How to Paint Birds With Feathers in Acrylics

Written by joshua dyson
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How to Paint Birds With Feathers in Acrylics
A base colour is used to create the colour of the bird's environment in most paintings. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Paint beautiful birds of all types in acrylics. All it takes is a basic knowledge of bird anatomy and some familiarity with acrylic paint. Painting birds with colourful feathers is a worthwhile experience since you will learn to paint with a full spectrum of colours. Mixing colours is also a skill that you will learn in order to get the perfect colours to represent different-coloured feathers. Acrylic painting is useful to beginners because it is a fast-drying medium that can be easily cleaned up with soap and water.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Pencil
  • Acrylic paint
  • Brushes
  • Water
  • Canvas or other painting surface
  • Palette knife
  • Palette
  • Bird photo reference
  • Spray bottle with water

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  1. 1

    Look at your bird reference photo and, using a pencil, create a contour drawing of what you see on a canvas or other suitable surface. The contour drawing should capture only the basic shapes of the bird. Aim to outline all the important shapes you see, such as body, head, and feet.

  2. 2

    Study the photo and decide on a base colour that can be used to create the overall impression of the bird's colour. The base colour should reflect whether the bird's hue is warm or cool. A warmer hue may require a base colour such as tan and a cooler hue may have require a base colour such as light blue.

  3. 3

    Mix some colours together with your palette knife to create your base colour. The base colour will usually not be a colour straight out of a paint tube, as these colours are too intense to be applied first in a layering approach.

  4. 4

    Decide which colours you will layer on top of the base hue. The colours should become stronger in intensity and more opaque with each new layer, as you create the solid colour for the bird. Mix these colours on your palette before painting them on your canvas.

  5. 5

    Apply the base colour to your canvas, mixed with water to create a light wash. Paint over the entire body, head, and feet of your bird. Allow the paint to dry.

  6. 6

    Brush the next layers of paint onto the bird, using less water each time. Less water will allow the top layers to be stronger and more opaque. Stop painting when you have a solid overall colour. Do not allow the paint to dry anymore. Acrylic dries fast, so you will have to work quickly, and use a spray bottle full of water to keep things flowing.

  7. 7

    Choose the area of the bird you would like to detail first. The ideal approach is to start with the body and paint the details, such as feathers, on top of the other layers. Feather texture can be shown by painting V shapes that protrude from the bird's body.

  8. 8

    Refine details such as the eye, beak, and feet by painting over the original layers with colours that match what you see in the photo reference.

Tips and warnings

  • As long as the paint is wet, you can use the brush to move it around and shape it on the canvas anyway you wish.

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