How to Draw a Butterfly in Graphite and Colored Pencil

Hey everyone in this video I will show you how to draw a realistic looking butterfly by using a layered process of graphite and colored pencils. So check it out below! If you can't watch the video right now, the transcript is below along with links to all of the supplies I am using in this video.

So when you begin a drawing where you are using a reference photo, the process will be far more enjoyable and less frustrating if you are working from a photo that is high resolution.

For instance, I am using a photo from the Website Pexels, which is a platform where you can download free high-resolution images that are also copyright free.

After I have chosen a photo that I want to draw, I use a simple photo editing app to save and print the photo in 3 different versions.

-The first version is the photograph as is, and unretouched.

-The second version is a black and white copy, so I can clearly see the values within the image.

-The third version I adjust the color settings so the image is in complementary color hues of the original image. More on that later.

Printing the image is helpful because you can keep your reference close at hand and make any markings on top of the image that will help you break down complex shapes and make them easier to figure out how to draw.

The Grissaille layer:

Here I am using a Staedler 2b graphite pencil and a blending stomp to create value by mimicking highlights, midtones and shadows. What are highlights, midtones and shadows? Highlights are where the light hits an object the strongest, shadows are where there is an absence of light, and midtones are the values in between. What you cannot see me using here is a very sharp pin to scratch the surface of the paper. Essentially I am creating deep etches in the tooth of the paper. Diid you say tooth? Yes, tooth is the texture of the surface of the paper. Quick tip, when using nice drawing paper, make sure you respect the tooth of your paper by not pressing your pencil down too hard. Once you press the paper tooth down too much, you can not get it back. So why was I using a sharp pin to destroy the tooth you may be asking? Well, in the reference photo I could see tiny, fine white hairs in the image that are nearly impossible for me to draw. Because of which, I used the pin to create a separate layer from the tooth of the paper to preserve the absence of hue. Basically, what i mean is I could add any color to the surface of the paper, and fine white hairs would pop out later from the scratches I’ve already made

The Undertone:

Once you are happy with your rendered graphite drawing, it’s time to preserve that layer by adding a spray of fixative to lock it down. Let the image dry before breaking out your colored pencils. The next part of the process I use the complementary color image that I mentioned before. What are complementary colors? Complementary colors are the colors that are opposite of each other on the color wheel. For instance, the opposite of red is green, the opposite of blue is orange, and the opposite of purple is yellow. Why is this important? Complementary colors essentially neutralize each other leaving you with a very natural looking overall color tone of your piece. Still unsure of why I am doing this? In painting, artists tend to add grey to tone a color and make it more natural, yet you can also get this effect by using complementary colors. You see in nature all colors are present in varying degrees and can be seen by varying lighting. When you see vibrant colors it is because you have a very specific high lighting that will show the pigment perfectly. Yet when viewing an object with the naked eye, color and lighting is fluid and is constantly changing so our interpretation of color is very different than when we take a photograph and edit it. When i use undertones beneath the final colors, I am emulating Still don’t understand? Check out the studies in this book by M.E. Chevereul. After you have finished lightly filling in the undertones, spray the layer with fixative.

The Final Layer:

This layer you may start to press harder with your colored pencils and start to refine the piece by blending or rather burnishing with small circles. A colored pencil blender is a great tool to use to burnish if you don’t want to lighten the colors. If everything appears too dark, then burnish with a white colored pencil and the colors will all begin to illuminate.

When you are happy with the final image, make sure to seal it with one final coat of spray fixative.

Thank you for joining me today and hopefully you were able to learn something new about this specific process I use to draw. Of course, as every artist knows there are millions of ways and processes to create art and this is just one way. In order to truly master art, you must find your own style and consistently practice. By trying many different techniques you will eventually find something that works for you and your style.

Have a wonderful day and I will see you next time.


Staedtler Mars 780 Technical Mechanical Pencil Lead Holder: Staedtler Mars Carbon Lead, 2mm, 2B: Staedtler

Mars Technico Lead Sharpener (502):

Prismacolor 962 Premier Colorless Blender Pencils, 2-Count: Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencil White: Prismacolor 92885T

Premier Colored Pencils, Soft Core, 36 Piece:

Loew-Cornell Assorted Blending Stumps and Tortillions, 10-Count: Large Kneaded Eraser (2 Eraser Pack):

Strathmore (400-4 400 Series Drawing Pad, 9"x12", 24 Sheets: Blair Very Low Odor Spray fix:


The Principles of Harmony and Contrast of Colors and Their Applications to the Arts by M.E. Chevreul and Faber Birren:

▶ Connect with me INSTAGRAM:



▶ Photograph Photo by Egor Kamelev from Pexels

▶ Music - Gravelike by Philip E Morris Soundcloud:

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