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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Drawing

How to Draw a Butterfly Step by Step

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Read Time: 6 mins
Final product imageFinal product imageFinal 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'll show you how to draw a detailed butterfly step by step, right from scratch. We'll create a monarch butterfly, but you can also modify my method to draw any other butterfly!

What You'll Learn in This Realistic Butterfly Drawing Tutorial

  • How to draw the body of a butterfly
  • How to draw butterfly wings
  • How to draw the cells of butterfly wings
  • How to draw patterns on butterfly wings

1. How to Draw the Body of a Butterfly

Step 1

Let's start this butterfly detailed drawing tutorial with a realistic butterfly outline. Sketch a vertical oval for the torso.

oval torso butterflyoval torso butterflyoval torso butterfly

Step 2

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

butterfly body lengthbutterfly body lengthbutterfly body length

Step 3

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

butterfly abdomenbutterfly abdomenbutterfly abdomen

Step 4

Connect the abdomen to the torso with a slim waist.

butterfly waistbutterfly waistbutterfly waist

Step 5

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

butterfly headbutterfly headbutterfly head

Step 6

Add two ovals on the sides of the head.

butterfly eyesbutterfly eyesbutterfly eyes

Step 7

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

butterfly palpibutterfly palpibutterfly palpi

Step 8

Draw a pair of curves for the big antennae.

butterfly antennaebutterfly antennaebutterfly antennae

Step 9

End each antenna with tiny "beans."

butterfly antennae detailedbutterfly antennae detailedbutterfly 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 torsobutterfly fuzzy torsobutterfly fuzzy torso
butterfly segmentsbutterfly segmentsbutterfly segments
butterfly segmented bodybutterfly segmented bodybutterfly segmented body
butterfly detailsbutterfly detailsbutterfly details

2. How to Draw Butterfly Wings

Step 1

Learning how to draw a beautiful butterfly step by step isn't complicated. Next, let's see realistic butterfly wing drawings. 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 wingsbutterfly where to attach wingsbutterfly 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 wingsbutterfly horizontal guide line for wingsbutterfly 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 diagonalbutterfly upper wings diagonalbutterfly upper wings diagonal

Step 4

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

butterfly dragonfly wingsbutterfly dragonfly wingsbutterfly dragonfly wings

Step 5

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

butterfly upper wings widthbutterfly upper wings widthbutterfly upper wings width

Step 6

Gently outline the shape of the upper wing.

butterfly upper wing costal marginbutterfly upper wing costal marginbutterfly upper wing costal margin
butterfly upper wing inner marginbutterfly upper wing inner marginbutterfly upper wing inner margin
butterfly upper wing outer marginbutterfly upper wing outer marginbutterfly 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 lengthbutterfly lower wing lengthbutterfly lower wing length

Step 8

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

butterfly lower wing widthbutterfly lower wing widthbutterfly 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 shapebutterfly lower wing shapebutterfly lower wing shape

Step 10

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

butterfly lower wing middlebutterfly lower wing middlebutterfly lower wing middle

Step 11

Cross each point with a line coming from the torso.

butterfly lower wing how to drawbutterfly lower wing how to drawbutterfly lower wing how to draw

Step 12

Outline the shape of the lower wing. And that's the outline of the realistic butterfly wing drawing done.

butterfly lower wing outer marginbutterfly lower wing outer marginbutterfly lower wing outer margin
butterfly lower wing costal marginbutterfly lower wing costal marginbutterfly lower wing costal margin
butterfly lower wing inner marginbutterfly lower wing inner marginbutterfly 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." This is important if you wish to learn how to draw a detailed butterfly. First, mark three points in the area shown below.

butterfly upper wing discal cellbutterfly upper wing discal cellbutterfly upper wing discal cell

Step 2

Draw an elongated cell through these marks.

butterfly discal cell upper wing drawingbutterfly discal cell upper wing drawingbutterfly 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 wherebutterfly lower wing discal cell wherebutterfly lower wing discal cell where
butterfly lower wing discal cell how to drawbutterfly lower wing discal cell how to drawbutterfly lower wing discal cell how to draw

Step 4

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

butterfly upper wing guide linesbutterfly upper wing guide linesbutterfly 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 cellsbutterfly upper wing cellsbutterfly upper wing cells

Step 6

The uppermost cell is divided into more cells:

butterfly upper wing costal cellsbutterfly upper wing costal cellsbutterfly upper wing costal cells

Step 7

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

butterfly lower wing guide linesbutterfly lower wing guide linesbutterfly lower wing guide lines
butterfly lower wing veinsbutterfly lower wing veinsbutterfly 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. The butterfly detailed drawing of the wings is almost complete!

butterfly wing wrinkles butterfly wing wrinkles butterfly wing wrinkles

4. How to Draw Patterns on Butterfly Wings

Step 1

In the next part of this tutorial on how to draw a beautiful butterfly step by step, we'll look at the wing patterns. Now we have plain butterfly wings, but it's their pattern that makes them so beautiful! Let's add a specific pattern for the monarch butterfly.

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

butterfly outer margin shapebutterfly outer margin shapebutterfly outer margin shape

Step 2

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

butterfly wing outer margin ragged insidebutterfly wing outer margin ragged insidebutterfly 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 edgebutterfly outer margin edgebutterfly outer margin edge

Step 4

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

butterfly wing outer margin markingsbutterfly wing outer margin markingsbutterfly wing outer margin markings
butterfly wing outer margin tiny specklesbutterfly wing outer margin tiny specklesbutterfly 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 raggedbutterfly wing outer edge raggedbutterfly wing outer edge ragged

Step 6

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

butterfly wing upper wing markingsbutterfly wing upper wing markingsbutterfly 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 a pattern on it as well!

butterfly body patternbutterfly body patternbutterfly body pattern

Step 8

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

butterfly costal inner margins darkenedbutterfly costal inner margins darkenedbutterfly costal inner margins darkened

Step 9

Darken the margins, moving carefully around the little markings.

butterfly outer margins darkenedbutterfly outer margins darkenedbutterfly outer margins darkened

Step 10

Darken the area around the markings on the upper wing.

butterfly costal markingsbutterfly costal markingsbutterfly 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 veinsbutterfly darkened veinsbutterfly darkened veins

Beautiful! Your Cool Butterfly Drawing Is Finished!

Good job—you've learned how to draw a beautiful butterfly step by step! We went from a realistic butterfly outline to a complete, detailed drawing. 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 scratchhow to draw butterfly step by step from scratchhow to draw butterfly step by step from scratch

Discover More Awesome Drawing Tutorials

Now that you know drawing a butterfly step by step is easy and fun, you might be looking for more drawing tutorials. Here's a selection of resources you can find on Envato Tuts+. Get ready to make cool butterfly drawings and more!

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