Painting a butterfly in watercolor | Irina Trzaskos | Skillshare

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Painting a butterfly in watercolor

teacher avatar Irina Trzaskos, Watercolor Artist & Illustrator

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.



    • 3.

      Drawing a realistic butterfly


    • 4.

      Mixing colors


    • 5.

      Watercolor wash


    • 6.

      Adding texture and details


    • 7.

      Finishing touches


    • 8.

      Transferring the drawing with transfer paper


    • 9.

      Painting stylized butterflies


    • 10.

      Last Thoughts


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About This Class

This class is suitable for beginners.

In this class, I will explain step by step how to draw and paint a stylized and a realistic looking butterfly. I will also explain how to mix a harmonious color scheme for your illustration, and how to achieve, an ethereal look in watercolor paintings. Also, I will show some ideas of art projects with painted butterflies, such as illustration, collage, nature journaling, craft projects, costume, and event decorating.  

If you are a watercolor beginner, I invite you to take my 2 watercolor basics classes, to better understand this beautiful medium:

Happy painting!

x Irina.

Meet Your Teacher

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Irina Trzaskos

Watercolor Artist & Illustrator

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Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hi everyone. I'm Irina Trzaskos, an artist and illustrator. I want to invite you to my studio to explore the magic of watercolor. Today, I want to show you how to paint the butterfly in watercolor. Butterflies can be a beautiful addition to your art and craft portfolio. You can use butterfly imaginary in such projects as stationary or surface design, wall art or event or parties, [inaudible]. Also you can use a realistic looking butterflies in your nature journaling. Watercolor is my passion. I work on this medium for many years. I want to share with you all my skills and experience. During this class, I will show you how to draw and paint a realistically looking and [inaudible] butterfly. In the project section of this class, you can find reference pictures, pick the one you like or use your own and let's get started. 2. Supplies: In this class, you'll need the following supplies: Watercolor paint, any kind you prefer. Watercolor paper, I use cold press. Watercolor palette, I have a personal one, water, paper towel, a pencil, eraser. I'll still need a medium-size brush. I use number 4 [inaudible]. The smaller brush, I use number 2, simple brush. For details, you'll need whitewash or a white gel pen. I'll still need tracing paper. In next video, I'll show you how to draw a realistic-looking butterfly. 3. Drawing a realistic butterfly: There are two most common ways to draw a butterfly. One is when you can see all four wings like in this one. Another one is when we can see mostly only two wings like in this one and this one, and only a little bit of other two wings. Today we'll be drawing a butterfly in a position when you can see all four wings. So to draw a realistic looking butterfly, we'll start with drawing a middle line. It is a line which will help us know where is the middle of the butterfly. Then we'll draw a horizontal symmetrical line to show where the wings will end. Then the bottom, we'll draw a small line. Now, the lateral lines to show the main shape of butterfly. Then we'll draw a head. You can find the reference of this butterfly in project section of the class. It's the first picture. Today we're drawing a regular tropical blue butterfly. Then draw along this side on the angle of the wing this way and this way and here I'll do body. Sometimes its made of head and one part and sometimes it's two parts, depending on the type of the butterfly. From the head we have the lines for upper wings, which are a little bit curved, like this. I think the body needs to be a little longer for this butterfly. At the bottom of the body, we are drawing a second line, then a little bit curved in this direction. Then we are just using the lines we got to form the entire shape looking at the reference picture and just following the shape. Its very easy, like this. So we technically got the main shape of butterfly. Now, we can erase the construction lines. If you don't like drawing and prefer just to paint in water color, you can always trace the reference picture and use it as a sketch. I use a brush to remove all of the mess I made. So this is our main shape of butterfly; a body, a head, and all the wings, beautiful wings. It's very easy to draw. What also we need before we start painting is inside of each wing, there's a small another wing. It will really help us when we'll start painting, and the texture so it will look realistic. Yeah, two small wing. Also to determine where is the dark and lighter part of our butterfly we can draw this line like a butterfly into a butterfly. So you got all your main drawing and now we can start coloring it. 4. Mixing colors: You've probably noticed that watercolor colors are brighter than colors in nature. To make a balanced and idealistic looking part to our color, we need to add a drop of a complimentary color. For example, my butterfly is blue but to make the blue from watercolor palette more natural-looking, I'll have to add a drop of complimentary color to blue. Complimentary colors are color situated right across from the color we're using. So for blue it is orange, and for red it is green, and for purple it's yellow and so on. Before we start painting, let's try the colors on a separate piece of paper. Here is a bright blue and we'll add on it a tiny bit of orange. I'm getting a little bit more of blue. In this way it's still bright, it is still rich, but it's more balanced and natural-looking. If you have a red butterfly, onto your bright red you should add a tiny drop of green, and if you have an orange butterfly like modern butterfly, so to your orange you should add a tiny drop of ultramarine blue and the color instantly because more natural and it's not so bright. 