7 Easy Steps to Painting a Bird, What You Need To Know

Khan the Eagle, by Anita Hummel, Anita Louise Art

 I love to paint animals as I find them a very interesting subject matter to paint. One animal I have started to paint recently has been all kinds of birds. To some artists, it can seem difficult to paint a bird.

To help make the painting of a bird easier, I have outlined 7 easy steps to help you paint a bird as a subject matter. These seven basic steps include 1) layout and plan your painting using Procreate on your Apple Ipad, 2) print out your Procreate layout in the size of your canvas 3) prepare to use your Procreate layout to place your artwork onto the canvas 4) use studio charcoal to outline the Procreate layout on the canvas 5) fill in any missing lines of the design 6) start painting a base coat and 7) add details to your painting.

If you follow these 7 basic steps you can paint some amazing paintings of all your favorite bird subjects:

Step 1 – Layout and Plan Your Painting

One of the most important things you can do whenever you start painting is to have a plan in mind. Having this plan in mind will help to save you time in the long run and help give you the best-completed painting possible.

I always layout my oil paintings using my Apple Ipad and the Procreate app. You can do a lot of amazing things with this Procreate app and I find it helps to save me a lot of time in the long run.

To use Procreate you need to have an Apple Ipad and pencil. I prefer to use the Apple Ipad Pro as I find it works better with the Procreate app. Procreate is not an expensive program (only $9.95 for the entire program- no monthly fees or costs) but you should invest in a decent Apple Ipad and an Apple pencil.

In many places around the world, Apple will teach classes in their stores about Procreate and the Apple Ipad. This is really great service and I have found that many of the Apple staff who are teaching these classes are also artists, so they have some great insight into how to use Procreate.

During these free classes that Apple gives, they will allow you to try out the Apple Ipad and Procreate before you purchase it. If you have any questions about this program please visit Apple.com or go to your local Apple Store.

I love to use Procreate as it allows me to work off the canvas before I actually start to paint anything, especially something as complicated as painting a bird. One of the great things about this is that it will give me an idea of what my bird painting will look like before I actually start to paint anything on the canvas.

To find out more about using Procreate and laying out your paintings with Procreate can read our blog  Procreate to Layout your Oil Paintings, What You Need to Know by clicking here. We show you why we like to use Procreate to layout our paintings. We really feel Procreate is a great tool to use to layout your paintings before you put anything onto the canvas.

You can watch our video below on the steps we use to layout our paintings. Though this video is about painting a dog, we use the same steps for painting a bird:

Using Procreate to Help You Set Up Your Paintings
How Layout Your Paintings on Procreate

The great thing about using Procreate is that it can give you an idea of what your painting may look like before you even start to paint it. That is one of the main reasons I love it so much. I find by having an idea of what my painting will look like, it really helps me throughout the entire painting process.

I like to think of this step as the same as how the old masters would sketch out and draw out their paintings before they actually painted anything. Except, today by using this wonderful technology and by using Procreate this can be a much faster process than ever before.

Step 2 – Print Out Your Layout

When you are painting a bird, one of the most important things is to get the proportions correct for your painting. If the proportions are not correct it can be a huge problem and the bird will not look right.

When I am painting a subject like a bird, and I know it will require that I get the proportions very close, I will print out my Procreate layout in the canvas size I am going to be painting. If for example, my canvas is 20″ x 20″ then I will print my layout in a 20″ x 20″ size.

Sometimes I will print out the larger size of my print in black and white due to the cost of having to print out a large size in color. The black and white works just fine to do the layout with. But I always print out the layout also in color, even if it is a smaller size so I can use the color print as my reference for my painting.

Today with all the technology we have available, there are so many ways we can use technology to help us with our painting and to become better artists. Certainly, one way is to get a very good printed copy of your layout so that you can use that printed copy as the model for the actual painting of your subject matter like a bird.

Step 3 – Prepare to Layout On The Canvas

Once I have printed my Procreate layout print in either a large black and white print or a color print, then I will use this as the basis to use to actually outline the bird onto my canvas. This helps me to make sure I get the proportions as close as possible.

There are two methods that I use to layout my bird painting on the canvas and to get my proportions as close as possible:

  • Trace the design layout onto your tracing paper – Sometimes I will trace and outline the Procreate layout print onto tracing paper. This will give me the shape and lines that I need to get very accurate proportions of my bird that I can then put onto my canvas.
  • Use the Procreate Print – Other times I skip the step of tracing and outlining on to the tracing paper and will use the Procreate layout print to outline the bird directly onto my canvas. Lately, I have been using my Procreate layout print so as to not have to do the extra step of tracing onto the tracing paper. But, if I find the print or subject matter needs it then I will use the tracing paper to outline what I am painting first.

Step 4 – Use Charcoal to Put On The Canvas

Now that I have the print all set up either with the tracing paper or the actual print copy, I am now ready to put the design of the bird directly on to my canvas.

