In this tutorial, I will show you how to paint clouds a fun and easy way- without a single paintbrush! This fool-proof technique uses q-tips/cotton swabs and is relaxing to paint. You’ll learn this technique in the step-by-step tutorial below or a full length YouTube tutorial.
If you’ve done any of my other painting tutorials, you’ll know my style is to make paintings easy for all skill levels but also enjoyable and relaxing to create.
In my opinion, the end or final painting doesn’t matter so much as the process does. When the process is stress-free and enjoyable that’s when you get the therapeutic effects from painting and your creativity and confidence are elevated as a result.
I had lots of fun making this cloud painting tutorial, hope you enjoy painting it too!
How to Paint Clouds Without a Paintbrush
Surprisingly, painting clouds can be done with a couple different ways, both without using a painbrush.
Some artists like to dab on paint with an artist sponge, like these ones, which gives soft fluffy edges to clouds.
My technique uses another tool, a tool you probably already have at home right now!
What is it?
Q-tips!..or cotton swabs, depending on where you live.
Yep, those nifty ear cleaning tools, can be doubled as a fun painting tool!
Using Q-tips to Paint
Since we will be painting mainly big and fluffy cumulus clouds (which remind me of giant pieces floating cotton), its best to group your q-tips together as your paint.
To do this, I used 4-5 Q-tips and attached them together with a rubber band
I used these grouped q-tips for the larger clouds in the painting. It allowed me to form the clouds faster.
For the smaller clouds in the painting I opted to use a single q-tip so I could get more control over the shape and shadows of the cloud.
How To Create Authentic Clouds Shapes
One of my art teachers gave me advice that I still use until this day. The advice was to take your subject matter and break it down into simple shapes like circles, ovals, squares, triangles, rectangles, etc. Before starting any painting, this was an exercise all the students used to do.
Once you start seeing the object in terms of simple shapes, it becomes so much easier to paint/draw/sketch any object in a very authentic way.
It’s a simple and nifty trick that you can use too!
Clouds are a perfect example of how you can start looking at objects in terms of simple shapes. And you’ve probably already done it as a child! Do you remember looking up at the sky and imagining clouds to looking like a cat, a dog, or a funky frog?
For the clouds in the painting below, I saw a “triangle” shape in them. I’ve added plenty of pictures in the tutorial below so you can see the exact triangular shape I used so you can easily recreate it too.
Alternatively, you can have even more fun and explore more clouds shapes on your own with the fun activity below.
Fun Cloud Shape Activity
On a nice cloudy day, go outside with a piece of paper and a pencil and look at the clouds (make sure you have 10-15 minutes of uninterrupted time).
Look at all the clouds for a couple of minutes, and take note of 1 or 2 that catch your eye. Focusing on the 1-2 you picked, try to break the cloud shape into simple shapes (triangles, squares, ovals, circles, etc) and sketch it out on your paper. The shapes can overlap and can be as big/small as you like.
Use the 1-2 clouds you sketched out with your simple shapes activity and add them to the cloud painting tutorial below.
Comment below which shapes YOU found!
What Colors Do You Need to Paint Clouds?
I used white acrylic paint as the base color for all my clouds. Clouds also have shadows in them, this gives them dimension and depth.
For the shadows portion, I used a lovely and soft lavender color. I simply mixed a tiny bit of my Liquitex violet prism into white paint. I dabbled some of this lavender color into my cloud shapes while all paint layers are still wet so that the white of the clouds and shadow blend nicely.
I then went over the shadows with more white (on my q-tips) to soften the edges even more. This layering approach is super important in painting and really adds beautiful depth into it.
It is also important to paint each cloud while it’s still wet. This ensures that each layer you add to it blends nicely together.
TIP: paint each cloud fully, then move on to the next cloud
Note on colors: If you don’t want to buy the same tones of purple/pink’s I used in this tutorial you can just use any pink and purple you have at home.
