The wingspan of the American painted lady is one and three-fourths to two and one-half inches. The upperside of the forewing is orange with dark markings. The wing tip is dark with white spots. The upperside of the hindwing is orange with a row of dark spots near the edge. The underside of the forewing shows a white spot in an orange cell. The underside of the hindwing is gray and tan with white in a webbing pattern and two eyespots.
Found statewide, the American painted lady lives in open areas with short plants. The adult is present from April through October. It feeds on nectar. The larval host plants are pussy-toes (Antennaria spp.) and other members of the aster family. Several generations are produced annually. The species overwinters in Illinois as the adult or chrysalis, but individuals also migrate into Illinois from the south in the spring.