Diane Wright artist - graphite pencil drawings
Diane Wright artist - graphite pencil drawings

Drawing Skies and Clouds

Tutorial by Diane Wright

part two

4 Steps - Drawing a Sky with Clouds


cross-hatching tone
I use a loose-hold hand position when creating the cross-hatching. I find the just weight of the pencil on the paper will create pencil strokes that are light and consistent.

cross-hatching tone
I cross-hatch 3 layers of graphite onto my paper using the F lead. The first layer is placed horizontal on the surface, the next two layers are diagonal.


cross-hatching tone Using a chamois wrapped around my index finger, I blend the graphite smooth. Chamois with a firm, and even pressure. It may take several passes with the chamois to create a smooth even tone. Be sure to blend over the edges of the drawing area as well as overlapping the buildings, trees and horizon areas. It is much easier to erase than to add a missed section later.

cross-hatching tone
Avoid touching the surface of the paper with your fingers. It is at this point in the blending process that blemishes or finger prints will magically appear. If they appear, it is very difficult to fix (unless they happen to be in a cloud formation) and many times I just have to start over!

I will add 2 more layers of crosshatching with 2H lead and blend with the chamois again. This creates a nice smooth finish. I trim the edges of the drawing using a t-square ruler and a plastic eraser.


cross-hatching tone
I use a Mars plastic eraser with a chisel edge and erase my clouds into the sky. For light wispy clouds I use Blu-Tack and just drag it across the surface.


cross-hatching tone Use a 2H lead pencil to layer in darker areas next to the whitest tops of the clouds. A tortillon is used to blend in and work in the details.

By blending, lifting, erasing and layering in more graphite, the clouds emerge on the paper. I soften the clouds by using the Blu-Tack. To make more dramatic clouds darken the background sky. This allows white cottony clouds to be more fully formed. Keep in mind that unless your drawing’s emphasis is the clouds, they should not compete with the rest of the landscape. They should be subtle and gently lead the viewer’s eye through the scene. Typically I use light wisps and hints of clouds in most of my landscapes.

I usually spend 5-8 hours just drawing the sky and cloud areas. PATIENCE is key in creating smooth skies.
advanced clouds
Once you possess the basic technique of creating smooth tones and general cloud formations, the sky is the limit to all the possibilities and variations you can create. Every moment... every hour... every day... every season... the sky changes its mood and design, providing us with an unlimited resource of inspiration to our landscapes.

Sunsets & Dusk Images

Here is a quick study (less than an hour) on clouds in the early evening just as the sun is thinking about setting. The clouds are backlit by the sun and are darker than the sky. The trees are mostly in shadow and most of the details are subdued. This is a small drawing only 4½" x 7". The sky is a lighter tone than the clouds and is just a reverse of regular clouds.

sunset sky with backlit clouds

Tutorial © 2007 Diane Wright