Watercolour Butterfly


This week I wanted a chance to play with watercolour.  Butterflies are very easy watercolour subjects so I decided to have a go…

I began with a fairly careful sketch.  It was nothing too involved, but I wanted the wings to be balanced and basically accurate to their natural shape.


Then I began to paint.  I had my plan for this worked out in my head beforehand and originally intended to photograph each stage.

The plan was…

  • Add wet in wet gradients of cadmium yellow deep (with a touch of cadmium scarlet) across the wings.
  • Paint, wet on dry, with a full strength version of the same colour to add veins and other details.
  • Paint the wing tips, wet on dry, in mix of ivory black and raw umber.
  • Paint wet in wet gradients of the the same colour.
  • Paint the details of the body.

However, I got too absorbed to think about the camera and ended up painting the whole thing.  Apologies for no process pictures.

It was a really enjoyable painting to work on.  Here’s the final picture…


It was done on watercolour paper just under A4 size using W&N professional watercolour paints.

As you can see, I decided to add a shadow after completing my plan.  I used a mix of darkish blues which I had left on my palette from another painting session.  I thought it would work OK since blues contrast oranges well.  (They’re my favourite complementary colour pairing.)  One day I’d like to have a go at using an airbrush to lay down a shadow.  It seems like the ideal tool for the job but I’ve never used one before.  Perhaps I’ll get one and give it a go!

PS:  If anyone knows the species of this butterfly I would love to know.  I did use reference and, although I didn’t interpret it exactly, the wing colours are in the right places.

5 thoughts on “Watercolour Butterfly

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