Cloudy skies have been inspiring artists for decades. From Vincent van Gogh all the way to Georgia O'Keeffe, a cloudy sky has been represented in many shapes and techniques.
In today's tutorial, we'll learn how to make a cloudy sky digitally. I'm going to show you how to make clouds in Adobe Illustrator, and then add flying birds to make a beautiful, tranquil scene.
I'll show you how to make a sky and how to make clouds in Illustrator with help of a Scatter Brush and the Blending Mode Screen. Also, we'll learn how to draw a bird silhouette and create the sun with the Flare Tool. Making clouds in Adobe Illustrator is easier than you think. Let's get started!
Here's What You'll Learn in This Quick and Easy Cloud Tutorial
- How to create the background
- How to create a scatter brush
- How to draw the shape of the clouds
- How to add a fluffy effect by using gradients
- How to create a cloudy sky
- How to draw a bird in the sky
- How to add birds to the illustration
- How to create the sun
For this tutorial, we'll be using Adobe Illustrator.
1. How to Create the Background
Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and draw a rectangle with the same dimensions as the Artboard. Fill it with the help of the Gradient.
You can use standard Swatch Libraries of Adobe Illustrator to do this. Go to Window > Swatch Libraries > Gradients > Sky. Choose any sample. Set the angle of 90 degrees in the Gradient panel.
2. How to Create a Scatter Brush
To create a Scatter Brush, we need to draw a circle. Use the Ellipse Tool (L). Then drag and drop this circle to the Brushes panel. Create a Scatter Brush. Use random settings as shown in the image below.
3. How to Draw the Shape of the Clouds
Now I'll show you how to make clouds in Adobe Illustrator. Take the Paintbrush Tool (B) and select our new Scatter Brush. Then draw a few different lines as shown in the image below. You should get the shapes of the Illustrator clouds.
Select all of the cloud shapes and go to Object > Expand Appearance to transform brushes into objects. Don't forget to Ungroup (Control-Shift-G) these shapes.
4. How to Add a Fluffy Effect Using Gradients
Now you can change the size of the Illustrator clouds. I made them smaller. Then select all circles and fill them. Use a black and white Radial Gradient.
Next, go to the Transparency panel and set the Blending Mode to Screen. Now you can Group (Control-G) the shapes of each cloud.
So this process will only show the white of the gradients. With a group of white gradients, it creates a fluffy, blurred effect which you'd usually achieve with many raster Blur effects. However, as these are gradients within vector shapes, your fluffy, blurred effect is 100% vector!
5. How to Create a Cloudy Sky
Just make a few copies of the clouds. You can use the Control-C and Control-V shortcuts.
Make more copies. Then select some of them and go to the Transparency panel. Set the Opacity between 60% and 80%. This will give the impression of distance for some of the clouds.
6. How to Draw a Bird in the Sky
Let's learn how to draw birds in the sky. First, create a bird frame:
- Draw the body and head with the Ellipse Tool (L).
- Draw the beak with the Pen Tool (P).
- Draw the tail and wings with the Pencil Tool (N).
Take the Width Tool (Shift-W) and add some extra thickness to the left wing. Pull the path to the middle, and the Width Tool will add thickness.
Then add some thickness closer to the tip of the wing. Use the Width Tool (Shift-W) again.
Finally, add extra thickness to the bottom of the wing.
Make the second wing and the tail using the same technique.
Make several copies of the tail. Now it looks much better.
Now select all the shapes of the bird and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Finally, Unite all the shapes with the help of the Pathfinder panel.
7. How to Add the Birds to the Illustration
Now that you know how to draw birds in the sky, let's add them to the composition. Make three copies of the bird and fill them with white.
Select the birds and go Effect > Stylize > Feather. Set the Feather Radius to 2 px.
8. How to Create the Sun
Take the Flare Tool, and click and drag in any part of your illustration. Then click anywhere else. You should get a flare like the sun in the sky.
Make a Clipping Mask to hide the protruding parts. Draw a square on top of all the objects with the same size as the artboard. Select all and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Control-7).
Wasn't That Easy? Well Done!
I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial. Now you know how to make clouds in Illustrator! You also know how to draw birds in the sky. Keep practicing, and once you get a hang of this cloud making technique, you can start creating different compositions. Once you nail how to make clouds in Illustrator, you could even learn how to make clouds in Photoshop and Procreate.
Unlimited Resources for Making Clouds
Find plenty of inspiration and graphic resources to make beautiful cloudy compositions. Start working with cloudy backgrounds, sky photos, or even cloud-shaped lettering.
Envato Elements is a great source of inspiration and creative resources. You'll find thousands of files to download as many times as you want for one low price.
Envato Elements offers many premium options for you to create professional design projects. We've selected some cloud-inspired graphic resources for you:
1. Pink Clouds Backgrounds (JPG)
Still wondering how to make a sky? Sometimes, a vector sky can look stiff. A textured background image is a good place to start. After you learn how to draw birds in the sky easily, you can just add them to one of these seamless cloud patterns.
2. Clouds Procreate Brushes (BRUSHSET)
Make a blue sky drawing with your own cloudy text written in the sky! Try out this set of seven brushes for Procreate drawing. You'll just have to brush over to get a realistic cloud effect. This download features five brushes for cloud lettering and two brushes for cloudy backgrounds.
3. 6K+ UltraHD Sunset Over Clouds Backgrounds Set (JPG)
Instead of working with a vector sky, use this set of cloudy backgrounds. With this download, you'll get a set of ten different "sunset over clouds" backgrounds. Use them as inspiring presentation backgrounds or as the first layer for a cloud-inspired collage.
4. Grunge Sky Clouds Backgrounds (JPG)
Make a blue sky drawing with a grunge texture. With this download, you'll get 12 different grunge sky clouds backgrounds. Imagine your website with a scrolling motion over a grunge cloudy sky. Or maybe create an amazing grunge background for a presentation. Start experimenting!
5. Clouds 3D Lettering (PNG)
Once you learn how to make the sky blue in Photoshop, add some cloudy lettering. This hi-res 3D cloud lettering is perfect for that. Make amazing cloudy images for printed posters or web projects. This download comes with all transparent PNG files in three color alternatives.
Discover More Creative Resources and Tutorials
Now you know how to make a sky and how to draw birds in the sky easily. Want to learn more tricks on Illustrator? Or want to learn how to make the sky blue in Photoshop?
Continue exploring other cloud-making tools. We've made a selection of Envato Tuts+'s design-related resources and tutorials for you to dive into. Check them out:
- Create a Set of Art Brushes to Make a Linocut-Style IllustrationCheryl Graham05 Jun 2022
- How to Make a Watercolor Brush in Adobe IllustratorAndrei Stefan23 Apr 2023
- How to Create a Cloud Effect in PhotoshopJohn Negoita22 Mar 2021
- How to Make a Cloud Brush in PhotoshopMonika Zagrobelna08 Dec 2020
- How to Design a 420 Smoke Logo in IllustratorAndrei Marius19 Apr 2022
- How to Make a Triangle in IllustratorAndrei Marius06 Dec 2022
- How to Make Grain & Noise Textures in IllustratorAndrei Marius19 Mar 2023
Editorial Note: This post has been updated with contributions from Janila Castañeda. Janila is a staff writer with Envato Tuts+.