Saturday, February 24, 2018

How to Make a Butterfly Vintage Print - Variation on a Theme

Please join my on my new blog - where this project is included with more already added. Thank you. I hope to see you there.

Butterfly Vintage Print photo
Butterfly Vintage Print

There are three intersecting inspirations for this project. One is a stunning book I found online called British Butterflies by James Duncan published in 1855. You can find the book on a site called This volume has the most beautiful vintage butterfly prints I have ever seen. The drawings in this book have inspired me ever since I first looked at them.

Print from British Butterflies that my project is based on. Isn't it beautiful?

The second inspiration is the gorgeous new stamp from Tim Holtz and Stampers Anonymous called Glorious Bouquet. I figured it would be a great background for the butterflies.

And then the final inspiration is this week's Monday challenge at Simon Says Stamp - Grunge It Up. All 3 of these percolated in my mind to come up with this particular vintage butterfly project.

I've made a Vintage Butterfly Print before. It is one of my favorite projects and is actually on the wall next to my computer right now.

Butterfly Vintage Print with hand drawn background
My first Butterfly Vintage Print - I drew this background to mimic the one in the British Butterflies book

Here is a brief summary of the process to make this Butterfly Vintage Print:

  1. Print out vintage print from the British Butterfly book
  2. Stamp the Glorious Bouquet in a subtle ink to form the background
  3. Distress the background to look like it came from an old book
  4. Cut out butterflies with Tim Holtz Flutter set
  5. Cut out black background for butterflies
  6. Draw butterfly markings with permanent black ink
  7. Color butterflies
  8. Layer finished butterflies over the black butterfly background
  9. Glue butterflies to the print and the print to black cardstock
  10. Add antennae
  11. Distress box to function as a frame for the print
  12. Place butterfly print in the distress, grunged-up box
Now I'll go over the steps in a little more detail so you visualize the process a little better and maybe use this as an inspiration for your own project.

1. Print the vintage print you choose from the British Butterfly book. There are 34 beautiful illustrations to choose from. I chose Plate 31 for this project. I print out the illustration just so I can look at it while I am working so I don't have to continually go to the computer to see the butterflies.

2. Background with the Glorious Bouquet stamp. I used the Ranger Archival ink called Watering Can, a lovely grey shade, to form the background on 110# white cardstock. Though this stamp is so beautiful on it can stand on its own, it must be subtle to mimic the botanical background for this project. 

3. Distress the background. I needed to seriously distress the background to look like it was from a 150-year-old book. I have difficulty distressing with the blending tool sometimes. I tend to leave circular patterns on the paper; most of the time it doesn't matter, but here it does. I decided to wet the paper and paint the distress inks and stains with a large water brush.  I like how it turned out. To me it looks like an ancient page. 

4. Die cut the butterflies. I used Tim Holtz' Flutter set to pick out different butterfly die shapes that were close to the design on the print. Notice that none of these butterflies have a "tail" on the wings so I chose the dies with more rounded wings. I am so happy that there are so many choices in this set of butterfly dies. 

5. Cut out a black background for butterflies. I cut out a second set of butterflies in black cardstock to glue behind my butterflies just to give them a little more dimension. I like to glue them together and then bend the wings upward so the black background gives them a deep shadow. 

6. Draw butterfly markings in black permanent ink. Here is the only hard part, drawing the markings on the butterfly. I could have stamped them, but I wanted my butterflies to look like the ones in the illustration so I chose to draw the specific markings as best as I could on each butterfly. And do use a permanent ink and then let it dry. Some of the ink smeared because I didn't let the ink dry enough. Remember you can choose to use stamps and then color the butterflies similar to the ones in the print. That is always an option.

Colored butterflies for vintage botanical print
Close-up of butterflies for the print

7. Color the butterflies. The fun part - coloring the butterflies. Part of the reason I chose this particular print is because I love the blue butterflies. These butterflies are in the same family of butterflies that I colored previously - Polyommatus. They have the loveliest shade of blue. I used distress pens, crayons and a water brush to color these butterflies. 

8. Layer butterflies on the black background. Glue the body of the butterfly on the body of the black butterfly cutout. Leave the wings free so you can bend them upward a little bit for dimension. Two of the butterflies are resting on a leaf with the wings up so I folded those 2 in half and cut half a black cardstock butterfly for the background.

