Drawing Butterflies - How to Draw Butterflies For the Beginner

Most butterflies are categorized and identified through the color combinations of their wings and its shape, but there are certain characteristics that any butterfly wings contain.

  • The hindwings always overlap the forewings.
  • The hindwings are always longer than the forewings.
  • Each wing contains a discal cell on the upper center.
  • Most of the time, forewings of butterflies are longer than their abdomens.
  • The colors of their wings are always matched to their bodies.

There are five common shapes of butterfly wings. Depending on its form, they can all be started by using simple shapes.

The most recognized shape of the butterfly wings that we usually see is the one with a curve or arc lower edges on the hindwings, and the forewings form a 'V' outline on top (when the forewings are in full spread).


Small butterflies (growing from 3/4 to 1 and 3/4) have a wide variety of wing shapes (like the skippers and whites). But the common wing shapes like the gossamers' have nearly same sizes (hindwings and forewings) if you are going to exclude the apex of the forewings. These types of wing shapes are the easiest ones to draw since you can simply start with an 'X mark' reference line or four slices of pie shapes (and the modifications needed from their base outline is little or fewer compared to the others).

Swallowtail butterflies are one of the most desired subjects to draw because of their extraordinary wing shapes. Their forewings have an extended portion, protruding from sides (or center, depending on the kind) of the lower edge. These Narrow (sometimes thick) lining coming from their forewings are referred as wingtails. There are types of swallowtails that contain four (two tails on each forewing) wingtails, and the length depends on the breed. Most of these butterflies have colorful wings with ruffled lower edges on their hindwings.

The other wing shapes are easy to draw once you figured out how to start with basic shapes from the other kinds. depending on the specific kind, the adjustments necessary are very distinct yet little.


Common wing shape of a fritillary butterfly which could also start with an 'X' or a triangle.

Common wing shape of a longwing butterfly which could easily be started with half of an oval.

Regardless of the wing shape, the most important part of drawing the wings correctly is the evenness. One side of the wing should mirror the other, especially the shape and the size. The easiest way to to this is by simply using your pencil. Here's an example of a longwing butterfly.

The wings of a mountain longwing are mostly black with white and red bands. The dorsal sides of its forewings have a thick stripe (band) of white right across the interspaces of the postdiscal area (post median). The hindwings are covered with red bands from the upper sides and half way down.

When drawing a butterfly in flight, the important factor is the angle/perspective.


If the wings of the butterfly are widely open and the position is angled (imperfect side view on a quarter top view) then the sizes of the shapes and forms of the wing details should be adjusted according to the perspective. The details on the farther wing should be slightly smaller compared to the nearer wing.

Most butterflies have more elaborate designs at the back of their wings instead of its underside, but there are also butterflies with more detailed underside wings such as the owl butterfly.

Several examples and more detailed step-by-step instructions are available inside the book "Drawing Butterflies - How to Draw Butterflies For the Beginner".






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