For many tattoos, clouds are a great way to fill in spaces between elements. As a tattoo artist, it’s important to know how to tattoo clouds because using that filler space will make your tattoos flow on the body.

In this article, we’ll be breaking down how to tattoo clouds, including:

  • How to draw clouds directly onto the skin
  • Different styles of clouds
  • Which needles to use when shading clouds

How to Tattoo “Filler” Clouds

Draw Clouds Directly onto the Skin

While you can include clouds in your stencil, we recommend drawing clouds directly onto a person’s skin with a brand new pen or Sharpie. 

This allows you to work with their muscles better. The goal is to make your clouds flow with the shape of your client’s body because that will make it look like the design belongs on their skin.


Do not reuse pens and Sharpies for different clients. Always throw away a marker that has touched skin at the end of the tattoo. 

Cloud Styles

There are different ways to go about tattooing a cloud. Of course, for a more “cartoon” look, you can include a hard outline around the cloud. Or, if you want a more realistic look, you can create clouds only using shading.

Clouds With an Outline

When tattooing clouds, remember to make sure you have a good pivot point. You’ll need to make a lot of fluid motions like circles, so you want to make sure that you’re stable and comfortable. 

As with any other tattoo, you’ll go through and do the linework first before getting into shading.

Then, we recommend using a smaller mag to shade the clouds because you can get into smaller sections and create nice transitions.


In the video, Brandon uses a 14 round liner and an 11 curved mag. For gray wash he uses 3 drops, 6 drops, and solid black.  

Pro Tip:

Use this method for American traditional, Neotraditional, Japanese, New School, etc.

Cloud Shading Techniques

When shading clouds, it’s best to use whip shading and pendulum shading so you can build up tones for your clouds. Make sure you are cross hatching using fluid and smooth motions. 

Depending on how dark you go, you can change the look of the clouds. If you go darker, they will look more like storm clouds. If you go lighter, you’ll have more heavenly clouds. How dark or light you go will change the whole feel of the tattoo.

Clouds Without an Outline 

For clouds that only use shading, you’ll use the exact same methods listed above…just with no linework. 

However, since there are no lines to visually hold everything together, you have to be very careful about where you're putting in your shading. 

If you go too far off track, you'll completely lose the whole effect of the tattoo. It won't look like clouds, it'll just look like little patchy areas everywhere. (This is why we recommend using a smaller mag, because it will be easier to control when you get to smaller areas of the cloud.)

To help make sure you can see exactly where your needles are going into the skin, you can hang out your mag a bit more than usual and “float the needle.” The tiny space between the cartridge and the skin will make it easier to watch ink entering the skin so you can move exactly where you need to go.

Become a Tattoo Artist With the Artist Accelerator Program

Having a career in tattooing is not only fulfilling, but it’s also the most stable way to make a living as an artist. However, for decades, the process to become a tattoo artist has been notoriously difficult. 

The apprenticeship process requires aspiring tattoo artists to work 50-60 hours a week without pay for 2-4 years. That, combined with the toxic culture of abusing apprentices, makes getting into the industry almost impossible for newcomers. 

That’s why we created the Artist Accelerator Program. Our online course provides a simple, structured way of learning to tattoo that has been proven to work by over 2500 successful students, with many of them having gone on to open their own shops all around the world. 

Inside the program, we’ll take you through every step of the tattooing process in 9 clear, easy-to-follow modules and support you along the way within the Tattooing 101 Mastermind online community.

In the Mastermind group, you’ll collaborate with other students, get answers to your questions, and receive personalized video feedback on your artwork and tattoos from professional tattoo artists. With this friendly community of both new and experienced tattoo artists, you’ll never be stuck again. 

When you join the Artist Accelerator Program, you’ll have instant access to the full course and the Mastermind community, as well as our 30-Day Flash Challenge and recorded interviews with tattoo artists from all over the world. 

Click here to learn more about the Artist Accelerator Program.

Looking for a tattoo apprenticeship?

Tattooing 101's Artist Accelerator 90 day program is the closest thing to a real apprenticeship

  • 500 video modules
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  • Private mastermind community
Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years’ experience working at studios across the globe, including Celebrity Ink, the world's largest tattoo studio chain.

When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry.

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