How to make symmetrical butterflies using oil pastels and watercolors

Symmetrical Butterflies




This lesson is part math, part magic and all art! Students fold a piece of paper in half, draw on one side and press to create a symmetrical butterfly.

If you have time, it’s wonderful to cut out the butterfly and add glue lines along parts of the butterfly and then sprinkle with glitter. I have done this in the past but strangely enough, I have no photographic records!

For this lesson you will need a white 12″ x 18″ sheet of paper, a black or dark oil pastel, pictures of butterflies, and watercolor paints. For the background, you will need scissors, glue and colored paper.

How to draw a symmetrical butterfly

Students fold their paper in half (width wise), then open up paper and flatten. Draw one half of a butterfly.

How to draw a symmetrical butterfly

After drawing half the butterfly, fold the paper in half and rub vigorously.  The oil pastel will transfer onto the other half of the paper. It’s important to use a dark color oil pastel that is creamy, not brittle, otherwise, the pastel will not transfer properly. Also, make sure the kids generate a little heat! This aids in the transferring of the oil pastel.

Using Oil Pastels to draw a symmetrical butterfly

Open up the paper and you will see the lines appear on the other side of the paper. They will be faint. Trace over the lines to create a perfect symmetrical butterfly! Paint the butterfly with watercolor paints. Cake or liquid is fine but since you aren’t using watercolor paper, liquid watercolors tend to be too wet. Stress how important it is to keep the colors the same on both sides of the butterfly.

If desired, cut out the butterfly and glue onto a colored piece of construction paper.

Cake tempera symmetrical butterflies with watercolors for third graders art lesson

What do you think?

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  • Stella Luckey

    Love this project! My first graders made beautiful butterflies and learned about symmetry at the same time.
    Thanks Patty

  • Tanya Fee-Bouthot

    Hi! Thanks for lesson…we’re going to give it a try this week…can’t wait to see how they turn out. I do a similar “transfering” project with my 1st graders & wanted to supply a little tip to help make the transfer of the oil pastels a little easier. I give each student a craft stick and tell them to use it as a “magic” wand and rub it over the top of their picture, making sure to apply some pressure. The image trasfers very easily this way and the kids love that they got to use a “magic wand”. Makes it a bit more fun and eliminates little ones from becoming frustrated with images that don’t transfer so well. Thanks for the lesson!

    • Patty

      This is a great tip! I love the verbiage…who wouldn’t want to use a magic wand?

      • Lynna

        We did this last week in first grade and they LOVED the magic wands!! I’m going to attempt it this week with kindergarten and the tissue paper. I *know* they will love the wands…I just hope they “get” the symmetry part and I can get them to draw only on one side of their paper.

  • Cathy

    I did this project last week and they turned out so beautiful! I used the “magic wand” to rub, and the kids loved the whole process. We hung them from the ceiling.

  • MJ

    I did this project a few weeks ago and just posted about it tonight!
    We used black oil pastels and then colored with oil pastel. They turned out so bright and beautiful! Thank you for all of your inspiring ideas!

  • Ako xi jhun

    try to use paint (poster paint) then color the symmetrical picture and fold and rub gently and be care full on rubbing .thanks a lot..!!!

  • Ako xi jhun

    try it on the other side has a picture like on the otherside!!

  • rosh

    i like the butterfly

  • Kari

    This worked great with my 4th graders today. I’m a volunteer art teacher at my kids’ school. It’s not my training and I am learning everything just in time to teach them. My assigned artist today was Odilon Redon and we did butterflies in homage to all his beautiful butterfly paintings. I made three sample butterflies to see what medium I liked best. I did watercolor, which looked great but kind of limited me in color choice because I didn’t try mixing the watercolors. Then I did water color pencils but it just didn’t turn out the way I wanted. Finally, I used chalks and loved that look.

    When I had students finish early, I used a tip I heard on a podcast this summer. Tell your students to write a few sentences on the back about ….. (I asked them to tell me if they like butterflies and why or what they thought about the lesson.)

    I appreciate your website!!!

    • Kari

      Clarification- the podcast tip I mention above was from your website also.

  • Leslie K Erven

    So why are the examples showing using tissue paper and the directions say nothing about tissue paper?

    • Patty

      Truth? I hired a gal to edit my blog posts and she did a number on a few of them. Still trying to sort the out. Thanks for the head’s up. We’ll fix it!

  • Sarah

    That’s a great tip. I have been drawing butterfly’s for some time now and I struggle to get both sides the same. I never thought about folding it in half and making it imprint on the other side..thank you ?

  • Catherine

    This was really useful and I will try this. (P.S. I bet my friends would faint of your genius ideas!)

  • Bob

    I think it is lovely



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