how to color bird feathers

For the supplies needed, checkout the Colored Pencil Supplies page.

Here is our subject. The magnificent Peregrine Falcon. I’m using Canson Mi-Teintes Light Blue paper. The light blue color was perfect for my mid tones. White paper will make you feel as though you are constantly up against the stark white. To simplify things, begin with a piece of colored paper.

I use white transfer paper to transfer the drawing onto the paper. Take great care not to press too hard when transferring your sketch. Avoid pressing the lines into the watercolor paper. Once all of your lines have been transferred, return and carefully erase the area you will be working on. Erase the lines as you proceed through the composition. You want to just barely see them.

I always start with the eyes. I start over and don’t finish the remainder of the piece if I’m not satisfied with them. All falcons, including the peregrine, have eyes that resemble black marbles, but up close, in the right lighting, you can see the pupil and realize that the color of their eyes is actually a very dark brown. I tried to show that here.

Colors: Burnt umber, black; highlights, blue slate; iris, and pupil

Here is a close up of the eye. I sort of sneak up on it by starting out lightly with the different colors. I lightly lay down the highlights first to determine their location. Next, I lightly apply burnt umber once more to fill in the desired areas. I gradually move the black and burnt umber back and forth to create the different tones. I gradually apply more and more pressure to the paper in order to fully embed the color. Ultimately, push it deeply into the paper with the colorless blender so that no paper is visible. Be careful with the colorless blender. You cannot go back and add more color after using it. Therefore, before using anything, make sure you’re happy with it.

Next I do the beak. Once more, I work slowly, applying pressure gradually after first laying down the location of each color. I completely burnish this to give it a really solid appearance. Colors: Beak: white, blue slate, slate grey, cool grey 30, 50, 70, black; Cere (nose area): white, cream, yellow ochre

First I la y down lightly the dark areas. This will be the various feather groups and individual feathers. You’ll see that it appears extremely shady right now. That’s OK, were just establishing where everything is right now. Just mapping out the feather groups.

Colors: Top: burnt umber, warm grey 90, ginger root back: warm grey 90, ginger root, warm grey 30; Forehead: white, goldenrod, ginger root

I then go back and pick out the highlights. These steps are done lightly and very scribbly. Right now, I’m just blocking in the different areas. Working with a light touch right now.

Colors White, goldenrod, ginger root

The next action is to begin obtaining the different tones of grey. Because the grey I used is almost exactly the same as the paper, it’s a little difficult to see here. Yet it’s essential to prevent the following hues from becoming overly light or dark.

More, alternating between the shades to mix them and begin completing the paper But still not going too hard with my pressure.

For now, I’ll stop here with the head feathers. I want to avoid going too dark just now, but I’m sure I’ll return later to darken them. In order to get a sense of the tonal value surrounding it, I also simply blocked in the breast feathers using white. I’m still using the same colors mentioned above.

I now start working on the back of the neck. Here, the procedures are the same, but I try to make them a little warmer. Dark color first, highlights then the middle colors.

I’ll put this area on hold until later to assess whether it needs to be darker. They can remain this way for the time being, but I know they will.

On to the back feathers. I began them with the lightest sections first, starting in the opposite direction from the neck feathers. This is to lay down the feather edges. Here, I’ve continued to use the same colors, but in the opposite direction from the neck feathers. Light, medium then dark.

I construct each feather one at a time, completing their shading.

I’ll enlarge this to demonstrate my method step-by-step for creating these feathers. When doing feathers, the most crucial thing to keep in mind is to always follow the direction of the barbs. I don’t actually draw every single barb, but because I always go in the right direction, it appears that I do in the end. Even if you’re just burnishing, go in the barbs direction.

I first mark the location of the shaft by laying down the lightest areas.

Colors cool grey 10, 20, 70, 90, light umber

Then I come back and indicate where the shadows are.

To fill in the feather, all that needs to be done is go back and forth between the different shades of grey, being cautious not to erase the highlights too quickly.

I’ve added a few more to demonstrate that I occasionally go back and give the feathers some shadows or splits.

A few more feathers. Notice I do each one separately. I’ve discovered that attempting to complete several at once results in them all looking the same. It is preferable to complete each one independently so that they are distinct and still somewhat new. Although it can take a lot of time, this is the most effective method.

Again I work the highlights first, then the medium shade

As you can see, I use a light brown to slightly warm up the feathers. A peregrine’s feathers are peculiar in that they have a warm overtone and are blue or grey in color.

I’m almost finished with the wing feathers. I just continued working each feather one at a time.

