How to Perfectly Paint a Butterfly Face

an image of Olga Murasev wearing a green and red butterfly face paint design
Olga Murasev — 29 August 2017 —


I bet the butterfly was your first (or second) design that you tried when you jumped into the colorful world of face painting. Did I guess right? 😉

There are countless styles and shapes that make a butterfly design. The secret of their perfection is that they all share the same geometrical form.

Once you understand the rules of painting a harmonious butterfly shape and how best to apply face paint, you can confidently create many more variations.

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When I started practicing face painting I analyzed hundreds of different butterfly face paintings, as well as pictures of real butterflies. For a long time, I was tormented by the question of why some butterflies looked balanced and harmonious even if they were simple. While others, despite being beautiful and intricate, did not create that pleasing effect.

This topic is so wide, that I could barely fit everything into one blog post. So I’ll only present the essential tips that will help you take your butterflies to a new level.

All the other details are covered in the “Butterflies” module in part three of my Online Course. Check out the detailed Course Program here.

Finding the Focal Point

You’ve most probably already heard me speaking countless times about the importance of the Focal Points Theory. Because this knowledge is fundamental to harmonious face painting.

But let’s get back to butterflies. Start by setting the main focal point, towards which the wings will be pointing.

There are three main FPs to consider for this purpose:
1. FPs of the inner corners of the eyes
2. Intermediate FPs
3. Central FP

Butterflies - face painting - focal points

Building the shape

Main shape:

  • top wing should be bigger than the bottom wing
  • top wing is triangular and bottom wing is of a petal shape
  • top wing is placed under a 45 angle degree (sometimes this angle can slightly vary from 40 to 60 degrees)
  • the wings connect in one point, called the focal point (FP)

Building the inside:

  • all strokes inside the wings are pointing towards the focal point
  • top wing is made out of 3 triangular sections, all pointing towards the FP and where the middle section is the narrowest one
Butterflies - face painting - tips and tricks
Tip: You may also find the “7 steps for symmetrical face painting designs” useful for learning how to achieve symmetry in your butterflies.

Choosing the style

There are heaps of style variations that could be applied to a butterfly design, but I would divide them into three main groups:

  • Sponged background and outline done with a round brush (Jenny Saunders butterfly, Jocelyn Casdorph butterfly, Annie Reynolds butterfly).
  • One stroke background and outline (Nurit Pilchin butterfly, Natalee Davies butterfly).
  • Creative butterfly that combines different techniques (Debz Mills butterfly).

So once you’ve learned how to build a pleasing shape, it’s time to move on mastering the four essential techniques in face painting (linework, one stroke, double dip and blending). By combining them, you can achieve amazing results in your artwork and develop your creativity.

In the International Face Painting School we study each of these techniques separately, polishing each type of stroke and training the steadiness in the hands until the technique is perfect.

If you are still looking for your own style, try out different styles, copy as much as possible and see what you love more.

Butterflies - face painting - different styles
Tip: You may want to check out my “How to create your own original designs” blog post, that will give you useful tips on how to develop your own style.

Three pieces of advice for a beginner

During my 6 year experience as an instructor, I’ve been carefully watching the mistakes my students made when painting butterflies. I’ve identified 10 main mistakes, that I’ve included detailed explanations in my online Course.

Here are three main mistakes and how to fix them:
1. Reduce the size — Most beginners are painting butterflies that are too big, these cover the entire face, but are lacking shape.

2. Find the focal point — One of the most common mistakes in painting butterflies is connecting the wings in a wide line on the bridge of the nose. Try to connect them in one single point.

3. Pay attention to the top wing placement — Another frequent mistake is placing the top wing vertically. Place it under a 45 degree angle and you’ll see what a huge difference this makes.

And last, but not least — practice as much as possible.

Success doesn’t come from what you do occasionally. It comes from what you do consistently.

Not happy with your linework? 😢 Take our “Improve Your Linework In 3 Days” workshop! It’s FREE! 😍

Free Online Workshop - Improve Your Linework in 3 Days

These are the butterflies that we are studying in the “Butterflies” Modules in Part Three on the Course. We start by learning the rules of harmonious placement and building a correct shape and then we move on painting 5 different types of butterflies:

  • butterfly made of teardrops
  • basic butterfly outlined with a round brush
  • one stroke butterfly
  • small one stroke butterfly
  • double dip butterfly

Butterflies in the International Face Painting School

Start with simple shapes and basic techniques, gradually making the artwork more and more intricate.

And here is one of the great results of diligent studies and practice under thoughtful tutoring. Tatiana Bezvykonnaia nailed the one stroke butterfly!

Check out more Students achievements here.

Butterflies - face painting - before and after

Looking for butterflies step-by-step tutorials and inspiration? Check out these incredible blog posts:
Easy One Stroke Butterfly
Rainbow Butterfly Design


Did you enjoy this tutorial? Hit “SHARE” and let your fellow face painters know about it! 👇👇👇

 — Olga Murasev

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