Nature has always been my favorite canvas. I live in Southern California, and although there’s not an abundance of leaves to paint there are still options that don’t include palm fronds. If you live where there are no leaves, or they are currently covered in snow, keep in mind that you can use all of the following techniques on leaves that you cut out of paper!
How to Prep Leaves for Art:
After collecting your leaves, the first thing you want to do is press them, creating a flat surface to easily draw on. I usually put my leaves under a piece of paper and then stack heavy books on top. Because I’m not very patient I usually leave them this way for only half a day. Sometimes I’m so impatient that I actually draw first and then press after, but the other way works much better!
Use Watercolor Paint on Leaves for Amazing Color Blends
For watercolor leaves, after prepping your leaf (see above), paint the front of your leaf white with an acrylic paint. Let your leaf dry and then press it again overnight as you did when prepping. Now that your leaf is white and pressed, it’s time to add watercolor. I used this beautiful palette of Lil’ Watercolor Paint Pods from OOLY. I love all the color choices. Perfect for painting rainbows.
You’ll want to add 2-3 layers of watercolor to increase the brightness. Let each layer dry before adding another, and don’t use much water to make it more opaque. You can leave your finished leaf as is for a fun tie-dye effect. I recommend pressing it one more time overnight to keep it flat.
I wanted to add more details to my watercolor leaf so I used a black marker from The Ink Works marker set. I love that the black markers in this set come in a variety of sizes and tips. I drew a mandala shape, but you could draw any design and it would still have a beautiful effect.
The Perfect Fall Art Project for Kids – Oil Pastels and Leaves
Oil pastel leaves are a great project to do with children. I used Oil Pastel Twisty Stix, the same oil pastels that I used to create fun DIY scratchboards. If you love the beautiful look of oil pastels but hate the mess, you’ll LOVE Oil Pastel Twisty Stix. The plastic barrel casing keeps hands from getting dirty as you create. I love this, especially when my son and I are creating on paper so that we don’t get our messy fingerprints all over our art.
I actually didn’t press the leaves for long before I started doodling with oil pastels. I wanted to see if the Oil Pastel Twisty Stix would work on a leaf that wasn’t fully dried and they do! In fact they work beautifully and are extremely vibrant.
Add Incredible Color with Liquid Chalk
After trying out different art supplies, I’ve found that one of my favorite art supplies to use on leaves is chalk. Two of my favorite types of chalk are Chalk-O-Rama Crayons and Neon Chalkables Liquid Chalk Markers. Both are great options for young children as they are easy to use and control.
I love how the chalk crayons had a soft pastel effect on the leaves. And they don’t leave any dust behind.
The Neon Chalkables Liquid Markers are quite different. With their smooth style, they can even work on the slick surface of a freshly picked leaf. Remember, you don’t have to create complicated designs to make your leaves a work of art. Simple, repeating patterns can turn a basic leaf into something magical.
With a Little Prep You Can Use Gel Pens on Leaves
If you want to create more intricate and detailed designs, using gel pens is a great option.
One option is to paint your leaf white first with acrylic paint. Once your leaf is fully dry and pressed again overnight, you can use a variety of different colored gel pens to decorate. I used these Color Luxe Gel Pens to create a mandala over the surface of my leaf. Amazingly I created this leaf over two months ago, and it still is beautiful and vibrant.
Another option if you want to draw directly onto a dry leaf is to use a Uni-Ball Signo Broad Point Gel Pen. The simple white against the color of a dried leaf has a stunning effect.
What to Do With Your Leaf Art:
I haven’t found a way to make the leaves I’ve decorated last forever but that’s okay with me. I find a lot of beauty and magic in the idea of creating temporary art. While leaves may be temporary, here are a few options for your leaves while they last.
-Invitation to Create: When you have adults or kids gathering for the holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, consider leaving out leaves and art
supplies, and invite everyone to create their own designs. For Thanksgiving you could even have your guests write words of gratitude.
-Centerpiece Decoration: Add a touch of handmade beauty by placing one or several of your finished leaves in a centerpiece.
-Hanging Mobile: Using a single stick, tie several piece of string and connect the other ends to your finished leaves.
-Namecard: Help your guests find their seats by writing their names on beautifully decorated leaves.
We’d love to see your decorated leaves. If you’re on Instagram, tag me and OOLY in your post with #CreateYourHappy. We are always looking to share pics of followers who have tried one of our tutorials.