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Feather Painting Tutorial

By Novawuff
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106 Comments
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Finally!

If this still leaves questions, go ahead and bounce them off me and I'll do my best to answer...

don't tell me if I spelled or typo'ed anything though, because i'll just smack you ;}

a few more notes about acrylics, for those who are new to the medium..
there's stuff you can buy to mix them with to extend the drying time or to increase transparency without making them all runny, but I only ever used just plain ol' water. When you're blocking your colors in, just use them straight to get the quickest buildup. Once you've moved to your details, mixing them with a little water to thin them down makes it a lot easier to work them into tiny spaces. Don't overload your brush, and make sure to clean it every time you switch colors.
Since acrylics are plastic, my favorite pallete is just an old bucket lid. Once they've dried, they peel back off and you can use it over and over... acrylics dry awfully fast, but if you need to save your color blobs, you can slip the whole thing into a big zip-loc bag and it'll keep for a few days. I discovered one day that the plastic from the bag and the plastic from the lid actually brought some of my dried paint back to life, which I didn't think was possible with acrylics, but there you go!
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© 2007 - 2020 Novawuff
Comments106
anonymous's avatar
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Beltaneh's avatar
Thank you kindly for this tutorial! :clap:
Some of these tricks are really useful.... I have ruined some feathers already as well... :|
PeregrineFlight's avatar
soooo helpful! Thank you!!!
ravencry's avatar
Thank you for the very informative tutorial, I love the fact that you use laymans terms that I can easily understand. I have never painted a feather (successfully), but I bead the shafts of the feathers and wanted to add a better focal point rather than just the beads.
solwol's avatar
Brilliant, step by step.  Gonna have a go now.
featherpainter's avatar
I paint on feathers also, I agree with Nambroth. I like my feather looking natural. During the painting process I use packing tape on the back of the feather, when I am done painting I  pull it off very slowly. Everyone has their own way of doing things, this is just what works best for me.
Also, Canadian Geese and the Sand Crane are illegal to paint on. 

imalwaystired's avatar
I have a few questions! So if we were to glaze the feather, we would mix water and gloss to be able to spray? Or we could just paint the backround a solid color?? I love your feather painting and hope to do one soon!
burrumgirl's avatar
Excellent tutorial, thank you so much. Just love your paintings too, thank you.
Kitrei-Sirto's avatar
this is cool, ive just discovered this and its cool so i tried it ^^ its fun, although my painting isnt as good as yours but its still good
o0Moonlight-Sonata0o's avatar
Awesome painting! Random question, do you think you could paint the entire feather?
I'm making black angel wings for a costume, and, having to drop $100 on 2 lbs of black feathers, I want to be able to reuse them. However, the other wings I'm looking at making are white with pink tips. Is there any way that something similar to this would work?
BazarDeLaNature's avatar
awesome tutorial thanks you so much!
Treekami's avatar
this is perfect! I want to start painting on feathers and this will help me big time. thank you <3
LiliaceaeTigrinum's avatar
I JUST discovered this method of painting and I have to admit I am enthralled! I recently started experimenting in acrylics and want something unique to do but not something that is going to drain my pocket dry. This tutorial is exactly what I was looking for. It's simple, I did like seeing the pallette lol, and left me with very few questions. I do want to ask what the fixative is that you use to hold the feather still. Is it something like hairspray? Or is it more of an actual artistic spray that must be bought?
dAcrap's avatar
Where do you buy your feathers?
wafflemuncher's avatar
This...I will try...It will not be nearly as...amazing...as your work...but you have inspired me! :D
Fire13's avatar
I've only seen two other feather painting tutorials on here but I think yours makes the most sense to me. For someone that has worked with acrylics very little, you do a great job of explaining how the paint will act on the feather and how to build it up. As for preparing the feather, I haven't found anyone who explains it like that and I think you have e best way of doing it. I work with feathers a lot and sometimes spray them with fixative just to make them easier to use so it makes sense to do that before painting them.

Thank you for putting up this tutorial, it really is very helpful. Definate favorite.
justjingles's avatar
You may have just saved my painting class grade. Thank you.

does this work with oil paint?
Novawuff's avatar
augh just realized i never replied. oil paints will work if you use them over the top of an acrylic base layer. i've tried using them right on top of a raw feather and the oil vehicle from the paints seeped into the feather barbs and made an oil stain halo around the colored paint part. it looked awful and ruined the feather ;P
but on top of acrylics should work.. the acrylic will seal the feather and act like a gesso to build the oils onto :}
YvonniFhang's avatar
I have a huge collection of feathers at home.... This makes me want to experiment... ^^
Thanks much for the tutorial.
Oh, and by the way, all your art is AWESOME! :aww:
greanbean101's avatar
Great tutoriel thanks :D
XhorsexgleekX's avatar
How do you suggest I start feather painting? I have no idea where I'll get the real feathers...
Novawuff's avatar
most of mine are turkey.. if you don't know anyone who bird hunts, you can get them at craft stores, and also order them online. lemme see if i can look any up real quick...
okay, first result in google for "turkey feathers"
[link]

looks like it woudl be a good place to start..goose feathers also work well. i've seen some really neat one were folks took 2 or 3 flat feathers (so, a turkey tail feather, but not any kind of wing feather) and glued them together on the back, fanning them out a bit like a deck of cards..
[link]
like that! so if you can't find any feathers big enough for what you want to paint, you can always use more of them...

there's some really dumb laws regarding which bird feathers are okay to keep and which ones aren't.. but you're always safe with game birds, which are any of the ones that you can shoot during hunting season. :}
XhorsexgleekX's avatar
Thanks :) I'll be sure to try it!
astalicia's avatar
I need to try this one day ^^
pixelguru's avatar
Sweet -- thank you! :D
anonymous's avatar
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