Materials and effects
Hello everybody, this group is for  people interested in studying how to paint material properties and effects for illustration or concept design.

The goals are pretty simple.Each week we choose a material or effect and study it as much as possible . With each study we post, we can share the things we learned while studying the subject.Thus making it easier for people who are stuck with their assignment.  

Members :

WEEK ONE : Clouds and smoke effects (The images bellow are made by Sam Nielson)
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A quick one for now.

I think it would be best if you started with real-life clouds and focus on the form - basic principles of cloud construction/shape. Try to focus on the "puffiness". Better understanding of how it works should help in other more unusual cases such as explosions etc.

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Another one

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Thank you for your kind words, but to become a master at anything I have still a lot to learn :)
Believe me I've already spent a ton of time thinking, not even painting, but just figuring out how such stuff works and I still struggle.

You did quite a good job, my piece of advice would be to treat clouds more than a growing plant than puffy rock formation. Try to add some clean space in shadow as a contrast to busy, hevily lighted by sun tip of the cloud. Possibly add some depth by adding a cloud in the background or foreground.

As for colors - try to keep it in blue/violet region, only the parts lit by sun are yellow/orange. Try to avoid greens.

Play with saturation - sometimes color seems to be in the orange/red zone but in reality it is still blue, just less saturated.

A quick paintover below.

Hope that helps :)

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@ Mariyan; The last one looks already a lot better. Try to make them more fluffy and also transparent at the edges, that makes them feel less solid.

@Piotr; In the first one I would expect more darkness deeper in the clouds. At least if it is one big cloud, otherwise really nice!

My try:
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My clouds are not happy...

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some very nice clouds going on in here, very new to clouds, never really studied them, but Im looking forward to some insight ... a couple of things I did notice on the ref I studied, sharp contrast at certain areas and nice cools in shadow with bright warms in light, study took about 40mins... C&C very welcome

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I'm gonna jump in here too, materials is something I need to study. Looks like everyone is working hard and learning new stuff!

Trying to use perspective in these clouds to give more structure / sense. Previously I used to just throw clouds in the sky at random and wondered why it didn't look realistic. Distant clouds around horizon line turn into a blurry band of lightness,, receding clouds get smaller and lower on the image (since they are above and moving further away). I guess clouds can be at all various different heights but big clumps of cloud seem to float at similar levels, so the simple perspective guide works, with the distant clouds getting really soft and blurring into one making a shape that looks like a continuous curved mass of cloud.

(I'll put those words into better examples next time, these are quite rough and not so good).

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Comic book creator
My attempt at explosion. Quite a struggle. I started form dark to light, but it might be actually better to start form light. Not sure yet.

@Eyliana: I like the color transition to dark violet in the base of the cloud in the firt one. Try maybe painting some cumulus congestus formations from a photo.

@Pavel: Third one looks good. Decent brushwork and form.  As general I would advise to focus on form and values and worry about color later. Keep it up.

@slash razor: Try to focus on form. The best way is to simplify some clouds from photosh. Experiment with smudge brush, it may help achieving desirable color transitions.

@johny: my piece of advice would be same as for everyone - find a good photo and try to simplify the form of the cloud. It should help a lot

@Mariyan: You're making huge leaps. By the end of the week you might become quite good at this :)

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great work guys, looking good... Mariyan your last clouds are a big jump from your first... Awesome

The first two I did yesterday before I got the feedback from Piotr Jasielski so I thought I'll post those first... and the other two I took your advice and used a smudge brush and it definitely looks better... thanks for the feedback Piotr.... also these were done from life, out my lounge door, which was hard lol... 

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Great idea for a group, I love it! May contribute later, but for now I'll be cheering you guys on from the sidelines.

As far as smoke goes, though, it isn't quite as solid as you think, especially at the top of it as it dissipates into the sky:

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[Image: recylcing-plant-fire-in-orlando-2-090513.JPG]

It also loses a lot of its form, contrast, and values. Smoke and clouds are a great exercise in edges, as well, so keep that in mind.

@ slash: yeah, clouds may be one of those things that are way easier to study from a photo, since they sometimes reshape so quickly.

@Mariyan: Definitely explosion looks best during night, so darkening the surroundings might do the trick. Good point.

@ZombieChinchilla: thanks for the photos, I let myself use one of them for a quick study :)

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@Piotr: Thanks you for tips! I focused on values and form, far from perfect, but I realized some things.
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ok heres tonights batch, these were done from photos, still playing around with different brush and smudge brushes, I'm happy with the first study the second study was a lot more fiddly and had two different type of clouds... will keep plugging away.... keep pushing guys

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@[b]ZombieChinchilla [/b]- Thanks for the ref

Great job guys, I'm still struggling ;D

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nice work everyone :)
@Pavel the form of your last one is fluffy and nice! but maybe a little bigger brush strokes on the light part would make it even fluffier?

here's mine. I'm not sure if i was studying or just mindlessly copying the pics :/
anyway tried to focus on sharpening the edges a little bit

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Hello everybody ^^'

Okay, this is officially my first post on this forum ='D
More cloud studies to come ^^

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Great studies guys. Keep them coming. If there comes a moment when you want to quit, remind yourself painting is not only a task but also a lot of fun if you have the right approach. Treat studying as 50% task and 50% fun - maintaining healthy mindset is the key to persevere.

Welcome to the forum Nada_H and Fuxia :)

Some explorations. Photo on the left.

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I thought I might post some examples of a true master painting clouds as it may help someone. Few paintings from my Craig Mullins collection. Look how effortless it is for him, how the idea of a cloud can be conveyed by just a few simple brushstrokes.

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Tnx  for the ref man ! I tried to do  one quick study inspired by yours. I use the smudge tool  too much ;d 
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