This clouds drawing guide will show the common types of clouds we can draw. In addition, the guide will have a quick reference on how to draw clouds of a certain type to give you hints to draw clouds in general. Eventually, you can use the guide to draw a believable sky.
All cloud drawings will begin with blocking in the shape on a dark background. This is perhaps the most easiest way to form the clouds that you like. Sometimes, you can do it on a different layer, other times, it's faster to do it all on the same layer.
The natural textures of clouds can be done using the smudge tool and then duplicating the textures in a way that caters to the pattern that you like. Moreover, you will use this skill in whatever you will draw in the future to save time.
Toolkit wise, you will use basic brushes, layer duplication/manipulation, blending tools, airbrushing, and color correction tools available in your drawing software. It really depends on your comfort level. However, do not be afraid to try new things as you follow this clouds drawing guide.
These high clouds are fairly easy to draw and consist of three different types of clouds: cirrus, cirrocumulus, and cirrostratus. Generally speaking, form is simple as it composes mostly of streaks or small patches of clouds.
First, cirrus clouds are the highest level of clouds in the atmosphere as it forms at 26000 feet and beyond. These clouds resemble wisp-like strands in the sky. You will see these clouds under a few conditions like after a thunderstorm, accompanying hurricanes/tornadoes, and aircraft trails.
At 16000 to 40000 feet, cirrocumulus clouds appear to be small patches of clouds due to the higher altitudes. Each cirrocumulus cloud can clump up together to form a unique pattern but are short lived. These can be drawn with a splatter brush.
Lastly, existing at 20000 feet and above, cirrostratus clouds have ice crystals in these clouds allows the halo 'lens flare' effect to take place on a clear and bright day. Another thing to note that precipitation will usually follow these clouds within 12-24 hours.
The middle section consists of altocumulus clouds, altostratus clouds, and stratocumulus clouds. These types of clouds will require a bit more concentration as it is lumps rather than wisp-like. Duplicating layers and manipulating it will save a lot of time here.
Altocumulus clouds generally appear around 8000 to 20000 feet above the atmosphere and signify the process of convection. These clouds are seen before a cold front. On warm, humid summer mornings, you can be sure that thunderstorms will appear if you see these clouds in the atmosphere.
Altostratus clouds are usually found 6500 to 20000 feet above the ground, in large spread out areas, and are caused by condensation of air mass being lifted up. These clouds are thin, frequently covers up the whole sky, and allows some sunlight penetration.
Characterized by large dark masses, a stratocumulus cloud can exist in groups of lines or waves at 8000 feet. The only time that you will see these types of clouds is after a bad weather phenomenon has occurred. This has great implications for drawing dramatic scenes.
The low clouds will consist of three different types of clouds: nimbostratus, cumulus, and stratus clouds. Each will present its own challenges. As before, you will need to really think about how to get the proper effects and manage the drawing toolkit effectively to get it.
Dark and grey, nimbostratus clouds are formless and exist as one huge layer over the skies. These clouds usually exist between as high as 8000 feet, or as low as 350 feet off the ground. Its layer thickness ranges from 6500 feet to 10000 feet.
Hovering under 6500 feet, these cotton shaped clouds are the precursors for bigger clouds like the cumulonimbus. A cumulus cloud can exist alone or grouped up with other clusters. These clouds are usually what people are most familiar with seeing.
A stratus cloud is basically a layer of fog that never hits the ground. Moreover, these clouds are uniform and do not bunch up together. That means it will exist as a monotone color across the landscape with no definite shape.
The last major cloud would be a cumulonimbus cloud. As the name suggests, these types of clouds are huge and will range from the horizon point all the way to where cirrostratus clouds are. These clouds can have an anvil on top.
To draw the anvil top, use the smudge tool and begin to 'fan out' the peak of the cumulonimbus cloud. It's easier with the smudge brush set on the strongest setting using existing colors.
A well-drawn atmosphere will have a good amount of cloud variations spread across the horizon. This diagram arranges all the clouds we have talked about into a nice visual chart.
As you can see, each cloud type can have its own color values. Picking up a certain light or dark value can help reference what type of clouds you can expect to draw in your illustration. There are a lot of freedom and variations between the different types of clouds to draw a dynamic sky.
Whatever your composition is, the basic drawing processes will always apply: blocking, detailing, duplicating, and refining are key methods to draw any type of clouds. The other is that clouds will become less sparse the higher up you go. Make sure your clouds drawing reflects this.
So long as you keep these two things in mind, you shouldn't have any issues with this subject. Just keep practicing and, if the opportunity exists, find new ways to draw clouds that work for you.