Draw a Butterfly: A Free Illustration Tutorial

I’m back with another illustration tutorial! I previously walked you through how to draw a flower with watercolor pencils, but not everyone has those lying around like I do. So today, I’m going to teach you how to draw a butterfly using whatever set of markers you have lying around. If you’ve got fancy artist markers, great! (I’m jealous!) If your kid has a set of Crayolas lying around, go ahead and steal borrow them for this exercise – they’ll work just fine.

One note before we start: I’ve developed this tutorial to draw a more stylized, cartoon-y version of a butterfly. It’s a nice way to practice symmetry, experiment with color combinations, and practice a little bit of shading. If you’d like to learn how to draw a butterfly that looks more realistic, give me a shout and I will definitely put that tutorial together!

If you would prefer to view this tutorial as a PDF, you’re in luck! You can download it, save it, and print it HERE.

What You’ll Need to Draw a Butterfly:

  • 5 markers (any color combo you want)
  • A sheet of paper

Step 1: The Thorax

With Color 1, draw an upside-down egg.

draw a butterfly with markers step 1

Step 2: The Abdomen

Still working with Color 1, draw a petal shape coming off the bottom of the thorax. Mine is pretty pointed, but you could round that bottom shape out more if you prefer.

draw a butterfly step 2

Step 3: The Head

With Color 1, draw a round head on top of the thorax.

draw a butterfly step 3

Step 4: The Eyes

On either side of the head, use Color 1 to draw two ovals and color them almost completely in. Leave a tiny bubble white in each eye – this gives them a more realistic-looking shine.

draw a butterfly step 4

Step 5: Antennae

Now it’s time to give that butterfly some antennae. Still using Color 1, start near the back of the head, between the eyes. You could do a simple arc over the head, or you can make them extra curly like I did. I like the decorative effect it added.

draw a butterfly step 5

Step 6: Begin Filling in White Space

For right now, stick with Color 1 and start filling in the white space in the butterfly’s body. Don’t go too heavy, though – use quick, aggressive strokes that follow the shape of each body section to give it some texture. Leave a little white space peeking through.

draw a butterfly step 6

Step 7: Add Some Depth

It’s finally time for Color 2! This should be slightly darker than Color 1, and you can use it to finish filling in the white space on the body. You’ll notice I colored a little heavier around the connections between the body segments – this helps the body look 3D.

I left the eyes as Color 1 here, but I wasn’t happy with how it looked at this point. You’ll see how I fix that in a minute.

draw a butterfly step 7

Step 8: Add the Top Wings

Time for wings! With Color 3, draw the top halves of each wing. They should look like rounded triangles coming out of the thorax. I try to get them as symmetrical as possible, but one always turns out longer than the other. I’ve given up trying to fix that. Now I just roll with it as a personal drawing quirk!

draw a butterfly step 8

Step 9: Add the Bottom Wings

Staying with Color 3 for a moment, add the bottom wings. I like to use a rose petal shape, but you could make yours rounder if you’d like. The only thing that matters is size – they should be a bit smaller than the top wings.

draw a butterfly step 9

Step 10: Start Decorating the Wings

This is the fun part! This is where you can go really crazy with color combinations and decorative elements. (If you go off-tutorial here, I’d love to see the results of your designs!)

If you want to continue with the tutorial, grab Color 4. (My color 4 is the darkest shade I selected for the batch of 5, which definitely made a difference for the outcome.) Make a smaller mimic of the wing shape inside each wing segment. This can be done quickly and imperfectly; the differences just add to the charm.

draw a butterfly step 10

Step 11: Repeat Step 10

Do the same thing as Step 10 inside the first lines you made with Color 4. This gives you some fun shapes to color in to add contrast.

drawing a butterfly step 11

Step 12: Color in the Bands

With Color 4, fill in those contrasting bands you just created in Steps 10 and 11. I also colored over the eyes and added just a couple streaks of Color 4 to darken the shading on the body. This helped the body really stand out instead of getting overwhelmed by the colorful wings.

draw a butterfly step 12

Step 13: Color in Outer Regions of the Wings

Returning to Color 3, fill in the outermost regions of the wings. If you like how it looks at this point, you can totally stop here! I really liked how mine looked at this stage, but I tinkered a little bit further since I was aiming for the wow factor. If you’d like to join me in adding even more decorative elements and that fifth color, read on.

draw a butterfly step 13

Step 14: Polka Dots

A lot of butterflies have dots along the edges of their wings, so I decided to add a stylized version of that to my design with Color 4. Place the largest dots near the points of each wing, and then make them smaller and smaller as they head away from that point.

draw a butterfly step 14

Step 15: Color the Remaining White Space

With Color 5 (the lightest and brightest shade), fill in the small regions of white space left on the wing. I also added a quick streak of Color 4 to visually tie these sections in with the rest of the wing.

draw a butterfly step 15

And there you have it! You now know how to draw a butterfly anywhere you like. I used to doodle these all over my notes for school. Now, I doodle them all over my actual artwork. 🙂

Once again, if you’d like to save this tutorial for future use, you can grab the free PDF version HERE!


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