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. Celebrate the new change in season with these colorful, fun, and festive fall craft ideas!
How to Prep Leaves for Art:
After collecting your leaves, the first thing you want to do is press them, creating a flat surface so it’s easier to 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 half a day. Sometimes (if I’m extra impatient) I will draw first and press after — but the first way works a lot better!
Use Watercolor Paint to Create Stunning 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, especially because they are 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 The Ink Works Markers. 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 create a beautiful effect.
The Perfect Fall Art Project for Kids: Oil Pastels & 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. Otherwise, you can use the Chalk-O-Rama Crayons for a similar look. The plastic barrel casing on both 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.
I love how the chalk crayons left a soft, yet bold pastel effect on the leaves. And they don’t leave any dust behind!
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.
Creative Ways to Use Your Leaf Art:
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.
Name Card: Help your guests find their seats by writing their names on beautifully decorated leaves.