how to paint a hummingbird

with watercolor

Hummingbirds are very popular, so let's learn how to paint a hummingbird.

The Ruby-throated hummingbird is the most wide-spread hummingbird in the United States. We will do our painting with watercolor.

How to Paint a Hummingbird with watercolor by painting artist Carol MayHow to Paint a Hummingbird with watercolors

hummingbirds are fun to paint!

Here is a sampling of some of the hummingbird paintings I have done in the past.

The first one "Lady's Bath" is a hummer enjoying the spray from a sprinkler. We would see them flying thru the spray on our bird bath and I thought it would be fun to paint.

The second watercolor painting is a "Broad-billed Hummingbird" with delphinium flowers done in a colorful, loose painting style.

Costa Hummingbirds are seen in the southwest where cacti live. So I put the "Costa Hummingbird" visiting a cactus flower.

The "R-T Hummer" is the first hummingbird painting I did with watercolor. I saw them visiting the trumpet flowers on my garden fence.

"Spring Beauty" is an oil painting of a Ruby-throat visiting azalea flowers. It is an oil painting.

Lady's Bath a watercolor painting by artist Carol MayLady's Bath
Broad-billed Hummingbird a watercolor painting by artist Carol MayBroad-billed Hummer
Costa's Hummingbird a watercolor painting by artist Carol MayCosta's Hummingbird
R-T Hummer a watercolor painting by artist Carol MayR-T Hummer
Spring Beauty an oil painting by Carol MaySpring Beauty

Enough of my paintings, let's learn how to paint a hummingbird with watercolor!

how to paint a hummingbird


I did this painting on an 8x10 Aquabord. You may certainly use watercolor paper.

All of my watercolor paintings are done with tube watercolors.

Watercolor paintings are done with soft brushes made specifically for painting watercolor.

This painting is done with a semi-triad color scheme of yellow, red and green.

painting the hummer

You may find the basics of watercolor painting on the How to Watercolor page, so there is no need to repeat everything here.

The drawing was done on a separate paper and transferred to the painting surface with graphite paper. If you are good at drawing, just draw directly onto the painting surface.

  • Start with a light yellow-green on the top edge of the head and body.
  • As you move into the head and body, paint a darker green.
  • Put some dark (mix red and green together to make black) on the underside of the chin and just below the wings where there will be a shadow.
  • Paint the beak and eye with the same black. Use less water, so the color will be darker.
  • Leave the top-side of the beak unpainted and leave a white highlight in the eye.

  • Before the  beak dries, use a damp brush and pull diluted color to the top side of the beak. Light will be hitting the top of the beak and make it appear lighter than the bottom side of the beak.
  • Keep adding more green to the head and body.
  • Add more black to the beak and eye, if they dry too light.
  • Leave a bit of white around the eye to differentiate it from the feathers. Many hummingbirds also have a white patch behind the eye.

Now we get to paint where its name came from "Ruby-throated Hummingbird".

  • Paint the gorget with red.
  • Use lighter red near the light and darker red under the throat.
  • Put some green out on the tail feathers.
  • Add some dark to differentiate between the tail feathers.
  • Shadow the underside of the belly a bit with a diluted beak color.

  • Paint the wings with a diluted version of the beak color.
  • You may put darker shadows between the feathers.
  • An optional way is to paint the wing feathers all the same light color.
  • When the color is almost dry, put some lines to indicate the separation of feathers.
  • There is some green that goes from the body up into the base of the wing that holds the flight feathers.

  • Put some color down onto the body, but leave a white space behind the gorget.
  • There is also a bit of white under the body just in front of the tail.
  • He has a couple of little black feet tucked up under his body.
  • Paint the flower with shades of red that match the ruby-throat of the bird.
  • The center petals of the flower are light yellow and the shadows are the same grey as the bird's wings.
  • Put some green sepals on the flower to tie it together with the green on the hummer.
  • Hooray!

The painting is finished or you may put a light wash on the background as above.

now it's your turn!

Now that you know how to paint a hummingbird, you may want to paint a Ruby-throated Hummingbird or one of the other types of hummers.

See photos of the various types of hummingbirds seen in the United States.

The Basics of Watercolor page has a demo of a Rufous Hummingbird visiting a yellow daisy flower. It is done in a smother style of painting that you may like.

Visit the other How to Paint Watercolor pages, you will learn some more watercolor techniques and have a chance to paint a variety of critters.

Happy Painting!

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