How to Paint Clouds With a Stencil

Written by brenda priddy
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How to Paint Clouds With a Stencil
It's easy to paint clouds using a stencil. (Cloud image by Alhazm Salemi from

Painting realistic clouds is harder than many people may think. With the use of a stencil, cloud-making becomes easier, but there are still many tricks to the painting process that can make the difference between cartoonish and realistic clouds. With stencils, this project should take less than one full day to complete, depending on how many clouds you plan to paint.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Tape
  • Cloud stencils of varying sizes
  • White acrylic paint
  • Sky-blue acrylic paint (or whatever colour you have for the sky)
  • Paper towels
  • Bristle paintbrush
  • Flat foam paintbrush

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  1. 1

    Create the base cloud shape. Tape a large cloud stencil to the wall or other object and use the foam paintbrush to paint the image of the stencil. Work with a small amount of paint and use a dabbing motion, rather than a swiping motion. This keeps the paint inside the stencil and produces a more realistic cloud. Allow the paint to dry for one hour. If the base colour shows through the cloud you can apply another layer. However, some paint showing through the cloud adds realism.

  2. 2

    Take a smaller stencil and tape it to one side of the cloud. Use the foam paintbrush to dab some white paint to fill in the cloud shape. This step is about adding dimension and individuality to each cloud. You do not want all of the clouds to look exactly the same, or the effect will look cartoonish. Angle the smaller cloud stencil around the base cloud shape in several different ways for each cloud. Allow the paint to dry for one hour.

  3. 3

    Dip the bristle brush into the sky paint colour. Wipe most of the colour off onto a paper towel, but leave a small amount on the brush. This technique, known as dry brushing, is used to add dimension and shadowing to the clouds. Take the corner of the brush and dab it gently around some of the edges of the cloud, and inside the cloud as well, to create shadows. If you are unsure where to place the shadows, look at a picture of real clouds. You want to create the illusion that the clouds are fluffy. Most of your dabbing will occur as circular lines inside the cloud, shadowing the bottom of an imaginary circle. Add some blue to the top of the clouds as well. Allow the paint to dry for one hour.

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