How to Paint a Hummingbird in 12 Steps


I love painting on platters. They allow me to create detailed paintings on something that can be used for everyday celebrations. When painting on canvases, I like big landscapes with lots of texture and color and thick layers of paint. But when painting on ceramics, often less is more. A simple flower or a delicate bird is a beautiful statement against the white of a plate or platter. You can see more of my limited edition painted pieces here.

You don't have to paint the hummingbird on a platter, you can paint this pretty bird on water color paper, on a canvas, glass, wood, whatever you fancy. This tutorial is simply to demonstrate how easy layering colors and texture can be and when you do it step by step, even if you aren't an experienced painter, you can create a beautiful work of art.

The only thing that you need to make sure you use is paint that is not too opaque. You will need to layer your colors over one another so stick to paints that are thin and have a translucent quality to them. Watercolors would work very well. If you are attempting this on ceramics, then I recommend purchasing ceramic paints from your local craft store that you can heat-set so the plate can be washed.

Okay, enough talk. Let's paint!

Step 1: Outline your bird with a bright green. You can cut out a paper outline of a bird you like the shape of and simply trace it onto your surface with a tiny paint-brush.  

Step 2: Fill in the lower part of the bird with a medium to dark blue


 Step 3: Add in the branch with a medium brown. You can create as many branches as you'd like.

Step 4: Paint over the entire green and blue parts with a thin layer of translucent bright yellow. It's hard to tell that I did anything in the photo, but this step helps to create depth and a sort of "glowing" effect so the feathers of the bird look like they are reflecting sunlight.

Step 5: Fill in the tail with a garnet red or warm purple. Start defining some of the tail feathers that overlap the green and blue. 

Step 6: Out line the branch with a very dark brown and create irregular lines to mimic bark. Also use the same dark blue as before and create tiny half-moons or little smiles all over the green and blue. This is where you start defining the little tiny feathers that cover the hummingbird. Also with the blue, fill in the beak of the bird as well as outline the eye. You create the eye by painting a circle within on oval.  (Yes, I'm cheating here and it's technically more than one step) 

Step 7: Use a black to create line lines that define the tail feathers. Also, with the black fill in the circle of the eye (not the oval, leave some green visible). Also fill in the beak. Make sure the end of the beak stays thin and long. We don't want any chubby beaks. 

Step 8: Just like the smiles you did in blue before, repeat them in white, all over. The tinier the better. You can also more clearly define the overlapping green feathers over the red tail feathers. Also use the white to accent the eye and beak.

Step 9: Fill in the red tail feathers completely with a thin layer of darker purple or red. We want the color to be rich and full so you can't see any brushstrokes. Don't be afraid to paint directly over the black lines.

Step 10: Remember all those tiny white "smiles" you painted in step 8?  Cover them up with a translucent bright green. That's right, just paint over all the white. What this does is creates subtle layering and contrast. 

Step 11: Repeat with the same white "smiles" again over the green and blue. This may seem redundant, but it's these extra tiny steps of detail that make the difference between a simple hummingbird, and a stunning hummingbird with lots of details and visual texture. 

 Step 12: Just like before, paint over all the tiny white smiles. This time use the bright yellow. Now you have tiny feathers in shades of blue, green and yellow that create that stunning iridescent glow of the hummingbird. And you're done!