Sketching Clouds in Charcoal: Refining the Drawing

In this series we will be drawing clouds in charcoal, using a loose, sketchy approach.

You can use any reference of a cloud (or better yet, work from life!) or you can use the same one as me – it’s available at this link:

In the third and final session, we’ll be smoothing things out and adding some smaller forms to create a better sense of detail.

You can use pretty much any materials that you have to hand. I’m just using paper, willow charcoal, an old paintbrush and a kneadable eraser.


  • You will want to focus your attention on the focal point of the drawing. In my case that’s the large white cloud in the centre. I want to make sure that this cloud is the most rendered aspect so that it catches the viewer’s attention.
  • I mostly use gradients (applied with a slightly harder piece of charcoal) to make the cloud’s texture feel softer.
  • Pay attention to what’s dark, what’s light and how soft or hard the gradient is between them.
  • That’s it! If you’re working outdoors, you won’t usually get more than a few hours of consistent clouds (they may change but their essential characteristics will tend to repeat) so that’s a good amount of time to spend when practicing from photos indoors.