How to Paint Butterflies

Updated April 17, 2017

Butterflies are beautiful and majestic creatures. Their elegant wings show off a variety of colours and designs. When you paint your own butterflies, you can choose to render in a realistic or fantastical way, depending on your preference. Although you can paint butterflies in a variety of different mediums, acrylic paint will allow you to layer the basic shades and textures of the butterfly wings. For this painting process, you will create each butterfly using a series of layers.

Select a reference picture for your butterfly painting. Browse through photos of butterflies until you find the one that you would like to paint.

Sketch an outline for your butterfly painting. Lay out the blueprint for the butterfly's basic form. This includes sketching the butterfly's wings, body (thorax, abdomen and head) and antenna.

Create a colour scheme for the wing background. Select colours from your reference picture that match the shades of the wing's overall colour, which excludes the wing veins and any wing patterns. Squeeze these colours onto your palette. Paint the background colour for your butterfly wing using a large acrylic paintbrush.

Paint the body. Choose colours for the butterfly's body using your reference picture as a guide. Squeeze these colours onto your palette. Paint the body of the butterfly using the large acrylic paintbrush.

Allow the first layer of paint to dry completely.

Detail the wings. Select a colour or blend of colours for the wing veins and wing detail, using your reference picture as a colour guide. Squeeze the acrylic paints onto your palette. Use a detailing brush to paint the wing details over the base wing colour.

Detail the body. Use a detailing brush to add eyes, antenna and legs to the butterfly's body.

Things You'll Need

  • Reference picture
  • Acrylic paint
  • Palette
  • Large brush
  • Detailing brush
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About the Author

Missy Farage began her writing career in 2008 when her freelance articles were published in the Washington life-and-style journals "425 Magazine" and "South Sound Magazine." She has won awards for her poetry and writing. Farage holds a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the University of Puget Sound.