Cirrus clouds appear in many different forms, most memorably as wisps of drifting, delicate, featherlike plumes. These clouds are composed of ice crystals. The degree of density, color (whiteness) and delicacy in their appearance is guided by the amount of crystals present. Cirrus clouds are very ap parent at sunrise and sunset, showing their reds and yellows before most clouds, and usually maintaining their colors after other clouds have faded.

It's not necessary to make cirrus clouds parallel to your horizon when they appear in a drawing. Slant them slightly for more interest.

Faded Clouds DrawingFaded Clouds Drawing

Preliminary Sketch

The preliminary drawing (in HB charcoal pencil) shows the positioning of the elements. The foreground is kept simple. You do not want to distract from your main interest —the cirrus clouds.

Step 1

On a separate piece of paper, use a 2B charcoal pencil to shade the whole box. Use a stomp to smooth out the charcoal, giving an even tone. Wipe lightly with a piece of tissue to remove some charcoal from the bottom third of the box, creating a horizon —dark above and lighter in the distance.

Nature Rocks Shaded Tracing SmoothPencil Shading Nature Wide Images

Step 2

Place the preliminary sketch under the shaded box. Use a light box or a window with good light to trace it lightly with white chalk. Use a kneaded eraser to gently remove charcoal, shaping your cirrus clouds.

Step 3

Continue removing the charcoal, keeping in mind that cirrus clouds are fine, delicate images. After you have captured the feeling you want, add just a touch of white pastel for that icy sparkle. Add your foreground and you are finished.


Altocumulus clouds also appear in a wide variety of forms, and they are often associated with other cloud types, such as altostratus or stratocumulus. The most memorable formation is the flattened, globular masses lined up in rows resembling a flock of sheep. They can range from bright white to dark gray, depending on the amount of moisture they are holding. As they build into layers, they usually indicate approaching thunderstorms.

Altocumulus Cloud Drawings

Preliminary Skctch

The first step is the sketch —an interpretation of this type of altocumulus clouds. Remember, the photo is for reference only. Do not attempt an exact duplicate.

Start by roughly indicating the cloud shapes. Look for the pattern and pick up the flow, the wavy lines, the cotton puffs. The patterns are the keys. Look for them, then add your values.

Step 1

Next is the application of background tone. I used a 4B charcoal pencil to lay in the overall value. This was smoothed out with a felt stomp to remove still more charcoal. I then used a chamois stomp and facial tissue to create the dark-and-light cloud area, creating a feeling of texture.

Step 2

Begin lifting some tone from the background with a kneaded eraser. Keep in mind the shapes and design. Remember to wipe the eraser on a piece of scrap for maximum lift. Keep your clouds soft with no really hard edges.

Step 3

Continue to shape the clouds, but do not overwork them. Leave something for the viewer to imagine. Use your sketch to stimulate your thinking. You can add the few trees or leave them out. The drawing will work either way.

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Pencil Drawing Beginners Guide

Pencil Drawing Beginners Guide

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