Painting Airy Clouds

24 Feb 2009

Q: I'm a beginner painter, and I'm hoping you can recommend a technique for painting clouds that will create the illusion of airiness. Can you help me? 

Regardless of your medium—watercolor, acrylic, or oil—the basic rules for edges are as follows: A hard edge is painted on a dry surface and a soft edge is painted on a wet surface. A wet or damp surface allows the edges to bleed like water on blotter paper. When painting clouds that you want to appear airy, first dampen your painting surface; use water for watercolor and acrylic, and an alkyd or medium for oil. With thinned paint on your brush, gently begin with circular strokes. This can also be done with a dry brush. After the initial foundation has been placed, you can build up the volume of the clouds, but keep the heavier paint away from the edges. 

--by Camille LaPointe-Lyons

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