Phew! Finally finished the last wing feather. Good thing I’m not doing the entire bird. I might go back and darken these. Don’t know yet.

I finished blocking in the breast area. I used the color to create some shadows on the paper, leaving some of it visible.

Colors white, cream, ginger root, goldenrod, sienna brown

I’m just circling back and forth between the white, yellow, and red to fill in the paper and achieve the perfect shading.

I carefully preserved the lighter hues by going back into the neck feathers and darkening them slightly. I think I’ll leave it for now. I added the shadow under the beak. It might be a bit too light. I’ll put up with it for a while and see if anything needs to be worked on further.

Depending on the color I’m using, I start with the lightest or darkest color and work my way up to the brightest color, covering the paper completely rather than burnishing it. Then, I will begin the burnishing based on the appearance I want. Sometimes I just keep working the colors deeper into the paper without using any burnishing at all. I don’t apply more force; instead, I simply keep my pencils sharp and tighten them until the point of the pencil reaches the minuscule flecks to conceal them. I don’t go overboard because I can burnish the colors into the paper to get it completely covered.

I use a variety of colors to blend; first, I’ll choose a medium-toned color and blend it slightly with the colorless blender. When applying heavy burnishing, I will begin by applying different colors, like white, followed by blue/grey tones in the beak. Once I believe I have applied enough color, I will revisit the area and thoroughly blend the colors into the paper. To move the colors around a little bit without completely covering the paper, I will burnish a little bit in other areas using the middle or lightest color, then lightly burnish with the colorless blender.

I hope you enjoyed this demonstration.

Colored Pencil Demo – Feathers by Kathie Miller

Have you ever wondered how artists achieve the appearance of feathers? I will demonstrate the process for you. It’s not hard, but it is time consuming. So get yourself nice and comfy and lets get started. I will demonstrate the process step-by-step for you. If you’d like, you can read through the first time and then come back and follow the instructions, or you can follow along with me. Above all, don’t let the process frustrate you; nothing beats practice to increase your comfort level when using colored pencils. Enjoy the process!

1 Answer 1 Sorted by:

I know that feathers (and beaks) can be temporarily dyed, but is it possible to dye bird feathers as well? g. when consuming brightly colored foods like carrots, beets, or berries They may also become momentarily discolored if they come into contact with toys that have been coloured with vegetable dyes that dissolve in water. However, when the bird bathes or grooms its feathers, this dye disappears. Additionally, the vegetable dyes are safe or even beneficial to health (e g. consuming carotenes), so there is no risk of ingestion when playing or preening.

Was it possible to dye the feathers with a permanent dye? The answer is no. Because permanent dyes are poisonous and would be ingested by the bird, I think that any attempt to do so would seriously harm the bird (1). (2) because the dye would alter the feathers’ characteristics, making it impossible for fluffy feathers to keep their fluff and thus maintain the bird’s body temperature, and (3) because the birds would be terrified during the dyeing process. For young birds, these stressors would be amplified and would likely result in death.

Apart from the concerns related to animal welfare, there are also laws protecting consumers to take into account. I think that dying a bird to make a false impression would be considered fraud, and a seller could be subject to both civil and criminal action (being sued).

According to UK laws pertaining to animal rights and welfare, dying a bird would likely result in criminal prosecution. You could expect fines and/or a prison sentence. You might also go to jail for fraud, and if you and others planned to deceive buyers by selling colored birds, you might face charges under laws pertaining to organized crime and criminal conspiracy. There would be a heavy prison sentence for this too. If other prisoners found out about your conviction for animal abuse, you would probably not enjoy your stay there given the general dislike for people who have committed such crimes.

Any decent person, in my opinion, would not even consider dying birds. However, if there are careless readers of this who don’t give a damn about animal welfare and believe that dying birds might be a cunning way to make quick money, perhaps they will think twice about the penalties they could face.

Personally, I would not think twice to report someone to the police and the RSPCA if I suspected they were trying to dye birds. I’m finding it difficult to respond in a polite manner because I find the very thought of doing this offensive. I hope I’ve been successful, but if not, I hope the reader will see why I’m so furious.

Thanks for contributing an answer to Pets Stack Exchange!

  • Please be sure to answer the question. Provide details and share your research!.
  • Asking for help, clarification, or responding to other answers.
  • expressing opinions and supporting them with references or firsthand knowledge

To learn more, see our tips on writing great answers. Draft saved Draft discarded.


How do bird feathers get their color?

Melanins. Melanins occur as tiny granules of color in both the skin and feathers of birds. Depending on their concentration and location, melanins can produce colors ranging from the darkest black to reddish browns and pale yellows. Melanin provides more than just coloration.