Welcome to my first monthly tutorial! In this post I’ll be showing you how to use water-mixable oil paints to create realistic clouds.

I love using water-mixable oil paints in my work as they’re so wonderfully versatile! I began experimenting with normal oil paints 7 years ago and was somewhat put off by the stubborn nature of the paint – the never quite clean brushes, the lengthy drying time. Then I discovered Reeves water-mixable oils. If you’re on a tight (or student) budget, I can recommend Reeves as a fantastic affordable alternative to the bigger names, such as Winsor & Newton, though I tend to use both as Winsor and Newton offer the benefit of being able to pick individual specific colours, whilst you’ll usually find Reeves in a set. Use Reeves as a ‘starter’ and Winsor & Newton to build on this.

The set is available in The Range and can be found on their website.

Here are some examples of where I’ve used the following technique in my work:

Above: ‘Moo Shoe’ water-mixable oils. Below: ‘Rush Hour’ Water-mixable oils & gouache. Hanna-Mae Williams

Here’s how to do it:

You will need:

  • Water-mixable oil paints in: Lamp black, yellow ochre, burnt umber, raw umber & white
  • Liquin original (available at most art supply stores such as The Range, Hobby Craft etc)
  • Paint brushes
  • Optional: liquid clear oil paint





You need a base. This technique is all about building up layers. Begin by mixing some white with a little black and add liquin and liquid clear until the mixture is quite loose (oils are usually quite stiff and thick) In this instance we’re making a grey base but once you get the hang of the technique you can alter this. I sometimes use blue.



Cover your area with your base colour, then add some more black to create a darker tone. Roughly paint the outline of a cloud. You’re going to repeat this shape over your piece.




You need to add depth to your clouds and now’s the time to stop using liquin. Using a circular dabbing motion, blend some black into the grey of your clouds around the bottom/edges, and introduce some umber.



Remember this is all about layering. To add dimension we’ll be adding to the background/foreground as we progress.



If you look at storm clouds they often have a yellowish tinge to them. This is where the yellow ochre comes in. You only need a hint, so dab and blend around the bottom of the cloud/where the clouds meet.



It’s time to add white. Using a smaller brush, dab and slightly blend around the tops of the more prominent clouds.



Continue working through the steps until you have the amount of clouds you want. You can use your finger to slightly smudge the clouds – particularly to make the typical ‘cloud’ shape less defined.



Now make cleaning up easy! Choose the right brush cleaner by reading this review.