolor sky you have created can now serve as a stunning background for various subjects. Whether you’re painting landscapes, street scenes, or any other subject, the subtle value changes and suggestions of cloud shapes in the sky provide depth and visual interest to your artwork.

See also
Watercolor Durability Explained: Is It Permanent?

By using the watercolor sky as a background, you can create a harmonious composition where your main subject can shine. The soft colors and gentle transitions in the sky create a calming atmosphere, setting the tone for your entire painting. The brushstrokes and pigments used to depict the sky add texture and movement, making the background come alive.

To maximize the impact of the watercolor sky as a background, consider the composition and placement of your main subject. You can strategically position your subject against the sky, utilizing the colors and shapes to enhance its presence. Experiment with different angles and perspectives to create a dynamic interplay between the subject and the background.

Furthermore, the watercolor sky can also serve as a storytelling element in your artwork. The suggestions of cloud shapes can evoke different moods and narratives, adding depth and symbolism to your painting. You can use the cloud formations to guide the viewer’s gaze or create a sense of movement and energy.

Overall, the watercolor sky as a background provides endless possibilities for artistic expression. Embrace the versatility of your creation and explore the beauty and visual impact it can bring to your artwork.

Tips for Watercolor Sky Painting

When painting skies with watercolor, there are several techniques you can utilize to achieve impressive results. Here are some tips to enhance your watercolor sky painting:

1. Muted Sky Colors

Add a touch of orange to intense blues to create muted sky colors. This combination produces a more realistic representation of the sky, capturing the subtle variations in hue found in nature.

2. Graded Wash Technique

Create a smooth transition from a rich blue at the top of the sky to a lighter and warmer tone near the horizon using the graded wash technique.

3. Crayon Clouds

For added dimension and texture, incorporate wax crayons or uncolored birthday candles to create irregular cloud edges. This technique adds visual interest to your watercolor sky by capturing the unique forms and shapes of clouds.

By incorporating these tips into your watercolor sky painting, you can achieve stunning results that capture the beauty and tranquility of the sky.

Video Tutorial: How to Paint Skies with Watercolor

In this comprehensive video tutorial, you will have the opportunity to dive deep into the world of watercolor sky painting. With step-by-step demonstrations and engaging exercises, you will gain a better understanding of the effective techniques used to create stunning skies with watercolor. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced artist looking to refine your skills, this tutorial is for you.

The instructor will guide you through the process, covering essential aspects such as color selection, value application, perspective, and various texture techniques. You will learn how to create realistic and captivating skies that add depth and beauty to your artwork. By following along with the demonstrations, you will develop the skills and confidence needed to paint skies confidently and with artistic flair.

Throughout the video tutorial, the instructor shares valuable insights based on their extensive experience in both painting and teaching. You can expect to discover insider tips and tricks that will help you create impressive watercolor skies. The emphasis is not just on the final outcome, but also on the journey of exploration and self-expression through watercolor painting.

By the end of the video, you will have a solid foundation in watercolor sky painting, allowing you to incorporate these techniques into your own creative process. Whether you want to paint peaceful sunsets, dramatic stormy skies, or vibrant morning horizons, this tutorial provides you with the knowledge and inspiration to bring your vision to life.

So, grab your brushes and paints, and get ready to embark on an exciting journey of artistic discovery. Watch the video tutorial today and unlock the secrets of creating breathtaking skies with watercolor.

See also
Watercolor Trees Guide: Paint Nature Beautifully


Mastering the art of watercolor sky painting is an exciting journey that requires dedication and a willingness to experiment. By following the techniques and tips shared in this tutorial, you can create stunning skies that add depth and beauty to your artwork.

Practice is key when it comes to watercolor sky painting. Take the time to observe real skies and study their colors, textures, and atmospheric effects. Use this knowledge to inform your own creations and bring your skies to life.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different techniques, materials, and color combinations. Each artist has their own unique style, and by embracing your creativity, you can develop your own signature way of painting the sky. So grab your brushes, gather your supplies, and let your imagination soar as you create stunning skies that captivate and inspire.


What supplies do I need to paint a watercolor sky?

To paint a watercolor sky, you will need 140-pound, cold-press Saunders Waterford paper, a natural sponge, paint colors such as Lavender, Neutral Tint, Raw Sienna, Cerulean Blue, and Ultramarine Blue, and a large mop brush. Alternative products can be used if you don’t have these exact supplies on hand.

How do I prepare the paper for the watercolor sky?

To prepare the paper, you need to use the wet-into-wet technique. Dampen the back and front of the paper using a natural sponge, making sure to cover the entire surface. Dry areas are not necessary for this technique.

How do I create a light grey color for the clouds?

To create a light grey color for the clouds, mix Lavender, Neutral Tint, and a touch of Raw Sienna. This mixture should lean towards warm tones. Apply the color to a significant portion of the paper where you want the clouds to be prominent.

How do I add color to the sky using Cerulean Blue and Ultramarine Blue?

Use negative painting techniques with Cerulean Blue and Ultramarine Blue. Paint around the clouds to create variations and textures. Vary your brush strokes for a natural appearance, and consider perspective as you get closer to the horizon. Gradually add stronger pigment at the top of the sky with more Cerulean Blue for a focal point.

How can I use the watercolor sky as a background?

The watercolor sky can serve as a stunning background for various subjects. The subtle value changes and cloud shapes provide depth and visual interest to your artwork. Experiment with different subjects and enjoy the versatility of your watercolor sky.

What are some tips for watercolor sky painting?

Consider using muted sky colors by adding a touch of orange to intense blues for a more realistic representation. Use the graded wash technique to create a smooth transition from a rich blue at the top to a lighter and warmer tone near the horizon. You can also enhance your cloud effects by incorporating wax crayons or uncolored birthday candles for irregular cloud edges and textures.

Is there a video tutorial available for painting skies with watercolor?

Yes, there is a video tutorial available. The tutorial provides step-by-step demonstrations and exercises to help you gain a better understanding of how to paint beautiful skies with watercolor. It covers essential aspects such as color, value, perspective, and various texture techniques. The video is suitable for all skill levels and provides valuable insights based on observation and the instructor’s extensive painting and teaching experience.

How can I create stunning skies with watercolor?

Creating stunning skies with watercolor requires practice, experimentation, and observation of real skies. By following the techniques and tips provided in this tutorial, you can achieve beautiful skies that add depth and beauty to your artwork. Remember to practice regularly and have fun exploring the possibilities of watercolor sky painting.