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  1. Design & Illustration
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How to Draw a Butterfly Step by Step

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Butterflies are a wonderful drawing subject—their wings have a certain pattern that can be reduced to a few rules. Once you know the rules, you can draw a realistic-looking butterfly without any special drawing skills. 

In this tutorial I will show you how to draw a monarch butterfly step by step, right from scratch. You can also modify my method to draw any other butterfly!

1. How to Draw the Body of a Butterfly

Step 1

Sketch a vertical oval for the torso.

oval torso butterfly

Step 2

Cross the torso in half with a vertical line. This will be the length of the body.

butterfly body length

Step 3

Draw a longer oval below; this will be the abdomen.

butterfly abdomen

Step 4

Connect the abdomen to the torso with a slim waist.

butterfly waist

Step 5

Draw a circle on top of the body—this will be the head.

butterfly head

Step 6

Add two ovals on the sides of the head.

butterfly eyes

Step 7

Add two tiny ovals on the front of the head. These will be the short, furry antennae called palpi.

butterfly palpi

Step 8

Draw a pair of curves for the big antennae.

butterfly antennae

Step 9

End each antenna with tiny "beans."

butterfly antennae detailed

Step 10

You can now outline the body and add all the necessary details. The torso is fluffy, and the abdomen is segmented.

butterfly fuzzy torso
butterfly segments
butterfly segmented body
butterfly details

2. How to Draw Butterfly Wings

Step 1

Mark a dot in the upper part of the torso. This will be our point of reference for placing the wings.

butterfly where to attach wings

Step 2

Draw a horizontal line across the point. Each half should be roughly as long as the whole body (antennae excluded).

butterfly horizontal guide line for wings

Step 3

Draw two longer lines about 30 degrees over the previous line. You don't need to measure anything—just eyeball it.

butterfly upper wings diagonal

Step 4

Draw elongated teardrop shapes around these lines, as if it were a dragonfly.

butterfly dragonfly wings

Step 5

Draw a line from the end of the horizontal line to about 60% of length of that "dragonfly wing."

butterfly upper wings width

Step 6

Gently outline the shape of the upper wing.

butterfly upper wing costal margin
butterfly upper wing inner margin
butterfly upper wing outer margin

Step 7

The lower wing can be created in a similar way. Draw two lines down from the point, slightly below the abdomen.

butterfly lower wing length

Step 8

Draw a line between each end of the lines and the upper wings.

butterfly lower wing width

Step 9

Draw a line from the torso point to close the triangular shape of the wing right under the upper wing.

butterfly lower wing shape

Step 10

Mark a point in the center of the farthest line of the triangle.

butterfly lower wing middle

Step 11

Cross each point with a line coming from the torso.

butterfly lower wing how to draw

Step 12

Outline the shape of the lower wing.

butterfly lower wing outer margin
butterfly lower wing costal margin
butterfly lower wing inner margin

3. How to Draw the Cells of Butterfly Wings

Step 1

Now we're going to divide each wing area into smaller areas called "cells." First, mark three points in the area shown below.

butterfly upper wing discal cell

Step 2

Draw an elongated cell through these marks.

butterfly discal cell upper wing drawing

Step 3

Use the same trick to draw a similar cell in the lower wing.

butterfly lower wing discal cell where
butterfly lower wing discal cell how to draw

Step 4

There will be more cells starting here. Mark their starting points.

butterfly upper wing guide lines

Step 5

Draw gentle curves from these points to the edge of the wing. Have them slightly falling down.

butterfly upper wing cells

Step 6

The uppermost cell is divided into more cells:

butterfly upper wing costal cells

Step 7

The lower wing has similar cells, going out radially from the middle:

butterfly lower wing guide lines
butterfly lower wing veins

Step 8

Each cell has a subtle "wrinkle" in the center, and it will be a useful guideline for us. Mark it subtly, to make it distinguishable from the veins.

butterfly wing wrinkles

4. How to Draw Patterns on Butterfly Wings

Step 1

Now we have plain butterfly wings, but it's their pattern that makes them so beautiful! Let's add a pattern specific for the monarch butterfly.

Create a margin for each wing, drawing curves between the veins.

butterfly outer margin shape

Step 2

Mark the area where the wrinkle is—this place will be slightly less dark.

butterfly wing outer margin ragged inside

Step 3

Outline the edges of the wings, making them "bumpy" around the ends of the veins.

butterfly outer margin edge

Step 4

There is a pattern of bright dots in the margin. Outline them.

butterfly wing outer margin markings
butterfly wing outer margin tiny speckles

Step 5

The edges of the wings may look slightly ragged because of white lines placed between the veins and the wrinkles. This is a subtle effect, but it will add to the realism of the wings.

butterfly wing outer edge ragged

Step 6

Draw some markings in the upper part of the upper wings.

butterfly wing upper wing markings

Step 7

The pattern is created not by lines only, but mostly by contrast. So we need to darken certain parts to achieve realistic results. First, darken the body. It may have some pattern on it as well!

butterfly body pattern

Step 8

Darken the side margins, leaving brightness where the markings are.

butterfly costal inner margins darkened

Step 9

Darken the margins, moving carefully around the little markings.

butterfly outer margins darkened

Step 10

Darken the area around the markings in the upper wing.

butterfly costal markings

Step 11

The veins have a dark outline, so mark it. You can also subtly mark the wrinkles to make the drawing more detailed.

butterfly darkened veins


Good job, you have drawn a beautiful butterfly! If you want to learn more about butterflies, their anatomy, and other species, make sure you check this tutorial as well:

how to draw butterfly step by step from scratch
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