Often heard at the paint counter in any hardware store is, “How do I create a cloud effect with the paint?” The person behind the counter usually sighs and attempts to provide the simplest and most precise instructions. This usually leads to more questions and eventually frustration from both parties. Adding decorative special effects like clouds, antiquing, aging, glazing, faux finishes, and more do not have to be all that complicated. They certainly take more time and patience when compared to traditional painting but are much more rewarding in the end. For the purposes of this article the steps for creating a blue sky with clouds effect will be outlined below. This effect works real well with skylights, small ceilings or partial ceilings and even walls.
Step 1: Prep the surfaces. This step is the most overlooked step when it comes to painting. Taking the time to prep and clean the surfaces you are about to paint will save time in the future and ensure that the new paint adheres properly. Use a bit of warm water with tiny bit of bleach to wipe the surfaces clean. While doing this, make note of any nail holes, cracks or other imperfections in the surface. If needed, fill any imperfections with a quick drying spackle compound. Let dry overnight, sand the next day if necessary and wipe clean again. Let completely dry before painting. Use blue masking tape (painters tape) to cover anything that shouldn’t be painted. Molding, skylight fixtures, the adjacent wall, etc. If the surface has a darker paint color you may have to apply a primer coat. Although most paints sold today offer primer and paint in the same can.
Step 2: Apply the first coat of paint. The first coat of paint will be considered the base coat. This will be the first colored coat of paint applied after the prep and after the primer if it was applied. The first suggested color is a sky blue in a matte or flat finish, although satin can be used as well. It’s best to go to your local paint store and get a bunch of color swatches that look like the sky. Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few swatches, the paint store can provide real paint samples to do some tests on the surface if needed. Once the base color is settled you can go to work painting the surfaces. Use a roller to cover the larger areas and a brush or paint sponge to taper in the corners and edges. The base coat is the blue part of the sky and will use the most paint in this design. It is recommended to let the base coat dry for at least 24 hours before applying the cloud effects. If another coat is necessary wait an additionally 24 hours.
Step 3: Apply the cloud effect. There are several methods for creating this cloud effect and some are considered easier or better than others. To eliminate confusion this article will only focus on one application method. The paint used for the cloud effect is either a white glaze or white gloss paint. The proffered method is to have glaze added to the white gloss paint at the paint store. This gives the clouds an added dimension without putting to much shine into them. It is suggested that a small can of paint be purchased for the clouds. A pint or half-gallon should do well for this application. The next thing you need is a black sponge brush, a moist rag, and a sea sponge. The last item, the sea sponge, can usually be found in most paint or hardware stores or online. The sponge should be the size of your hand or a little bigger. After thoroughly mixing the paint pour a small amount into a mini paint tray or clean plastic container. Lightly dip the sea sponge into the paint and roll it out a little on a clear part of the tray. If too much paint is on the sponge it can also be blotted on a dry paper towel. Now go over to your sky blue surface and dab the sponge. After dabbing and blotting your can use a rolling motion in different directions. If you want your clouds to be big and puffy then use more concentrated dabs. If you would like thinner clouds dab, blot, and roll in several areas. This will thin out the paint leaving some darker and lighter contrasts. At this stage it is important to experiment and have fun.
If you mess up badly just wipe it off with the moist cloth. Use the black painters sponge brush for the corners and edges if necessary. The sea sponge is usually pretty good at getting into all the little spots. After you’ve finished or had enough, clean off your sea sponge, paint sponge (if used), and cloth. Come back the next day and look for any spots that need touch up or looked better when they were wet. This is the time to go over the spots with your sea sponge and some fresh paint.
Finally let the paint dry and invite your family to check out the new cloud effect that you’ve added to the skylights. On those gloomy rainy days they will be thanking you for this awesome custom feature.