There are between 9,000 and 10,000 species of birds in the world. Not sure which to choose for your next watercolor painting? Try a duck! Painting watercolor ducks is a unique endeavor on its own, but it can also give you the opportunity to practice a range of different backgrounds—from the rippling water of a pond to the willowy grass of a meadow. Or, try drawing a duck in flight! However you design your composition, learning how to paint a watercolor duck will serve you (and your watercolor painting skills) well. 

How to Paint a Watercolor Duck 

watercolor duck
Grab your paintbrushes and paint this fluffy yellow duckling.

In this tutorial, learn how to paint a watercolor duckling with fluffy feathers using just a few colors. First, gather a few basic supplies: brushes (one medium and one for fine details), paper, watercolor paints (a couple of yellows, as well as pink, orange, and blue), a pencil, and a palette.  

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Step 1: Sketch the Duckling 

duck sketch
Source: google
Caption: Create a rough sketch of the duckling, focusing on capturing the direction of the feather growth. 

Before you begin painting, create a rough sketch of the duck using a reference photo. Keep the outline light, and focus on capturing the direction of the feather growth along the outer edges of the bird. Finally, make sure to include the eyes, beak, and feet. 

Step 2: Apply the First Wash 

Use a wet-on-wet technique to apply the first wash of color. 

For the first layer of color, use a wet-on-wet technique. Using a damp brush, apply water to just the head of the duck. Then, load your brush with some yellow paint and dab it into the wet area, allowing the paint to spread and blend. Then, blot your brush on a paper towel and use the dry brush to feather out the paint along the upper edge of the duckling’s head. 

Use the same process to fill in the rest of the duck’s body. As the paint spreads and blends, you will end up with some dark areas and some light areas—which is exactly what will help create the fluffy, soft texture of the duckling. 

Step 3: Add the Feather Details

watercolor duck
Paint bands of feathers that have a hard edge on the left and a soft edge on the right. 

With a mixture of orange and yellow, begin adding the duckling’s feathers. First, wet a narrow area of the duck. On the left edge of that wet band, use short, quick strokes to create sharp, defined feathers. The paint will bleed into the wet area, creating a soft edge on the right side. Achieving a balance between hard edges and soft edges is key to creating a realistic, three-dimensional, fluffy texture. Repeat this process from the head down, until the entire duckling’s body is covered in feathers. 

Step 4: Layer in Shadows

watercolor duck
Use a dark golden brown to add shadows along the belly and wing of the duckling. 

Use a dark golden brown to add shadows around the duckling’s wing and underside of its belly. Like you did with the foundational layer of body feathers, use flicking, upward strokes to create a fluffy, feathery texture. Also add a bit of that brown to the outer corners of the duckling’s eyes, under its neck, and on the edge of its beak.    

Step 5: Paint the Beak and Feet

watercolor duck
Fill in the beak with a light peach hue, and paint the feet a muted orange. 

To create the peachy color for the duckling’s beak, mix yellow and pink with just a dab of blue. Then, dilute it to get a really watery consistency. Pre-wet the beak area, and then brush the peachy color along the right and bottom edges of the beak, leaving a light area in the middle. While the paint is still wet, dab a tiny amount of blue along the right edge of the beak and blend it out with a damp brush. 

Finally, fill in the duckling’s feet with an orange hue. Use highly pigmented paint along the bottom edges of the duck’s toes to create shadows, keeping the tops of the toes and feet light and bright. 

New Textures, New Skills

This duck is the perfect subject if you want to perfect your technique of painting fluffy, feathery textures. By layering paints and mixing hard and soft edges, you can create a realistic, three-dimensional look. In the end, you’ll create an adorable duckling and level up your watercolor skills. 

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Written by:

Katie Wolf