Super Simple Watercolor Butterfly Painting Tutorial

These watercolor butterflies are quick and easy to paint. We’ll use the wet in wet and wet on dry techniques to wonderful effect and you’ll be creating your own beautiful butterflies in no time. I’ve made some color suggestions but the idea here is to experiment, so choose whichever colors appeal to you the brighter the better!

Materials List

Burnt Umber : Winsor & Newton | Daniel Smith
New Gamboge: Winsor & Newton | Daniel Smith
Cobalt Turquoise: Winsor & Newton | Daniel Smith
Paynes Gray: Winsor & Newton | Daniel Smith

Brushes

(Optional) Winsor & Newton Series 150 Bamboo Round #6 Buy From Amazon
Rigger Brush Buy from Amazon
Princeton Synthetic Kolinsky Mop Brush Buy from Amazon

Paper

Arches watercolor paper block, cold press, 9″ x 12″, 140 pound Buy from Amazon

Miscellaneous

Easy release painters masking tape Buy from Amazon
Adjustable desktop easel Buy From Amazon

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The Wet In Wet Technique

The wet on wet technique is one of the most important in watercolor and is probably the one technique that gives watercolor its unique look and most beloved qualities. A brush full of dilute paint is painted on to wet paper. The color will run and bloom and blend with any other color that is added. This technique can be difficult to control but often gives spectacular results.

The Wet On Dry Technique

Wet on dry is when dilute paint is painted on to dry paper or over the top of dry paint. This is a very commonly used technique in watercolor painting. Painting wet on dry will give hard edges and the paint will not run outside of its borders.

Step By Step Simple Watercolor Butterfly Painting Tutorial

Total Time: 20 minutes

Step 1

Simple Watercolor Butterfly Painting Tutorial 2

Let’s start with three butterflies in the center of your paper, more can be added later. Keep your paper at a relatively low angle, about 10 – 15 degrees will do.

Paint the rough shape of a butterfly with spread wings. You can sketch the outline first if it helps. With your mop brush, paint from the outside edges of the shape in towards the center. I’m using Turquoise. You don’t need to be too precious with this but do try and keep the shape well balanced, i.e. try and keep each wing roughly the same size and shape.

Step 2

Simple Watercolor Butterfly Painting Tutorial 3

While the paint is still wet, drop in some darker color around the outside edges. I’m using Paynes Gray. Paynes Gray mixes well with blue as it is a blue-biased shade of grey. Allow the Paynes Gray to blend wet in wet with the Turquoise.

Step 3

Simple Watercolor Butterfly Painting Tutorial 6

Repeat the previous steps and add two more butterfly shapes using different colors. I’ve deliberately chosen colors that have strong tonal and color contrasts. Alizarin Crimson and Purple, New Gamboge and Burnt Umber. Don’t forget to wash your brush thoroughly between colors as complementary colors will create dull muddy colors if allowed to mix.

For more information about complementary colors and color mixing take a look at this related post.

Step 4

Simple Watercolor Butterfly Painting Tutorial 8

Wait for the shapes you have painted to dry completely. This is important for the lines to stay sharp and crisp. Switch to the Rigger brush. A Rigger is a brush which forms a long thin point and is used for painting thin lines (Such as ship’s rigging, hence the name). Paint a thin body, head and two antennae along the center in Payne’s Gray. Add some thin lines along the wings too.

Step 5

Simple Watercolor Butterfly Painting Tutorial 9

Repeat the previous step on the remaining butterflies

Step 6

Simple Watercolor Butterfly Painting Tutorial 11

Add some additional texture by dragging the tip of the Rigger brush sideways around the edges of the butterfly.

Step 7

Simple Watercolor Butterfly Painting Tutorial: Final

Add more butterflies of varying sizes and colors by repeating the previous steps

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