How to paint birds using acrylics

Written by karen adams
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How to paint birds using acrylics
Choose an online image of a bird for inspiration. (barque image by chantal cecchetti from

Many artists find inspiration in birds. Their feathered bodies and fluid movements, whether swimming or flying, provide interesting challenges for painters. Birds also create interesting shapes with their bodies when standing still or in motion. Chinese bird painting is an even more unique form of art called bird-and-flower, which are popular paintings used in interior decorating. Using acrylics and traditional painting techniques, you can create a painting of a bird for your home.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Canvas or art paper
  • Pencil
  • Acrylic paints
  • Bird image
  • Small to medium brushes

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  1. 1

    Find a picture of a bird you want to paint with acrylics. There are plenty of images online to choose from. You can use stock photos or do a search in Google Images.

  2. 2

    Choose paint colours to match the bird's colouring. Red, white, black, blue and yellow make all sorts of colours when mixed together, so consider buying these colours of acrylic paints to start.

  3. 3

    Draw the bird on your art paper or canvas lightly with a pencil. Start with basic shapes. A small circle for the head, an oval to oblong shape for the body, with a triangular sketch for the wing. The sketch is a rough structure for each section of your bird. Think of other shapes to mimic for birds in action. A flying bird is like a plane, or a swimming bird is like the number 2 in water.

  4. 4

    Fill in the base colours of the bird with a medium flat paint brush. Follow the picture of your bird as you stroke the paint over your sketch. Use fluid strokes starting from the head, curving your brush with the slant of the wing, and straighten your strokes with the tail feathers.

  5. 5

    Choose a lighter colour and fill in the top of your bird's head and wings where different colours contrast to your base colour. Use a smaller brush to fill in daintier features such as the beak or bill, feet, and eyes of the bird. Bird feet usually stick out from the bottom at a perpendicular angle to the body with three to four talons.

  6. 6

    Add texture to the feathers with dark and lighter colours using a short bristled brush to shade and highlight. Use the smaller paint brush again to darken where the wing lies on the bird's body or separate feathers on the tail. To show where light touches, dab highlighting strokes, such as on the top of the head and wing, or create a shiny look for the bird's talons.

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