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When you paint or color a character the background can help you express the character’s mood, location, or enhance the feelings they are expressing. You don’t have to be an expert painter to create a great background. All you need is some basic tools and ideas.

The Sky Background – Example:…
The sky background is great because it is flexible. The colors of your sky will tell the viewer what time of day it is and what the weather is like. In the example image the artist drew her hair blowing in the wind and the simple blue sky reflects that.

What you will need:

Base Color:

Choose what time a day it is and then create a background layer that fades from one color to the next. In the example the color fades from a grey-purple to a pale blue. Sunsets may be blue, yellow, and purple. Simply Google a photo of the sky to give you ideas.


Simple Sky – Use a soft edged brush at a very low opacity in white or pale blue.

Detailed Sky -  You might try using some pre-made cloud brushes like these from our Free Brushes for Commercial Use category: and… These are also used at low opacity. Experiment with mixing the clouds and adjusting the brush size

Element Brush:

In the example picture it looks like water is splashing up from the bottom of the image. This additional element helps the viewer place the character. Now we have a girl at the beach. This was done quickly with a spatter or Splatter Brush similar to these: Search the web and deviant art to find a wide variety of them.

Other elements may include rain, lighting, and birds. There are great brushes for all of these if you do not want to paint them yourself.


Add a little interest to your sky by trying different layers styles. One trick is to make a new layer over your sky layers and fill it in with a variety of light colors like yellows, pinks, greens. Then try some layer effects like Overlay or Soft Light. Experiment with this and it will bring out some of your colors and make your background pop.

A Few Other Ideas:

1) Clouds are not all white. Some are grey, orange, pink, ect. Try out different colors.

2) To add distance make large clouds at the top of your background and smaller ones as you get toward the center of your image.

3) Unless you want to use a very strong light source when you paint your character you can skip painting a sun or bright spot. The sky is very large and the sun only shows up in a very small area.

4) Don’t make your clouds to busy or bright. Remember that the main focus of the image is the character. Try to keep it that way.

Other Examples of a Simple Sky Background from our Gallery Artists:
Jungle hottie breakdown…;
Tentacles progression…;
Rif - Side by Side…
Oz - Side by side…
Mizashi Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2011
Thanks for making this journal, it's very useful! ^^
TracyWong Featured By Owner May 31, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
Very cool ideas! Thank you! :D

Yeah, I'm guilty of mainly doing a transparent background if the artist hasn't drawn anything but the character. I'll give some of your ideas a go in the future though. It sounds like it could really bring some polish to the piece. :D

Thanks again for writing this out and sharing those great links with us! :painter:
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Submitted on
May 31, 2011


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