• Demos
January 17, 2024

A Series of Skies

Paint along as Maria Coryell-Martin demonstrates how to capture clear skies, sunset skies, and moody skies with watercolor.

By The Art Toolkit Team

Scraps of paper, a palette, tubes of paint, a brush, and a pencil on a white table. Papers show thumbnails of skies and other color mixes.

Today, we are painting skies! For this demonstration, we arranged a special Pocket Palette, filled with watercolors for painting skies and inspired by artist Brooke Morales’ palette that she made for her 365 Skies project last year. This Pocket Palette is filled with three Standard Pans containing some favorite blues and six Mini Pans filled with warms, neutrals, and some additional blues to extend the mixing range. An XL Mixing Pan fills the rest of the palette, optimizing room for big mixes of color.

Watch Maria’s “A Series of Skies” demonstration below.

Skies Palette  

Cobalt Teal Blue is a beautiful, cool blue with granulation properties. 

Ultramarine Blue is a warmer blue that leans purplish with nice granulation, meaning the pigments will settle into little textures on your paper. 

Indanthrone Blue is one of my favorite deeper blues, perfect for night skies. 

Hansa Yellow Medium is a warm yellow that we might use for sunset or sunrise skies.

Quinacridone Rose is a beautiful pink that can mix clean purples, oranges, and reds with the Hansa Yellow Medium. 

Cerulean Blue Chromium is a little bit cool but a little darker than Cobalt Teal Blue, which also yields some granulation. This is one of my go-to blues: I have this in every palette. 

Raw Sienna is a lovely kind of lighter brown tan and can be used for mixing grays and bringing warmth to your skies.  

Burnt Umber is great for mixing deep grays, especially with Indanthrone Blue or Ultramarine. 

Lavender is a dusty purple that’s a wonderful color for mixing soft, foggy light or in with your sunrises and sunsets.

An open Pocket Palette with paint, 9 tubes of paint, a brush, and a pencil knolled.
This demo uses the nine Daniel Smith watercolors pictured.

Other Supplies

Using this skies palette, Maria painted color bars to explore how the watercolors would blend together on the page and explored mixing greys with blues and browns. Can you see which colors create granulation on the page?

A 3x3 grid of color swatches next to four color bars of blues bleeding to whites and purples to yellows and greys.
Palette swatches and color bars for skies.

Then, she painted three little studies inspired by Polaroid photos to explore this palette we built for skies. 

Clear Skies 

Watercolor thumbnail by Maria.

On clear days, when you look at the sky above you, that’s the zenith. You’ll see deeper, more purplish blues at the zenith, and as your gaze glides towards the horizon, the hues will go through a range of blues, transitioning from that warmer blue to a cooler blue. Capturing this range from warm to cool blues in your watercolor paintings will help bring depth to your skies. 

Sunrise/Sunset Skies

A square thumbnail of a sunset and purple clouds with a title and colors used marked below.
Watercolor thumbnail by Maria.

Sunrises and sunsets are perfect for exploring bright and vibrant colors. Pre-wet your paper, and dive in! Start with light colors, such as yellow, and mix in others such as pinks and oranges. While the paper is still wet, you can add additional blues and mix dusty purple clouds. Diagonal brush movements will give a sense of dimension. 

Moody Skies

A square thumbnail of cloudy grey-blue sky and warm browns peeking through with a title and colors used marked below.
Watercolor thumbnail by Maria.

Moody skies are all about playing with your greys. In the video, Maria demonstrates her go-to mixes for greys and how to take a pre-wet piece of paper and transform it into a moody skyscape with just two colors: Raw Sienna and Indanthrone Blue. As a rule of thumb, Maria loves mixing greys from a brown and a blue and recommends limiting your mixes to a maximum of three colors to avoid mud. 

Tip: If your mix is too brown, add a little more blue; too blue, add a little brown.

Scraps of paper, a palette, tubes of paint, a brush, and a pencil on a white table. Papers show thumbnails of skies and other color mixes. A hand holds one up "Moody Skies."

Thank you for joining us to paint skies today. We hope you have fun observing what’s around you. Look up, notice your colors and your shapes, and have fun.

We love seeing what you create! Tag us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube @arttoolkit.

An artist sites on a rock, dipping a paintbrush in a Pocket Palette.

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