The Secret to Painting Exciting Skies

In reality, blue skies have many more colors in them than a couple of tubes of blue paint. Of course there are all the other colors on a cloudy day, dawn or sunset. But what they all have in common is the combination of all three primaries. Of course, the blue sky has more blue than red or yellow.

Skies are usually painted darker and cooler at the top. At the horizon the sky picks up more warm, earth colors and are lighter in value.  Blue skies should have other colors in them, red, yellow, orange, green). Never use just blue and white.

I usually introduce some of the other colors in my painting into the sky. It helps to integrate the painting. Be careful with the values. If you introduce a different color in a darker value you can have a muddy look. The values have to be the same. Also, be careful not to get the sky too blue.

If your sky is too light, it won’t have any rich, wonderful colors. If it is too dark, it may be the most important color in your painting. Remember that your sky is your source of light. In most instances the sky is the lightest part of your painting.

So, what are the blues that you should use? Any blue that goes with the rest of your painting! Ultramarine has a bit of a violet to it. I use it more often in the top part of a sky. The bottom of the sky should be a lighter blue, cerulean, turquoise, thalo or prussian. I always add some yellow and cadmium red throughout the sky with a cooler alizarine in the top part. Cobalt I reserve for bright blue skies that I want to stand out. Violets and thalo or cobalt turquoise together can also be exciting.

Mix it up! Don’t stick to the same ol’ thing. Have fun and see how exciting your skies can be.

Becky Joy

Comments for this post

  1. Michael Adams March 20, 2013, 3:51 am

    Hi Becky,
    At 66 and retired I’m trying to turn my hobby-painting into somthing a little more serious. So far I’m being represented by one gallery and the owner was insistant that I not have prices listed on my website. Her concern was that I’d be competing with her store. I can see her point and removed all prices from the site. Now I see you’ve not only got prices out there for everyone to see but you’re apparently selling in all sorts of directions.
    Q. Do your gallery representatives mind you doing that? How do you get around that?
    Thank you.

    1. admin March 21, 2013, 7:10 am

      Michael, All my paintings are priced what they are in the galleries. The prints, The small paintings and mixed media are sold only by me. Actually, the prints are sold in a couple frame shops too, but the galleries I’m in are not interested in the prints. The small oils are smaller than my gallery pieces, so they are not competing with the galleries. The small paintings are also like an introductory piece for people, some have bought larger paintings after buying a small one.
      My experience has been that most galleries now days understand the economic climate for all of us and now allow us to have our prices on our website and to sell from there. I find that I can sell more of my work on my website and at the couple of shows I do (which have my gallery prices). I believe there is a worth to my paintings no matter where they are sold. If I’m selling them myself, I am taking my time to do so. And my time is worth something.

  2. Raul Grifado March 20, 2013, 12:00 pm

    Can you tell me more about the limited palette thnks

    1. admin March 21, 2013, 7:13 am

      Raul, here is a post on the limited palette that might help you.


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