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Clouds from Above

By Marek Hlavaty
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Date Added: 9th December 2009
Software used:
Photoshop
514_tid_image018.jpg
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Hi, my name is Marek. I work as an illustrator and background artist. Painting sky scenery and dramatic clouds is an important part of my job. I wrote this tutorial to share my skills in this particular area of painting. The creation of nice and realistic clouds is actually not too demanding on time or technology. In spite of this I had been painting clouds in a particular method, which had not been generating satisfying results for many years. The main reason for this was because I wanted to paint everything with one brush, soft or hard. I really didn't like clouds painted in this way. Recently I decided to change the way I do things. It resulted in finding out a method which allows me to paint very realistic sky scenery. First of all I'll explain the basic principle of painting clouds. I use two types of brushes. First one is soft with smooth transition, the second with harder edge. It's because when you take a look at the cloud, you'll find out that its kind of a strange blend of smooth transitions in one hand and sharp contrasts with hard and bright outlines on the other. In the next few pictures I'll show you how to perfect the illusion of marvellous fluffy cumulus clouds.

This image presents the cloud painted with soft brush. It reminds me the cloud in general way, but on the first view you can feel, that its not quite there yet.

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I have switched from soft brush to harder and adumbrated the edges of cloud lightened up by sun. But there are still hard outlines on the shadowed side of cloud. We can solve this problem by switching to soft brush and creating smooth transitions.

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Now we need to get rid of this big white stuff in the middle of the cloud. It looks little bit useless, and besides that, its situated in the area which needs to be slightly shadowed. We'll also make the dark parts of the clouds on the left stronger.

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Fig. 05

These kind of clouds can be created when the Observer, Cloud and the Sun are in the same position, as you can see in the images below.

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If we want to select the different lighting (for example the same as on the above image, where the cloud is almost between the sun and the observer), we need to proceed in the same way, as what has been shown on the image below. The bigger part of the same cloud, which was the subject of our effort, will stay in shadow on our side of view. So we will paint over it by using dark colours and only let the edges shine, which are lightened up from the sunny side.

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We then add some details and lighten parts of the cloud, which are probably not sufficiently thick enough to create the deepest shadow. And that's how you paint basic clouds.

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Creation of these clouds takes me about 10 minutes and I've used just two brushes. One plain soft brush with Scattering function, and the second one - harder brush, which reminds me of smoke or the little cloud. You just need to set up the plain soft round brush as a masking brush in the Dual brush menu. It's fully sufficient not to create a repetitive pattern when using the brush. When you learned these techniques, you can try to paint more challenging sceneries.

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First of all we need references. I have found several photos of clouds, taken from high altitude (probably from an aeroplane window) on the Internet. Everyone who has flown sometime had surely seen a view like these. I've picked certain clouds which are lightened by bright white light, approximately in the afternoon. This are the proper conditions I need to create my picture.

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I have laid out a basic structure and some shapes. On the left side of the picture I'd like to have a big bunch of clouds, in the middle and on the right will be the clouds will be a little more scattered, extending towards the distant horizon.

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(ID: 212698, pid: 0) Joe on Thu, 22 August 2013 8:58am
would you mind give us the source ?
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