Here is how I will do these steps:

  • Use either the tracing paper or print of the bird in the exact size to put the bird design on my canvas. I will then put charcoal all over the back of the tracing paper or the print of the bird. The charcoal I use is similar to this basic Studio Charcoal. You can find out more about the Charcoal by clicking here.
  • I will tape the tracing paper or print of the bird on my canvas by using masking tape. Here is a good very brand of masking tape that you use or use something similar. Any kind of basic masking tape should work. The reason I use masking tape is when you are tracing the design on to the canvas you do not want the paper or canvas to move or get damaged.
  • Trace or outline the areas you want to paint for the bird. I will try to outline as much of the painting as I can. Especially when I am painting a bird. I will also try to roughly outline the areas that have shading or color changes for my bird. This way when I start to paint the bird I do not need to guess so much as to where to put the shading or other changes of color of the bird on my canvas.
  • Many times I will trace my bird using a colored pencil or pen on the topside of the Procreate layout print. I do this so that I can clearly see where I have already traced for the bird. I have found that if I do not do this, I can sometimes forget an entire section or part of my design and will have to try to match it up again.
  • Once I have completed this step then I will carefully take the tracing paper or print off the canvas and make sure I have put in all the lines that I need to on the canvas to correctly paint my bird.

Step 5 – Fill In the Lines on the Canvas

Once I have taken the tracing paper or the layout paper of my bird off the canvas, I will then check the lines drawn on the canvas.  If you did not use enough of the charcoal on the back of the tracing paper or paper you may have missed important areas of your bird design. This is why with the tracing paper method you can more easily go back to try to line up the bird design and fill back in the lines. When using just the Procreate layout print method, this is much more difficult to do.

Using my pencil or even the charcoal, I will start to pencil or fill in the lines or areas of my bird design that I need to or may have missed.  Sometimes the charcoal is dark enough and do I do not need to do anything else for the design. Other times I may need to go over the bird designs with a light pencil sketch.

My goal for all these steps is to have a bird design roughly sketched out on the canvas that is defined enough so that I can really get the proportions of the bird correct for my paintings.

The African Necklace, by Anita Hummel, Anita Louise Art
The African Necklace, by Anita Hummel, Anita Louise Art

Step 6 – Start With a Base Coat

I always start my painting with a detailed painted base coat of the bird. The great part of this is that now that I have an idea of where the colors and shading will be, so many times during this base coat painting, I try to get as close to how the painting of my bird will look as possible.

Here are important things to remember when painting a bird:

  • Carefully check your proportions. Proportions are very important when you are painting a bird painting. So you need to make sure that you have the correct proportions of the bird or the painting will not be correct.
  • The bird base coat should be as close to the colors you want as possible. If your bird is going to be white then paint the base coat white in the appropriate area. If the bird is to be black then paint the black tones for your bird on the base coat. Use those colors for the base coat of your bird which are as close to the colors you want for the finished bird painting. This is another reason why to lay things out on Procreate beforehand and to have a clear plan of painting the bird before you start actually painting is such an important step.
  • Add as much detail to the bird painting as you can. I find if I can add as much detail to my bird painting during this base coat phase it helps save me time for my entire painting.

Step 7 – Paint The Details

Once you have painted your base coat, now you are ready to paint the finer details of your bird painting. For me when I am painting a bird it usually takes me another two or three coats and sometimes even four or five coats of paint before I am completed. How many paint coats I need to paint, will depend on what I am painting or how close to get to what I need on the base coat of paint. That is why I say the proportions and base coat are so important when painting birds.

Here are some things to consider when painting birds:

  • Mix colors on the canvas – When I am painting a bird, especially when painting the feathers of birds, I will mix a lot of the colors on the canvas, not on the palette. This helps give some of the natural variations that the birds have for their feathers.
  • Use a lot of white – I tend to use a lot of white colors for example white with brown or white with black or grey when I doing the feathers of a bird.. The brushing strokes can help it look more like feathers.
  • Consider using some deep indigo blues instead of black – I love indigo blue and use it a lot in all my paintings. Many times I will use it in place of the color black as I find it to be a less harsh color. So do not be afraid to use some deep colors like indigo blue to replace some of the harsher colors like black.

Birds are really great subject matters to paint. They are not only beautiful animals, but they are a fun subject matter to paint. If you can follow these seven simple steps, painting a bird can also be quite easy to paint.

What are some steps to painting a cat?

The steps to painting a cat are very similar to painting a bird, dog or any kind of animal. We use all these same seven steps for any animal we paint.

You can read more about how to paint a cat by reading our blog 7 Easy Steps to Painting a Cat by clicking here.

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If you are considering starting a home-based art business you should first try to understand what your goals are in starting your home-based art business. You need to also be sure that you have a proper place in your home where you can operate your business from. But, all of this will not matter if you are not producing high-quality artwork on a consistent basis.

To find out more about starting a home-based art business, you can read our blog Planning to Start A Home-based Art Business, What To Consider by clicking here.

Anita Louise Hummel

Hi, I am Anita Louise Hummel. I am an artist and a blogger. I paint mainly oil paints. I love to paint women, animals (mainly dogs and cats), and abstracts. I use a lot of gold and silver leaf in my paintings. I also love to blog about anything to do with art, business, Procreate, and all the wonderful artists that inspire me.

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