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How to Paint Watercolor Butterflies

by Jean Van't Hul
January 8, 2024

How to paint watercolor butterflies using rubbing alcohol for the decorations on the butterfly wings. This is a fun art idea for kids of all ages, and adults, too!

Updated March 2024

One of our favorite watercolor techniques is rubbing alcohol on watercolor paint.

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!

This watercolor technique is perfect to create patterns on butterfly wings. We also love to use it to make bubbles in water, stars in the night sky, decorations on hearts and flowers, and even some abstract art.

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

Watercolor Butterflies for Kids

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


  1. Paint the butterfly wings

    Use the paint brush and liquid watercolors to paint the wings of the butterfly freehand. Be generous with the watercolor paint.

    watercolor butterfly

  2. Add drops of rubbing alcohol

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

    watercolor butterfly with rubbing alcohol

  3. Paint the body and antennae of the butterfly

    And repeat with more butterflies!

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

Watercolor butterfly painting with rubbing alcohol detail

You can use this rubbing alcohol technique to create all kinds of beautiful effects on your paper: tentacles on an octopus, bubbles in water, a night sky, abstract art, or anything else you like! You and your children will want to keep coming back to this fun watercolor option!

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

More Watercolor Ideas for Kids

Want even more creative ideas?

Check out our Spring Creativity pack!

Let creativity blossom with this fun bundle of art activities perfect for Spring!! This 40-page printable eBook is full of coloring pages, drawing prompts, games, and more!

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How to Paint Watercolor ButterfliesHow to Paint Watercolor Butterflies

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