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How to Paint Butterflies with Watercolors

by Jean Van't Hul
January 8, 2023

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

Updated February 2023

One of our favorite watercolor techniques is 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!

Painted watercolor butterflies

So, the other day, we used this watercolor technique to create patterns on butterfly wings. We also used it to make bubbles in water, stars and lightning bugs 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.

Paint 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.

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


  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.

    How to paint watercolor butterflies - single 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 Butterflies with Rubbing Alcohol

  3. Paint the body and antennae of the butterfly

    And repeat with more butterflies!

    Watercolor Butterflies with Rubbing Alcohol Dots

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!

Rubbing Alcohol over Watercolor Paintings

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

More Watercolor Ideas for Kids

Want even more creative ideas?

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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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Watercolor butterflies - pinterest

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