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How to Draw Clouds and Sky

This post is part of a series called Drawing Nature.
How to Draw Water in Nature
How to Draw a Leaf Step by Step
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

The sky is the background of every landscape. Usually you can replace it with a white background, directing attention to more important elements of the picture. However, sometimes clouds or sun can make a scene more attractive and interesting. 

In this tutorial I will show you how to draw these "background elements": a cloud, a sunny sky, and a starry sky.

What You Will Need

  • Some sheets of paper
  • Hard pencil (HB)
  • Medium soft pencil (2B)
  • Soft pencil (5B or lower)
  • Cotton swab/blending stump
  • Eraser
  • White gel pen (only for the starry sky)

You can read more about these tools in the introduction to How to Draw Trees.

1. How to Draw a Cloud

Step 1

Use a hard pencil to sketch the shape of a cloud very lightly, drawing a few intersecting ovals in various sizes.

how to start drawing a cloud

Step 2

Draw a ragged outline of the cloud going around the shape suggested by the ovals.

how to draw a cloud outline

Step 3

Tilt your pencil to draw with a side of it. Drag it all around the cloud, covering the background with gray. Don't push too hard, and try to create uniform strokes.

how to darken sky around cloud

Step 4

Use your blending tool (cotton swab, blending stump, finger wrapped in a tissue) to blend the strokes. Try not to ruin the general outline of the cloud.

how to blend pencils

Step 5

Take a softer pencil and repeat the previous two steps. Again, don't press too hard—you can't blend something that has been pushed deep into the paper!

how to darken pencils
how to blend dark pencils

Step 6

Take an eraser, make sure it's clean ("erase" a spare piece of paper to remove dirty parts), and carefully "draw" ragged parts of the cloud. To keep them white, clean the eraser from time to time or rotate it to use a cleaner corner.

how to use eraser
how to use eraser for drawing

Step 7

Take the softest pencil and add some darker strokes right behind the outline. Blend it as well.

how to use a soft pencil
how to blend a soft pencil

Step 8

Take a hard pencil and sketch the outline of the shadow area.

how to shade a cloud

Step 9

Shade the shadow area, tilting the pencil.

how to shade clouds

Step 10

Blend the shadow, trying to stay within the outlines of the cloud.

how to blend a cloud

Step 11

Add small shadows in the light area...

how to add details to a cloud

... and blend them.

how to blend cloud details

Step 12

Take the eraser and use it to make the border between light and shadow clearer.

how to draw with eraser

If it gets too clear, you can always blend it:

how to blend an eraser

Step 13

Take the softest pencil and use it to make the outline more striking.

how to make cloud more contrasting
how to draw a realistic cloud

2. Draw a Sunny Sky

Step 1

Use a hard pencil to draw a very subtle outline of the sun. It doesn't need to be a perfect circle.

how to start drawing sun

Step 2

Tilt the pencil to darken the sky around.

how to darken sky around sun

Step 3

Blend it as described in the previous section.

how to blend sky

Step 4

If the blending process distorted the outline of the sun, use the eraser to clean it.

how to clean sun outline

Step 5

Use the eraser to "draw" the bright parts of the clouds around.

how to draw clouds with an eraser

Step 6

Take a softer pencil and darken the sky around the clouds and sun. Leave a lighter band around the sun.

how to darken sunny sky

Step 7

Darken the middle part of the clouds as well, staying away from the borders.

how to darken clouds

Step 8

Darken the sky some more, using a softer pencil if necessary.

how to shade sunny sky
how to make clouds darker

Step 9

Make the sky even darker, but only at a distance from the sun.

how to draw sky with pencils
how to blend sky

Step 10

Use the eraser to "draw" the outline of the clouds.

how to draw clouds around sun

Step 11

Use the softest pencil to increase the contrast by adding some dark.

how to increase contrast in drawing
how to draw realistic sun clouds sky

3. Draw a Starry Sky

Step 1

Darken the sky, tilting your hard pencil.

how to start drawing night sky

Step 2

Blend it as explained before.

how to blend night sky

Step 3

Take a softer pencil and darken the sky part by part.

how to darken night sky
how to blend dark night sky

You can leave some brightness in the middle to simulate the Milky Way.

how to draw milky way
how to blend sky with pencils
how to draw dark sky with pencils
how to blend pencils with cotton bud

Step 4

Take the softest pencil and draw the outline of the mountains (or trees—something to show us the scale).

how to draw mountains by night

Step 5

Fill the foreground shape with the darkest shade you can achieve (keep in mind that graphite reflections can only be removed later in post-production).

how to draw dark silhouette of mountains

Step 6

Take the eraser and "draw" the stars here and there.

how to start drawing stars

Step 7

Take the white gel pen and draw a single dot inside every star. This will make them look as if they're glowing.

how to draw starts with gel pen

Step 8

Add more stars all around.

how to draw stars
how to draw night starry night realistically

Good Job!

Did you like this tutorial? Check out others from the How to Draw Nature series:

Do you want to make your drawings look great when digitized? Try these:

how to draw sky clouds tutorial
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