Any tips for depicting clouds at sunset?
Sunset skies are a great opportunity to play around with a generous colour palette and push your values to create a dramatic finish. If you’re aiming to create a realistic cloud formation then references are a must-have, but even if you want to make a more stylised scene, deciding on wind and light direction early on will help to sell your final piece.
Contrast the shape of heavy, dark clouds with long thin ones to guide the eye across the image and create more visual interest. Create crepuscular rays by holding Shift and making long strokes of colour with a Hard brush. Remember to always make these lines originate from your light source – in this case, the sun – even if it’s entirely hidden behind the clouds. The closer the clouds are to the sun, the more colour-saturated they will appear. It’s harder to go wrong with light effects here, so this is a good time to experiment with layer blend modes such as Color Dodge, Overlay or Hard Light to find something with the intensity you need. Small details such as rim lighting around the closest clouds to the sun, and cool washes of desaturated colour over the outer edges of your image, will enhance the overall effect.
Use the Lasso tool for precise control over the direction of lighting. Use a Soft round brush to erase away unnatural hard lines and make the light appear more ‘filtered’.