Picking the Background Colors
For the background of this cloud painting, I was really feeling a dark rich purple and bright pink so that’s what I went with.
I encourage you to think of what color choices inspire you for your background. It’s totally fine to follow tutorials to the tee, but it’s even more satisfying to put your own style and flair to it.
Experimenting with color is fun, I hope you’ll give it a try! Your painting will be that much more unique and more YOU!
If you have any questions or need help with colors, don’t hesitate to send me an email or comment below.
How to Paint Clouds YouTube Video Instructions
If you’re a visual learning and prefer video instructions, feel free to watch the full YouTube tutorial below. If you want detailed step by step written instructions (with pictures) they are below the video.
- prism violet acrylic paint (or any deep purple)
- medium magenta acrylic paint (or any pink)
- fluorescent pink paint (optional)
- white paint
- liner brush
- 1 inch (or medium size) flat brush
- jar of water
- Click here for the full length YouTube tutorial
- Using your medium flat brush, paint on your deep purple color onto the top 1/5th of your canvas
- Without cleaning your brush add a dab of white onto it and paint this color below the purple until midway on the canvas (it will be a lighter purple)
- Without cleaning your brush off, add some pink onto your brush. The pink I used in this painting is a 70/30 mix of medium magenta to fluorescent pink. But you can use any pink you have laying around. Paint this color onto canvas below the light purple
- Without cleaning off your brush add some white to the paintbrush and paint the rest of the canvas to the bottom. Your sky background is now done. Wait until it fully dries before moving onto the next steps
- Take a single Q-tip and load some pure white paint onto it. Form some triangles shapes on your canvas, like the picture below.
- Take your group of 4-5 Q-Tips, load some white paint on them, and fill in your triangle shapes/clouds. Don't be afraid to paint outside your triangle shape. Clouds are not angular, but rather have soft edges. Have fun and soften out your triangle with dabs of paint above, below, and to the sides. Use your intuition and just go with it- this part was my most favorite- painting outside the lines!
- While the cloud paint is still wet, take some white paint and mix in a tiny amount of purple to make a lavender color. Using your q-tips, add some lavender shadows to your clouds. Ensure the bottom of your cloud has the lavender paint across it, then add the lavender paint as you wish. I added it in triangular shapes to show shadows of multiple clouds in one formation.
- While the shadow cloud paint is still wet, reload your 4-5 q-tip bundle with more pure white paint and go over the cloud to soften the lavender shadow edges.
- As a finishing touch to the cloud, mix some white with a tiny amount of your pink paint and put a couple of dabs of it here and there on your clouds. I added just a tiny hint of it so its very subtle. This is the color of the pink sky reflecting subtly in the clouds.
- Repeat step 5-9 with the remainder of your clouds. I'm including the pictures of each of my initial cloud shapes to help you recreate clouds in this painting.
- Your clouds are now done! Time for some finishing details. Using a liner brush and some pure white paint, dot on some stars all over your sky, but concentrating most of them in the purple portion of your sky. Using the same liner brush, paint in a moon, and you're done!
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Liquitex BASICS Acrylic Paint, 4-oz tube, Fluorescent Pink
BENICCI Paint Brush Set of 16 – 15 Different Shapes + 1 Flat Brush – with Pallete Knife and Sponge – Nylon Hair and Ergonomic Non Slip Matte Silver Handles - with Standable Organizing Case & Tin Box
Artlicious Canvas Panels 12 Pack - 8 inch x 10 inch Super Value Pack - Artist Canvas Boards for Painting
SC Johnson 623181 Q-Tip Cotton Swab, Standard, White (Pack of 500)
Liquitex Basics Acrylics Colors acra Magenta 4 oz. Tube [Pack of 3 ]
Liquitex BASICS Acrylic Paint, 4-oz tube, Prism Violet
Liquitex BASICS Acrylic Paint, 4-oz tube, Titanium White