How to Draw a Butterfly with Pen and Ink and Colorful Stippling

green and white leafed plantsIn this pen and ink drawing lesson , we’ll take a look at how to draw a colorful butterfly.

Did you know that butterflies can be found everywhere in the world except Antarctica? I think this fact is just mind-blowing. Actually, these insects have some surprising features and abilities. Let’s learn more about them while drawing!

I’ll show you my process of creating a stylized artwork. By the way, this butterfly drawing can be used as a wonderful decoration for a greeting card. What do you think?

I’ll be using an ordinary an graphite pencil and a couple of black ink liners (mine have the numbers 0.1 and 0.2). A nib pen instead of liners is a nice option, too.

To be honest, I intended to keep this project within the traditional black and white style that presents a visual image in such an elegant manner. However, I found myself thinking about including some color in the middle of the process. That’s why you’ll see two versions of this butterfly drawing at the end of the post. It’s up to you to decide which one is closer to your personal preference!

If you like working with color and enjoy vividness in your art, arm yourself with some colorful tools like gel or ink pens. Anything of that kind will work, and the colors are up to you. My choice was bright blue, dark blue and violet.

Drawing a Butterfly with a Graphite Pencil

As usual, we’ll start with an underdrawing. This will make the inking process much easier and allows us to work with confidence. Feel free to take a moment and imagine the butterfly that you are going to draw. Think about its pose, pattern, and the composition. Don’t feel that you have to copy what I’m doing exactly. Use what you learn here and apply it to your own drawing.

If you’re going to depict a specific species, having a reference image is crucial. However, my goal is to draw rather a generic butterfly or a composite image.

The preparatory stage of the process can be creative. For example, you can sketch some miniature butterflies that have different wing shapes and patterns. Which one is your favorite?

The figure of a butterfly, including the wings, can be divided into symmetrical halves. This symmetry is clearly visible if you observe a butterfly from above, when it is holding its wings flat.

To ensure that we have this symmetry in our drawing, we’ll start with a lightly drawn center line. It will help to take measurements and check the symmetry. If you decide to go for a more complex position of your butterfly, you may still choose to draw a core line. Just note that this line may be drawn at a diagonal.

The butterfly’s body consists of a small head with antennae, a thorax, and an elongated abdomen. Butterflies have six legs but, in my case, we can’t see them because of the overlapping wings. By the way, butterflies taste with their feet – or, more precisely, with special receptors that are located there.

There are two fore wings (the upper ones) and the hind wings (the lower ones). Usually, butterflies hold their wings vertically above their bodies when they rest.

I roughly sketch all the listed body parts. This loose sketch doesn’t have to be perfect – we can refine it later. Actually, even symmetrical objects may have irregularities. A human face is an example of this. This is called approximate symmetry.

To make the drawing more interesting, I position the butterfly in a way so that one set of wings is directed towards the viewer.

I next refine the contours of the wings, making the lines smooth and organic.

The body parts need refinement and additional details too. There are two large compound eyes on the head. These eyes are capable of distinguishing flower shapes or motion. Color perception of a butterfly is exceptionally good, especially in the blue and violet range.

I next add some thickness to the antennae. Butterflies use them to test the air for wind and scents.

The thorax and abdomen usually have a number of segments, but I allow a touch of stylization here. My goal is a drawing of a simplified model of a butterfly, rather than an accurate representation of any real species.

I add an improvised pattern of the wings, based on imagination and various patterns that I have seen on butterflies. This pattern should be more or less symmetrical, so the wings are mirroring each other. Of course, a complex pose may create minor distortions.

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