In our first image, we want to start on the landscape with our basic colour palette. Ideally, I like to start off with my background layer first which would be in our case, the clouds. So here I'm going to think about what colour scheme I wanted for the image, something cold, warm, hot, or dark. For this particular image I wanted more of a warm feeling, something that you'd find in Arizona or Texas, on an early morning. So first I'll lay down a solid blue, just to use it as my starting point. After that I'm going to drop some browns, a focal point which would be the white, and some hard browns to remind me where my dark colours will go. What we do here is just use brief strokes, nothing too defined or that even gives a clear sense of what the image is going to be. Just hints will do.
Next, we're going to use a different technique called smudging. It's more of a finger painting technique, used to just merge the colours together but with rough-yet smooth edges. To achieve this technique, you'll have to configure your brush settings, something like the setting I used in the image below.
After you have messed with your settings and decided on what you feel comfortable with, then we can move on. Now as you can see with this blending technique, the brush can be a little wild-especially when set on Pen Pressure. The harder you press on the brush, the more it will scatter the colours and push them aside. Think of a Wind shield Wiper effect, kind of. I first started with the left side of the image, blending those colours first. What you do not want to do, is go insanely quick and just smudge everything at once, take your time and be precise with it.
Here, I started to blend more colours and smudge some more. But what I also did was go over some of the, what felt like to me, empty spots with a soft brush. With the soft brush, I made my own little quick brush strokes for background clouds or to just simply fill in negative space. You don't want all blue skies, but you also don't want all brown skies either. You want an even mix of both, so one doesn't overpower the other.
As we progress, I start off first with the left side and add some more brown coloured clouds up top. After I've painted my clouds in the corner, I will go back to the paint brush and set it to Pen Pressure with just a simple Hard Brush. This is where I can start to block in some blues, beiges, and browns near the white spot. What I'm doing here mostly is just softly scribbling in spots here and there; you don't want one solid cloud block, because technically clouds aren't 100% solid, obviously. What I'll do with the random strokes is just scribble lines back and forth to achieve a faded look (remember Pen Pressure is on).
Now we go back to the blending brush. Up in the right hand corner, I'll blend the colours together, creating more of a faint cloud and not thick hard lines any more. That's why this brush is quite good to use! After that, you can detail your remaining clouds that you have started. You'll notice a change in the left hand side of the upper cloud. A dark brown outline, which gives more depth to it rather than the flatness it, had before.
Next, we'll take a larger leap than before. This is a lot more of drawing than blending in this one. I used a size 9 brush, with pen pressure on and would eye drop colours from the image while marking lines and strokes over my clouds. Some will be for rays of light; others will just be for the lighter part of the cloud breaking through. As you can see though, I put some hard blues and light blues in there to break up the sky. Mostly near the focal point, I put some baby blue blobs up on top. At the bottom, I blended some of the colours together, while adding some new hues to the image. What those will be will basically break up the browns from the outer sky and cause a wall between the clouds and the soon to be landscape, which is painted dark brown at the bottom.
Now we can go back to the blending tool and fix up the bottom of the clouds some more. And also, you can start to blend the other colours that you added in. Remember, as the distance fade, your colours should become smoother as if they're hit with a Depth of Field look. Once you have the achieved look that you're aiming for, you can start to touch up the clouds some more. What helps is if you have an already made Cloud brush, which I have a few of, and just blob in some random cloud colours to give more definition. When finished with the touching up, it's your choice to add some birds to give it more of a lively feel.
Real easy step, just use a soft brush, with a yellow-almost white colour, set it to overlay, low opacity and just brush in a few strokes to make your light beams.
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