Cloud/Smoke Tutorial

A tutorial I whipped up on how to paint clouds/smoke/steam or whatever. Its all basically the same technique anyway right? ;] The full-sized images are actually the size I've painted them at. I believe that the technique shown here works best when you are working HUGE and resize your painting down. Its just not as easy to form the details correctly when working this small, so I encourage everyone who follows this tut to start with a larger canvas. :)

Oh yeah.... and don't tell anyone but this is only my second time to paint clouds. So we are both going through a learning experience here. *grin*

Step 1 - We're starting on a neutral toned, washy, textured background. Just used a series of rough brushes here.

Step 2 - Using a rather large brush, lay out the path of your smoke (or clouds). Determine the light source and paint in general "puff" shapes using your highlight color. This smoke is going straight up, but that's not very realistic... usually the wind will catch it and pull it off to the side, especially once its high in the air. Feel free to paint them going whichever way you want. :)

Step 3 - Just a contintuation of step 2, except we're working more with shadow at this point.

Step 4 - With a soft brush I've gone in to define some areas. Smoke billows up into large fluffy masses, but starts out much more condensed. The closer to the source, the more little ridges and bumps you will see. I went back with some smudging to smooth things out.

Step 5 - Adding in details with two different brushes. A medium sized textured brush and a smaller round, hard edged brush. Smoke tends to kind of layer up on top of itself. So imagine a bunch of irregular shaped discs when working, all overlapping on top of eachother. Think of fish scales. Each pieces has a small bit of shadow at the bottom and then fades up into a brilliant highlight where it "fluffs" out. Sometimes, depending on the way the light is coming in this effect can be done backwards (see the final image)

Step 6 - Continuing upwards. Smoothing rough edges as needed, but still trying to keep texture intact. I also scribbled in a tiny volcano. Ain't it cute? You'd never think it would smoke so much would you? Yeah well, don't question the volcano!

Step 7 - Final step! I rushed this last step like you wouldn't believe. Just finishing up some of the fluffy areas, although I think there should be at least twice as many. I got lazy, what can I say? But you can't get lazy. No sireee... you must continue to paint puffs and puffs and puffs into you have one giant beautiful mass of smokey goodness.

These are some clouds I've painted using the same technique as above. Hope this tut proved helpful to someone. :)