5. Watercolor wash: Now I can start painting our butterfly. Before we start painting, the lines are so dark, you can erase it a little bit. Next, we'll have to mix our blue. So, we'll take a lot of bright blue, mix it in our color palette, and add a tiny drop of orange in it. Next, we'll start painting. We'll be painting one by one every link starting from the middle of butterfly. So, I'll take some blue and you'll edit it to the middle, and then we'll take some water, and it will just drag the color to the edges. We are covering the entire wing with blue, and the same thing we do of all four wings. So, first, we start the blue color, and then we're just adding water. We got the first layer of our paint. Now, we'll have to let it dry very well. 6. Adding texture and details: Now when it's completely dry, we'll use our small, small brush. I'm using number 2, to add the texture to the wings, so they will look more real. But the texture will use the same blue, we'll add a little bit more orange [inaudible]. As a result, it will look almost gray. Then we'll dilute it with a lot of water. You can see here, it's a lot of water. Let's start painting texture to our wings. Remember those little wings we draw in the beginning? So we'll draw them. [inaudible] it's not symmetrical. The same here. Here comes the one line, like this. This one have more lines. Here we have a parallel line, and all others are coming from this wing. [inaudible]. The same thing with another wing. I'm trying to make them symmetrically, not always works for me but, can be a mirror, I hope. The same thing with the bottom wings, just once. In this way, we added some texture to our wings. Next step will be adding the dark brown, almost black details. Our next step is to add dark part to our butterfly. A dark color will use, sepia brown. It's a nice brown, it matches pretty much with all the colors. If we want it darker, then this almost black, then we always can add some ultramarine blue to it. It will make it even darker. Let's fill other parts of butterflies which are dark with this sepia. Maybe we have a little bit of blue long, so it wouldn't be too long. This is great. Now i'ts looking like a real butterfly. All butterflies have these dark edges on the wings. We'll use outer lines as guidance, to know where to make this wavy line like this. Here it's simple and then it'll go a little dented, depending on these ones we made before. Now let's try to do it symmetrical, and it's not always easy. But we'll try to do it as symmetrical as possible. Now I'll have to let it dry again. 7. Finishing touches: With now our butterfly is totally dry, we'll add the additional details with a tiny brush. Next, we have to add some white details, and our butterfly will be ready. For the white, I will use whitewash from Winsor & Newton, but if you are more comfortable with white gel pen, you can use it as well. Now let's add a shadow to our butterfly, and I think it means a shadow between these two wings. For shadow, I'm mixing purple with blue. Add a little bit more purple. Now, our realistic looking butterfly is ready. In next video, I'll show you how to create a sunlight butterfly based on the same shape. 8. Transferring the drawing with transfer paper: To draw or stylize butterflies based on the same shape we'll use tracing paper. We'll use a regular pencil to a transfer the butterfly onto transfer paper. Now, when we transferred our shape, we'll take another piece of paper. A wider color paper. I'll turn the tracing paper with another side. So we draw on this side. Now, we're putting it with the side we draw upside down. I'm saving this. Now, we are tracing it over again. As a result, we have a butterfly on this piece of paper. Now, we can flip it again and make now a butterfly right here. This side right here. There you've got another basic shape, or butterfly to play with stylizing. Now, we have two basic butterfly shapes to explore water color techniques within creating stylized butterflies. 9. Painting stylized butterflies: Now I have two basic butterfly shapes to explore watercolor techniques where I'm creating standardized butterflies. So we'll be working on standardized butterflies the same way as we were doing with realistic ones but we'll use more colors and we'll mix them in different ways and we can add different watercolor techniques without being worried that butterflies won't look real. Part of the wings, our first butterfly, I decided to mix some pink with orange. I'll be mixing them right on the paper. I added water on the butterfly wing just on a half of wing and now I'll be adding paint. I'm adding texture just as I go, and the same thing to all four wings. Let it dry and watercolor makes it magic. Meanwhile, change the water and let's try to paint the second butterfly. In the second butterfly I decided to go with bright blue, green and yellow. This green is a little bit too bright so we'll mix some blue in it. Let's add some blue dots on it. Why not? Of course it looks symmetrical. Oh, well, maybe we can fix it later or maybe not. Well, I'm not crazy about this one, but we'll see what happens when it dries. I like how pink one came out, so I'll just add a little bit of texture or paint a body of the butterfly, and hold it as it is. I'll use a small brush, and I'll take the same colors they used pink and orange, I mix them a little bit, and in pink I'll add a little bit of green. Some of this stylized butterfly we've used pretty much, but techniques we use in the dealing butterfly, but we had to play more freedom with color and we did not have to add those dark edges to the wings of a butterfly. This way, it looks way more decorative and we can use it in various collections and designs. I think we need to add a tiny lines on a body of the butterfly and it will be ready. On our second butterfly, I'm going to add way more pattern because I'm not [inaudible] what I call washes. We'll just play and we'll see the result, I will be surprised. I said is out of this class, we ended up with three totally different butterflies. To stylize monoflies, which you can use in your decorative purposes, and at edges of butterfly, which you also can use in decorative purposes or you can use it for your nature journal. 10. Last Thoughts: Thank you for watching my class. I hope you had a chance to paint with me. Don't forget to upload your illustration to project [inaudible] of the class. I can't wait to see your artwork.