How to Draw and Paint an Adorable Little Duckling

Paint a duckling that'll waddle right into your heart. It's the perfect Easter — or springtime— project!

Watercolor Duckling

Level: Easy

What You Need

  • Pencil
  • Watercolor paper
  • Ruler (optional)
  • Cadmium yellow watercolor paint
  • Naples yellow watercolor paint
  • Burnt sienna watercolor paint
  • Orange watercolor paint
  • Ivory black watercolor paint
  • Titanium white watercolor paint
  • Palette
  • Watercolor brush


1. Sketch the Duckling

Make a few rough sketches of ducklings in different poses so you can determine your composition. Look at the duckling's features as an overall shape — an oval body, a circle head, a triangle beak, etc. This helps you get the basics down first.

If you're struggling with getting the shape right, use a reference photo and make a grid so the proportions are more accurate. Go block by block to compare where each line should be.

Pro Tip

If using the grid method, make sure to draw your lines very lightly so you can erase them once your drawing is finished.

2. Define the Details

When you're happy with the sketch, take your time adding the details, like the webbed feet and downy fluff. Make light pencil marks in the areas that will require shading and depth — this will be important when you start painting.

3. Paint the First Wash

Add a water glaze on the duck's entire body, leaving the feet, eyes and beak dry. Mix cadmium yellow with Naples yellow on your palette to make a pale, buttery shade. Drop in the color until the body is covered. Don't worry about making the wash even — the areas that will require shading should be more saturated.

4. Add Texture and Shading

Saturate more color to add texture and shading while the paper is still damp. To make a deeper yellow for shading, mix a small amount of burnt sienna into your yellow.

Continue building layers of color and adding shading, using your reference photo as a guide.

Good to Know

For the wild duckling in the center, we added stripe markings when the paper was damp so it still spread a little, but not too much. This helps the stripes keep a fuzzy edge, making them look more natural.

5. Paint the Details

Using a pale orange shade, paint the feet and beak. Paint ivory black for the eye and finish it off with a white catch light.

Pro Tip

You can use titanium white watercolor paint or white gouache for the catch light. The gouache can be painted directly over the black watercolor, but you won't be able to see white watercolor over black. If you choose to use watercolor, leave a small space for the catch light unpainted when adding the eye.

Your duckling is done!

Find Your Next Project

Perfect your nature painting with more botanical and animal watercolor projects.

Put your wet-on-dry skills to work with a botanical-style painting! After planning and palette selection, move on to targeted water-glazing and color-dropping. Add depth and contour, then finish up with dry-brushing and final details.
Real talk: you can never have too many adorable bunnies in your life. And in just a few steps, you can capture the twitching noses, gazing eyes and long, floppy ears in watercolor. Hop to it!
Margie Moore
Finally, complete your third and final project: a bluebird on a flowering branch. You'll use the primary palette with the addition of burnt sienna.

February 04, 2020
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How to Draw and Paint an Adorable Little Duckling