Butterfly Lifecycle cover
Picture of By Barbara

By Barbara

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Butterfly Lifecycle

Butterflies are beautiful and fascinating. They flit through our gardens, alighting on flowers to drink the nectar through their tongues which are like straws. They also like fruit. Butterflies lay eggs on the leaves of a plant. These eggs hatch and young ones called larvae or caterpillars come out of the eggs.

Caterpillars munch happily on leaves, seeds, or flowers. 

One day, the caterpillar stops eating, hangs upside down from a twig and molts into a shiny chrysalis. Inside its protective casing (pupa), the caterpillar transforms and eventually emerges as a butterfly.

We hope you enjoy following our step-by-step instructions on how to paint your handmade, wooden cut-out shapes of the Butterfly Lifecycle. We’ve included a trace-sheet which is mainly for use when working on the butterfly detail but it also has dotted lines to indicate lines you’ll need to draw on the caterpillar and the pupa. If you’re not confident about drawing freehand lines, use the trace sheet. Scroll down to the butterfly to find out how to best use it. You can purchase your set at this link.

Paint all your shapes with an undercoat of white.

We recommend Chalk Paint as a base coat and you’ll only need to paint one layer of white. If you don’t have Chalk Paint, Lily White is perfect but you’ll probably need to paint 2 layers for coverage.

Step 1: Paint your shapes using a wide, flat brush like a Flat 8. Keep your brush strokes smooth so that there is an even coverage over the wooden shape. Pay close attention to the sides of the wood, brushing again through the edges which might gather extra paint, you can smooth these out with your brush.


Paint your first layer of colour

Step 2: Starting with the leaf, make sure you have painted inside the sunken circle pockets with white paint. When the white paint undercoat is completely dry, paint the sunken pockets using Pistachio Green. These are the Butterfly eggs.

Step 3: Paint the caterpillar using the same Pistachio Green. One coat should be enough, remember to paint the edges.

Step 4: Paint the butterfly shape using Naartjie orange taking care to paint the edges as well. The orange will need a second coat.

Step 5: Paint the chrysalis/pupa using Vespa Green. One coat will be enough.

Step 6: Paint the leaf using Apple Green, use a flat brush and paint around the sunken pockets so that the ‘eggs’ remain unpainted with this new colour. Apple Green will need a second coat of paint.


Adding background detail

Step 7: On the pupa, lightly draw a line using an ordinary pencil. The curved line should start at the top right, on the curve and arc down to the centre bottom of the pupa. Then draw a second line from the centre of the top-left curve and meet the first line to make a V-shape.

Step 8: Using Lily White, paint on the inside of the line, on the right hand side of the pupa, apply the paint thinly and before it dries, apply some Vespa Green so that you can blend the two colours. Do the same on the left so that the white is more prominent where it meets the pencil line and fades back to Vespa Green. The white paint should cover the pencil line so you no longer see the pencil line. Allow this to dry.

Step 10: Using Nasturtium Orange and Naartjie Orange again, start by painting a small area of Nasturtium onto the end of the wing. Then using Naartjie Orange, paint into the darker area to blend it. Do this on all four wings so that the darker orange remains at the wingtips, blending into the lighter Naartjie Orange towards the centre of the butterfly. Allow this to dry.


Finishing off the Caterpillar

Step 11: Back to our caterpillar. If you have a green coloured pencil, use it to draw a wavy line on your caterpillar. If you don’t have colour pencils, just use a normal pencil.
Step 12: Using Apple Green, paint the top half of the caterpillar, remembering to paint the sides of the wooden shape. Keep the wavy line nice and neat. You will need to paint a second coat of Apple Green when the first coat is dry. Allow to dry completely.
Step 13: Draw two round circles for eyes using a pencil and paint them both white using either Chalk Paint or Lily White paint. You may need to do two or three layers.


Step 14: Draw circles on the caterpillar’s back lightly with pencil, paint them using Pistachio Green then add darker green dots using Olive Green and a dotting tool.

Step 15: Paint the pupils of the eyes using Jet Black, when dry, add the highlights using Lily White and a dotting tool.

Step 16: Draw a wide smile using a pencil, paint the smile using a medium-fine round brush and Jet Black paint, then dot the ends of the smile. This little guy is complete.


Finishing off the Leaf

Step 17: Draw a line through the centre of the leaf using a pencil and ruler. The line should start at the leaf point and end at the stem.
Step 18: Take a lob of Apple Green and a blob of Olive Green and mix them together to create a lighter olive green, paint one side of the leaf, up to the pencil line, keeping the edge neat. Remember to paint the side edge of the wood. You will probably need a second layer of your new green.
Step 19: Using Chocolate Brown, paint the stem area remembering to paint the side edges of the wood. One or two layers will be fine.

Finishing off the Pupa

Step 20: Using Chocolate Brown, paint the stem area, it might require two layers
Step 21:
 Using your finest brush and Lily White, paint a fine, steady line along the edge of your previous lines
Step 22: Using a medium-sized dotting tool, make little dots, using Lily White paint, along the right-hand side of the long line and beneath the left-hand line.
Step 23: Using Queen’s Gold paint and a slightly smaller dotting tool, dot the area above the left-hand line.

Butterfly detail

Step 24: You’ll find a trace-sheet with your Butterfly Lifecycle pack. It’s an A4 print-out and for the butterfly detail, you’ll need to cut around the butterfly shape with a pair of scissors
Step 25: Hold the paper butterfly up to a window so you can see through the paper and lightly scribble with a pencil, over the reverse side of the paper butterfly, concentrating on the dotted lines
Step 26: Place the paper butterfly on top of your orange painted shape, face-up, so that your pencil marks are face down. Draw a neat line over the outer dotted line, this will transfer onto the wooden butterfly shape
Step 27: Using Jet Black, paint the middle area of the butterfly – the body.

Step 28: Carry on with Jet Black and paint the outer edge of the butterfly, all the way around on both sides, keeping the edge of the black very neat. A Round 4 brush is perfect for this part. Remember to paint the sides of the wooden shape as well
Step 29: Lay the paper butterfly on top of the wooden shape again, make sure all previous paint is dry. Trace over the dotted lines at the top part of the wing to transfer the pencil onto the butterfly shape
Step 30: Using a fine brush (Round 1 is perfect), paint neat, thin lines over the lines you transferred
Step 31: Transfer more lines to the bottom part of the wing and continue with your fine lines
Step 32: Where the lines meet the thicker black part on the edges of the butterfly wings, draw curved lines with a pencil

Step 33: Fill in these curves using Jet Black paint
Step 34: Using a white pencil, draw lines across the butterfly body then paint the lines using Lily White
Step 35:Using white pencil again, draw little circles of varying sizes on the black area on the outer points of the butterfly wing and paint the circles, be sure to add smaller dots as well

All four phases of the Butterfly Lifecycle should be complete now. You can paint the reverse of the shapes to match the other side or just paint them black. You might also like to Varnish the shapes to help them to be more durable during play. Well done!


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