Watercolor Butterflies with Rubbing Alcohol

Watercolor Butterflies with the Rubbing Alcohol Technique

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How to paint beautiful watercolor butterflies using the rubbing alcohol technique for the decorations on the butterfly wings. This is a fun art idea for preschoolers on up.

How to paint watercolor butterflies - single butterfly

This is going to be a quick post about painting watercolor butterflies with one of our favorite watercolor techniques—rubbing alcohol on watercolors.

We don’t use it as much as salt on watercolors, just because it’s a bit more of a commitment and a tad smelly. But the rubbing alcohol has such a dramatic effect on the wet watercolor paint, repelling it and leaving a perfect, lighter circle wherever we drop it. It’s mesmerizing!

So, the other day, we used this watercolor technique to create patterns on butterfly wings. As well as bubbles in water, stars and lightning bugs in the night sky, decorations on hearts and flowers, and abstract art…

Here’s a brief video showing the rubbing alcohol technique in action as we painted watercolor butterflies and other artworks.

Watercolor Butterflies with the Rubbing Alcohol Technique

This post contains affiliate links.MATERIALS

*You can also use watercolor cakes, but if so, be extra generous with the water so that the paint is pretty liquid.

Here is the link for the 6 cups in a base that is shown here holding our watercolor paints. We have a couple that we use all the time and love for liquid watercolor projects!

Art Supplies for Watercolor Butterflies with Rubbing Alcohol

INSTRUCTIONS

First, paint the wings of the butterfly freehand, using the paint brush and liquid watercolors. Be generous with the watercolor paint.

Watercolor Butterflies with Rubbing Alcohol

Then, use the dropper to add drops of the rubbing alcohol on the wings where you want the decorative dots.

Finally, paint the body and antennae of the butterfly.

Watercolor Butterflies with Rubbing Alcohol Dots

Repeat with more butterflies!

Painted watercolor butterflies

Add flowers to give the butterflies a garden.

Watercolor butterfly painting with rubbing alcohol detail

Sometimes the watercolors all bleed together a bit when using wet on wet watercolor like this, which can look really cool.

Adding Rubbing Alcohol bubbles to Watercolor waves in the ocean

You can also use this rubbing alcohol technique to create bubbles in water…

Rubbing Alcohol over Watercolor Paintings

…a night sky, abstract art, or anything else you like!

Want another fun butterfly painting idea? Try Butterfly Symmetry Paintings!

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How to paint beautiful watercolor butterflies using the rubbing alcohol technique for the decorations on the butterfly wings. A fun art idea for adults and kids alike. #watercolor #butterflies #artsandcrafts #paintingtechniques #kidsart #kidspainting #paintingideas

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9 Comments

  • Reply
    Debbie
    June 17, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    Can you use this technique to paint on fabric?

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      June 18, 2018 at 4:18 am

      Hi Debbie – I’m not sure. If you wanted to try this on fabric, I’d try a different kind of paint or dye that is permanent (liquid watercolors aren’t) and then I’m not sure how that different kind of dye/paint would interact with the rubbing alcohol. It might be worth experimenting, though! If you do, I hope you’ll come back here and leave a comment telling us what worked and didn’t work.

      Good luck!
      Jean

  • Reply
    Rebecca
    June 22, 2018 at 7:20 pm

    What is that container you pour the watercolors in for kids to be able to dip brushes? Link?

  • Reply
    Alexandra
    June 29, 2018 at 4:06 pm

    Hi Jean!

    Thank you for the wonderful tutorial! I was wondering if tempera paint would work as a substitute for the liquid watercolor?

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      June 29, 2018 at 11:24 pm

      I don’t think so, Alexandra. But if you don’t have liquid watercolor, you could use a set of watercolor paints in palette or watered down food coloring.

  • Reply
    Libby
    October 4, 2018 at 7:08 am

    Where do you get the tray that is very helpful

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