I’ve sketched and painted two individual butterflies (brimstones) here, one from above, one from the side. As with all nature sketches, it’s important to get the proportions and shapes right before you add color. I’ve added colored pencil over my watercolors, this is a step you could skip if you don’t have them. I like to make notes around my drawings in my nature journal.
The common blue butterfly has a dark band around the wings which was painted on top on the layered blue. It also has a white wing edge. To see it, I added contrast by painting the background dark green. This is an effective way to make light things visible on white paper.
From the side, this species has a lot of markings. It’s usually best to focus on the big areas of color first, and then add in more details in the later layers with dark paint, colored pencils, or gouache. It’s helpful to have an exact drawing, although it might take a bit longer. If you have a good drawing, that’s half of your painting!
Quick gestural sketches are a great warm up!
A Monarch butterfly from the side:
And a swallowtail painted in 3/4 view, plus the ink drawing from the side I did for the class: