Quick Watercolor Sky with Rain, Storm and Lightning

Quick watercolor sky with rain, storm and lightning - watercolor painting by Deb Watson

Work wet on wet for a quick watercolor sky with a dramatic storm and lightning in this fun tutorial. You’ll get the best results with a good quality watercolor paper and an opaque white paint for the lightning. Your painting doesn’t need to look like mine to be successful – with wet on wet, every painting will be unique!

Downloads for Rain, Storm and Lightning

Suggested Colors for Quick Watercolor Sky

  • Blue/Gray Sky – [Cobalt or Ultramarine Blue + Burnt Sienna or brown] or Paynes Gray or [Blue + Black]
  • Foreground – dark gray mix + yellow + brown
  • Yellow – Lemon or Hansa or other yellow
  • Brown – Burnt Sienna or other brown
  • Opaque white – white gouache, watercolor or acrylic (I used Pro White by Daler Rowney).

Step by Step Directions for a Quick and Stormy Sky in Watercolor

lightning reference photo for watercolor tutorial

NOTE – Don’t use a blue based on Phthalo – it will turn green. If your colors turn green, try a different blue, gray or black.

Step 1 – Draw or trace your outline onto your watercolor paper with graphite paper.

Step 2 – How to wet your watercolor paper, front and back so it is evenly damp and lays flat

(You can also soak the paper in a tub of water for a few minutes.)

Wet your paper with a brush or sponge and plenty of water on both front and back several times, without taping your paper down. Hold the wet paper up until it stops dripping.

The paper should stretch evenly and lay flat on a back board.

If your paper starts to buckle up you probably missed a spot – just rewet the back again until it lays flat.

Step 3 – How to paint a quick stormy sky in watercolor, wet on wet.

Sky – Mix a puddle of medium blue gray for the sky color.

Sky – Paint the sky darker at the top and lighter towards the horizon. The color will spread on the house and bottom, which is okay if the wash isn’t too dark.

Clouds – Mix a very dark puddle of blue/black for the clouds – mix with paint right from the tube for the most concentrated color.

Clouds – Paint the storm clouds, darkest at the top and getting lighter as they go down. You can make the mix lighter by adding water or more light blue like cobalt. To make clouds look more three dimensional, add darker color in the bottom area of the cloud.

How to Adjust or Fix Wet on Wet Clouds in Watercolor

Quick watercolor sky with rain, storm and lightning - watercolor painting by Deb Watson

Clouds spreading out too much? – let your paper dry for a minute or two and try again or add more paint to your paint puddle so it isn’t as watery. If you want to lift some cloud – use a paper towel or thirsty brush to lift up some of the paint. If you end up with a dry spot, rewet with a just damp brush (don’t add too much water) or cautiously spray with a misting bottle – adding just a drop or two of water at a time until the area is back to evenly wet.

Clouds not spreading enough? – use a misting bottle to cautiously add a drop or two of water at a time until your paper is evenly damp and workable.

To fix wet on wet cloud edges – soften or lift – use a just damp brush to gently rub any edges you don’t like or use a thirsty brush ( a damp brush with the water wiped out) to lift up color and wipe the color on a paper towel.

For a total watercolor fix you don’t need to start over – place your wet painting under the running water in the sink and wash the color mostly off by rubbing gently with a brush or sponge. Then repaint.

Step 4 – How to add a dark, dramatic foreground in watercolor

quick watercolor sky tutorial foreground

Mix your puddle of paint – if you have dark blue gray left, add a little yellow or gold for a dark green.

Paint the foreground while the paper is still damp. Turn the paper so the foreground color doesn’t grow too much into the sky – let gravity spread the paint upward but turning it upside down a bit, or keep it in place by tilting the sky up. Paint your foreground with dark green, some dark blue and a few areas of brown, letting the colors blends together.

Step 5 – How to add a tiny house in watercolor with your stormy sky.

Use a small brush and leftover gray paint to add a dark roof to your house and outline some of the lines.

Step 6 – Easy way to paint lightning in watercolor.

Use opaque white paint and a small brush (or a white pen) to add the jagged lightning, starting the end at the edge of one of the clouds. Have some of the lightning brighter/lighter and some lighter and farther away.

Step 7 – How to add rain to a watercolor painting for a quick stormy sky.

To add rain to a watercolor landscape, use a damp brush to gently rub streaks, lifting up some of the color and wiping it on a paper towel.

Step 8 – Finishing touches for Quick Watercolor Sky – Birds and adding a light in the window.

Birds – add tiny birds fleeing from the storm.

Light in the window – paint one or two windows with a dot of white paint. Dry well. Add a touch of yellow over top of the white.

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