9. Glue the butterflies to the botanical background. I tried to glue them in a similar placing to what is shown on the print. Since my flowers are different from the background on the inspiration print, it doesn't really matter that much. But since the print has such a pleasing arrangement, I thought I would use the same one. After that I glued the print to heavy black cardstock to give it a black border and make it a little more sturdy.

10. Glue antennae on the butterflies. On my previous print, I drew the antennae (latin plurals drive me crazy) on with a fine Micron pen. This background is busier so I didn't really think that was a good option as they wouldn't show up very well. I decided to use thread. I coated black thread with glossy accents to make the thread have more body. Then I folded it in a V-shape, and adhered on the head of each butterfly. 

11. Distress box as a frame for the butterfly print. You have to use what you have and what I have at my house are Fancy Feast boxes. They may be a little deep as a frame, but they are sturdy and plentiful. I covered the box with pages from an aged paperback book that was falling apart. Then I whitewashed it a little bit with diluted white gesso, inked and painted with various shades of blue followed by distressing with Distress oxides brown shades and black soot. 

Grunged up box for the Butterfly Vintage Print
Distressed canned kitty food box for vintage print frame
Side view of the seriously distressed box for the vintage print.

Back of canned food box for frame of butterfly vintage print.
It's a Fancy Feast box, alright. I'm not advertising for them. It's just what I have at home. 

12. Adhere the print to the box frame. I added a piece of brown corrugated cardboard to the base of the box just for a little more dimension. The print was then adhered to the cardboard which fit nicely in the distressed Fancy Feast box. 

And that's it - the latest Butterfly Vintage Print. I hope you enjoyed seeing this project and that you can find some inspiration in the process. 

I am sharing this with this week's Simon Says Stamp Challenge - Grunge It Up. 

I appreciate comments and pins and likes and stuff like that. Thank you for stopping by my blog.


  1. Woah, what a beautiful project! I love how you altered this! So creative!
    Thank you for playing along with us over Simon Says Stamp Monday Challenge - we all hope to see you again soon!
    x Zoey

  2. I do love what you did with the print Lucy, the butterflies are just stunning and so is your frame/box, you have distressed it beautifully!

    1. Anne, it is always so nice to hear from you. Thank you for your kind words.

  3. Hi! I saw your entry for the simon says challenge and I think what you did its beautiful!!!

    1. Thank you for noticing my project on the Simon says Stamp challenge.

  4. Replies
    1. Lynn,
      I am so glad you like this project. I just love butterflies and I love using them in projects. Thank you for stopping by my blog.

  5. THis is beautifully done and great tutorial. I’ve been admiring all the butterflies from the link you posted. Thank you for sharing this! The butterfly art you made from these plates has a “vintage farmhouse, butterfly chic” vibe to it.. normally you can’t get butterflies to mesh well with a farmhouse chic theme but you were able to do it! Really cool!

    1. Thank you, Jessica. I'm glad you visited to the biodiversity link. It is incredible, isn't it? Your comment really meant a lot to me because it's shows that you truly looked at the piece I made. Let me know if you have a website or blog. Also, I have a new blog which is a continuation of this blog, just a new domain name on a different server - Please stop by.

      Thank you again.

    2. Yes! Totally incredible! I actually read thru some of The text too! lol - it was really nice of you to post that link otherwise I would have never found it. It’s nice when others share “insider” info lol, I’m
      Always intrigued as to who, what and how an artist comes up with their inspiration, kinda like getting into their head so to it was nice to see what had inspired you and why and then how you took that inspiration and made it uniquely yours, then seeing/reading how it all came to fruition. That always fascinated me!
      And yes, I studied your piece very closely for quite some time too! I looked at the original art piece you did as well which I just love!! I’m always looking for new techniques to try or a new medium so I really appreciated your very thorough tutorial on how to create it. I even printed it out so I could reference it! I’m
      Working on setting my blog up.. I’m in for kinda a rough health journey right now so it’s taken a back seat unfortunately but I just followed you on Pinterest but my user name is jdserrano1
      Or Jessica Serrano gregg and I do have some things I’ve created in there under my creations board... but you should see me! Thanks for taking the time to respond to me, I appreciate that. I admire your work and spent lots of time on your blog today. Now I’m off to check out the new link you sent! Thanks again for the chat, this piece really inspired me at a time where I really needed it! - Jess