Step-by-Step Watercolour Painting Tutorial: Flower Branch With Blue Butterfly (In Procreate)

Taking a butterfly on a faded flower as my subject allows me to explore many aspects of drawing and painting. Firstly the position of the various elements, the leaves, the flowers and the butterfly along the branch allows the viewer’s eye to run from one side of the painting to the other.

Watercolour colour palette

The colour palette can also be explored with each element subject to different hues and ranges. And lastly, there is a contrast between the way each element is approached, the relatively flat leaves, the more detailed and complex flowers and the contrasting colours of the butterfly itself. A perfect range of varying tasks to be undertaken.

Firstly, I established the main points of the composition, starting with the butterfly itself. This will eventually be the main draw for the eye once the colour is introduced and is also in the foreground of the painting. Positioned three-quarters of the way across a line from bottom left to top right, its position is chosen to draw the eye across the page. The outline was established, some detail began as a reference point and some small points of relevant background were established.

This sees the complete sketch of most of the elements that the painting is made of. The branch and the additional leaves are positioned, more detail of some of the leaves is suggested and planned out and the composition and positions start to take shape.
The flowers, which sit in front of the leaves but behind the butterfly, are beginning to take shape. One is positioned to establish the form and shape of this element.
The remaining flowers along the top of the branch are added. Things do start to look a bit confused at this point due to the two-tone nature of black pencil on a white background but it is the contrasts of the paint that will make each element stand out against each other, the lines are just the working mechanics that will guide the digital brush later on.
The final flower is placed, each element is in its place.
The remaining detail is added to the butterfly. It is time to start adding colour to the piece.’
Starting with the elements farthest back – the leaves – the blends of green and light brown are used to create tone and texture, the contrasts between suggesting contour and movement.
This close up shows that the colour palette used is fairly simple and it is the contrasts between the hues and highlights rather than the use of a broad range of colours that lifts the two-dimensional drawing into something more lifelike.
The same applies to the flowers themselves. It is the contrast of browns, reds and yellows which create the illusion of folds and texture of the flowers, the result is a series of tightly packed swirls of petals.
The detail here shows the power of highlights, of certain darker lines or more shaded detail which creates the contrasts which suggest depth and dimension.
And when you pull back you can see the contrast between the more complex brown-yellow of the flowers and the plainer greens behind them.
And further contrast is created by adding the blue details to the butterfly itself. Although all three areas – the green leaves, the yellow-brown flowers, the blue creature – have fairly toned down palettes, it is the contrast between the three which makes each stand out from the other.

Although the palette remains subdued from one element to the next, there is more than enough variance to make each stand out from the other. Add to that the contrast with the white and shaded backdrop and you have a great and well-observed painting and a great way to explore this superb digital tool.

Some might argue that the digital revolution, whilst being advantageous in most areas has, to a degree, taken some of the skill away from more creative endeavours. Sound technology has opened music up to those who might not otherwise have had a chance to get involved in such an art form, video advancements have made film making affordable and self-contained, and digital art packages have made illustration and painting more convenient in the busy modern world.

But, these are all just tools, means to an end and packages such as Procreate, different from paint or brushes or canvas, but in fact, acts as all three of those items. There is also something of a cost-saving to be had from using such technology – the paints don’t run out, the brushes don’t need to be replaced and a new canvas is available at the click of a button. You can also undo any mistakes, something prolonged if using pencils, difficult and time-consuming in oils and almost impossible in watercolours.

Tools & Resources

  • Procreate Realistic Watercolour Paintbrush & Canvas Set:

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