Add detail to the wings.
“Now we get to the really fun part, which is adding the marks on the butterfly’s wings,” says Case. “Most people fudge this part because it’s challenging to get the geometry of the butterfly exactly right.” If you’re drawing a real species of butterfly instead of an imagined species you’ve dreamed up, take a moment to analyze the patterns on its wings.
If your butterfly appears more polka-dotted, sketch in small circles to help you plan the pattern you want to create. If your butterfly has differently colored sections across its wings, count those areas first. Monarch butterflies, for example, have about ten veined sections on their lower wings that fit together like pieces of a stained glass window. To make sure you don’t leave anything out, use your references to guide you while you sketch out the shapes of each section.
Refine your lines.
When you’re satisfied with your sketch, go back in and refine your drawing. Adjust the thickness of the veins and the dots around the edges of the wings, and add texture to the body, head, and antennae. If something feels off in your sketch, don’t be afraid to use your eraser and draw it again. Or, if you’re using digital tools like Adobe Fresco, just create a new layer in your file and turn off the layer underneath. This lets you redraw certain sections without losing any previous work.
Layer in some different colors.
Now’s the time to get colorful. Butterflies are known for their bright, distinctive shades, so don’t be afraid to add bold hues to your drawing. Take your time with this step, and add color to your butterfly and your background thoughtfully. Remember, you can always go back and rework your digital paints if you’re not totally satisfied.
Find inspiration in beautiful butterflies.
With their bright colors and delicate flutter, it’s no wonder that butterflies inspire artists everywhere. For a few ideas to get you going, see how these creators on Behance have made butterfly drawings their own.