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Nature Spotlight: Paint A Puffin


Colour scheme for an Atlantic puffin:

Painting colour scheme for an Atlantic puffin

The charismatic Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica) is a beloved seabird known for its colorful beak & vibrant personality. Capturing the essence of this charming creature on a blank ceramic bisque figure is exciting. In this nature spotlight I will guide you through the process of transforming a white ceramic bisque puffin into a lifelike Atlantic puffin (with reference photos to help you). Along the way, we'll also sprinkle in some delightful Atlantic puffin fun facts to deepen your appreciation for this fascinating seabird.

Atlantic puffin on rock left side view

Atlantic Puffin Fun Facts:

Before we dive into the painting process, let's learn a bit about the fantastic Atlantic puffin:

  1. Distinctive Appearance: Atlantic puffins are instantly recognizable due to their vibrant orange, yellow and grey beaks, as well as their striking black and white plumage.

  2. Expert Divers: These seabirds are excellent divers, capable of reaching depths of up to 200 feet to hunt for their primary food source—small fish like herring and sand eels.

  3. Seabird Societies: Puffins are social birds and often form large colonies on cliffs and islands during the breeding season. They are known for their comical and endearing behaviours.

  4. Nesting Habits: Puffins nest in burrows or crevices they dig into cliffs or soft soil. They are known to return to the same burrow year after year, and they use their sharp beaks to excavate their homes.

  5. Mating for Life: Atlantic puffins are known for their monogamous relationships. Once a pair forms a bond, they typically stay together for the breeding seasons, often returning to the same colony and burrow.

  6. Baby Puffins: My favourite fact of all puffin facts, is that the name for their young are pufflings!

Now, let's dive into the step-by-step guide on painting your ceramic bisque puffin figure as an Atlantic puffin:


Materials You'll Need:

  1. Ceramic Bisque Puffin Figure: Ensure it's clean and dry before you start.

  2. Acrylic Paints: Use the colour scheme above to help match your paints to the puffins colours.

  3. Paintbrushes: Prepare various brush sizes for different details. Larger brushes for large areas & small finer brushes for detail & small areas.

  4. Palette or Paint Palette Paper: Use it to mix and blend colors. A paper plate will also work or a glazed kitchen paint which can be washed & reused.

  5. Water Container: Clean your brushes between color changes. Old mugs or jam jars are great!

  6. Paper Towels: Keep them handy for blotting excess paint and cleaning brushes.

  7. Protective Surface: Lay down a protective layer to catch any paint drips, including on yourself.

Atlantic puffin close up of head detail

Step-by-Step Guide:

Step 1: Base Coat

Start by painting the everywhere on the puffin figure, which is not white, with a base coat of black acrylic paint. This will serve as the base for the puffin's distinctive colouration.

Step 2: Face and Beak

Use white paint to create the puffin's white facial area. Using orange carefully paint the beak tip. Using yellow add an outline around the edge of the beak where it meets the head & by the orange part of the beak you've just painted. Highlight the edges & ridges of the beak with red. The remaining areas of the beak are black unless already covered with the black base coat.

Step 3: Eyes and Feet

Using black add a triangle around the eye with a stripe towards the back of the head. Using orange carefully add a ring around the black circle of the eye. Paint the eye ball with black and add a small white dot to mimic the reflection. Use orange paint for the puffin's webbed feet.

Step 4: Plumage

Now, using a combination of black and white, paint the puffin's characteristic black and white plumage. Observe reference images to capture the patterns accurately.

Step 5: Details

Add details like the puffin's small white "collar" and any subtle shading to create a three-dimensional effect on the plumage, if wanted.

Step 6: Finishing Touches

Examine your painted puffin figure for any touch-ups or adjustments. Ensure that all the facial features are well-defined.

Step 7: Seal the Artwork

Once your painted puffin figure is completely dry (use a hair dryer the speed the process along if you're impatient like me!), apply a clear water based varnish to protect your masterpiece and really make the colours pop.

Atlantic puffin on grassy island right side view

Painting a ceramic bisque puffin figure as an Atlantic puffin is a rewarding way to pay homage to these charismatic seabirds. By following this step-by-step guide and infusing your creativity, you'll transform a simple ceramic figurine into a lifelike representation of this beloved coastal bird. As you display your beautifully painted puffin, you'll not only enjoy the artistic accomplishment but also foster a deeper connection to the natural world and the captivating Atlantic puffin.

Remember you don't have to paint it true to life. Below are some examples of how my customers have painted their puffins:

Hand painted puffin ceramic figure in Brownie uniform

Hand painted ceramic puffin figure by Yorkshire puffin trail artist







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