Blue Sky Sketching
Watercolor Sketching Tutorial

by Jennifer Branch
YouTube Watercolor Painting Tutorial

The wonderful thing about watercolor painting skies is there's always one there. There may be gorgeous white fluffy backlit clouds like this painting. Then again, it may be overcast, it may be getting dark, it may be blue with not a cloud in sight, but there's always something to paint up there.

I had some fun watercolor painting this sky! I painted it tremendously dark and bold, played around with the pigments a bit, then refocused it using the play of warm and cool pigments. Then I softened a lot of edges with a wet rag.

A sky painting is the perfect place to explore many new techniques and compositions. There's not a lot of detail other than what you decide to add. You can perfect composition planning by changing the clouds however you want to.

The sky's the limit! :)

Blue Sky Sketching Watercolor Painting tutorial

Sketching Tutorial Level


Skill Building

Painting Skies

Art Supplies

10" x 14"
Arches Cold Press

Blick Art Full Bellied Round, no.12


M. Graham watercolors

Quinacridone Red
Quinacridone Gold
Pthalo Blue
Cobalt Blue
Ultramarine Blue
Cobalt Teal
Ultramarine Pink
White Gouache

Painting Demonstration 1

Blue Sky Sketching Watercolor Painting Lesson 1

I begin with ultramarine blue with a dash of cobalt. I'm painting wet brush onto dry paper. Clouds are shaped mostly by their edges, so I want some texture there.

Painting Demonstration 2

Blue Sky Sketching Watercolor Painting Lesson 2

I keep painting bold dashes of ultramarine, cobalt, ultramarine pink and start dashing in bits of quinacridone gold. I don't want the sky to turn green, so each gold dash needs to be quickly done and not mixed.

Painting Demonstration 3

Blue Sky Sketching Painting Tutorial 3

I love the combination of ultramarine pink and quinacridone gold pigments. When they mix, they do some fabulous textures!

Artist Tips

Paint everything bolder than the color you want it to dry to.
Blue Sky Sketching watercolor painting tutorial by Jennifer Branch

Painting Demonstration 4

Blue Sky Sketching Painting Tutorial 4

I'm still painting deep, bold colors. I plan to soften some of the edges with scrubbing and pull out pigment in areas, so I can be as bold as I want to be.

The dashes of cobalt teal push the background further back and light it up. Plus, it's more great texture!

Painting Demonstration 5

Blue Sky Sketching Painting Tutorial 5

The ultramarine violet fades tremendously as it dries. I light up some of the cloud edges with quinacridone gold. Notice the play of cool and warm colors. There's a lot of warms in a blue sky!

The cobalt teal is a warm pigment against the ultramarine blue, refocusing the focal point.

Painting Demonstration 6

Blue Sky Sketching Watercolor Painting Tutorial 6

Now some strong darks right before I scrub on a few areas to soften them.

Always let the painting dry completely before scrubbing with a wet rag. If the pigments have dried, they'll fade beautifully where you want them to.

If the painting is still wet, it will make a muddy mess!

Blue Sky Sketching Watercolor Painting tutorial

Final Watercolor Sketch!

This was a nice, fun sketch to paint. I love going very bold on a soft, amorphous light shape like the cloud, then scrubbing out pigment to soften it. It changes it to a soft texture without the blob effect of wet into wet.

Skies are always changing so they're wonderful things to paint. Even on overcast days, there are usually beautiful and inspiring.

The biggest challenge in painting a sky is the lack of focus. You can sharpen areas, blur areas, change warmth and coolness. Or you can just make it easy by throwing in a mountain range or tree. Either way, I always learn something by painting a sky.

I hope this inspires you to go paint some skies!

Happy Painting! Jennifer Branch

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