How to Do a Watercolor Painting of Bird Feathers

The intricate details of a bird feather might seem daunting and difficult to achieve with watercolor, but they are surprisingly simple to paint, as the way watercolor spreads onto the paper forms the perfect "feathering" effect.

Image Credit: Lucy Akins

Things You'll Need

  • Watercolor paint

  • Palette

  • No. 8 round or No. 6 round paintbrush

  • Cold-press watercolor paper

  • Pencil

  • Water basin

  • Feather or photo of a feather for reference

Image Credit: Lucy Akins

Tip

The paint colors used in this project are: Burnt Sienna, Winsor Yellow, Lamp Black and Indian Red. Prepare your color palette with said colors.

Step 1

Lightly draw the outline of a feather with a pencil and then paint the area inside the lines with clear water.

Image Credit: Lucy Akins

Tip

You don't have to add too much detail to your drawing, as the paint will add the details.

Step 2

While the paper is still wet, dip your brush in Burnt Sienna and paint the very tip of the feather, allowing the paint to spread organically.

Image Credit: Lucy Akins

Step 3

Continue to paint the feather, leaving a thin vein in the middle unpainted.

Image Credit: Lucy Akins

Step 4

Dip your brush in Lamp Black and paint the bottom of the feather, allowing the paint to spread onto the Burnt Sienna. Add some small detail strokes at the bottom to create the "wispy" edges of the feather.

Image Credit: Lucy Akins

Step 5

Use your brush to spread the paint downwards to paint the quill.

Image Credit: LucyAkins

Step 6

Dip your brush in Lamp Black and paint the tip of the feather, and then add some more black paint to the bottom of the feather.

Image Credit: Lucy Akins

Step 7

Mix some Burnt Sienna and Winsor Yellow (3:1 ratio) and with a dabbing motion, paint streaks at either side of the feather. With your brush, add a thin line along the middle of the feather to add dimension, but still leave some of the space unpainted.

Image Credit: Lucy Akins

Tip

Having various shades of brown adds interest, texture and realism to your painting.

Experiment with different shaped feathers. Paint smaller ones, use different colors, patterns, etc. The technique is the same, but the results will differ widely.

Image Credit: Lucy Akins