You Can Draw a Luna Moth

by Michelle Beidler | Jul 1, 2024 | 0 comments

Outside on a warm summer night in eastern United States, a large light green moth flutters softly past you in the moonlight. You have just encountered the luna, which actually gets its name from the Spanish word for the moon.

This moth begins its life as one of a mass of eggs laid on a hardwood tree leaf. Hatching in about ten days, it spends the summer devouring leaves and growing into a fat green caterpillar. In the fall, it spins a tough, silky cocoon, where it waits out the long winter. In the spring, it emerges, looking like a little white grub with stubby sprouts on its back. Ten minutes later, those sprouts have developed into a graceful wingspan that will carry it through its final few weeks finding a mate and laying eggs.


You will need:

  • Sketch paper
  • 8½” x 11″ watercolor paper
  • Watercolors: yellow, brown, blue, red, green
  • Watercolor brushes #1 and #4
  • Ruler

  1. Begin by drawing a large circle on sketch paper. On this, place the lines which indicate the wingspan and center of the wings and body. Then draw lines on which to build wings. Use your circle as a guide for positioning flowers. Then add stems and leaves.
  2. Lightly trace your sketch onto watercolor paper. On your palette, thin green paint with water and add a little yellow. With your #4 brush, apply this to leaves and moth, avoiding the eye spots. A watered-down mixture of red and blue will give a nice light purple for the first layer on the rhododendrons. Use darker blue for shading the flowers. Use brown for the border of the front wings.
  3. Shade leaves and stems with dark blue. Use your #1 brush to stroke on yellowish brown lines for the feathery antennae. Outline eye spots with dark green, and then fill in lighter details.
  4. With your #1 brush, lightly draw veins on the wings and add feathery touches radiating from the veins. Use a little brown to separate and shade the tails. With dark purple paint, add stigma and stamens to the flowers. Then finish adding yellow markings to the flowers.
Luna moth. Artwork © Michelle Beidler.

Hints and Tips

Keep a paper towel near at hand for wiping your brush. Do not let a brush stand in water.

Making Corrections: If you have used a good watercolor paper, you can use a moistened brush to further soften and blend colors. A damp paper towel lifts and lightens larger areas. If necessary, white watercolor can cover some mistakes.

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