Have you tried painting leaves? It’s a very simple autumn art project. The leaves I painted this autumn look as if they blew in on a cosmic wind.
When I choose a new project, it’s often just a simple curiosity as to how a certain craft can be made. Summer brought a rock painting challenge, but autumn threw a bunch of leaves around our yard, and I started wondering, “Can I also paint on leaves?” I’ve seen it done before, and a few months ago we did some leaf doodling with my son. But I haven’t tried painting leaves, and suddenly it seemed very appealing.
Nature offers very interesting textures. As with the dull grainy surface of rocks that I have grown to love, leaves also have fascinating form and texture, I thought that they might also make interesting canvases. Free canvases, too. I hardly needed more reason than this to try and paint my first leaf.
Another person who was very happy with my selection of the next project was my son. He was more than eager to accompany me on a walk around the neighbourhood and collect a few leaves.
Materials for Painting Space Leaves
- acrylic paints: since quality of paints can make the difference, I think I should mention that my recent favourite budget acrylic paints are Liquitex Basics
- sponge & brushes
Tips & Tricks on How to Paint Leaves
1 — My favourite leaves are maple, and I thought them to be fitting as canvases thanks to their broad surface. Red maple, in particular. But we’ve also collected some other kinds of leaves.
2 — I thought that if I painted on leaves right away, they would still be a little curled, holding the shape that they had on the tree. On the other hand, I didn’t think that drying them completely would be such a great idea because they’ll become brittle. We put the leaves between the pages of a sketchbook overnight to flatten them out a little.
3 — I wanted to make space leaves. If you read my tutorial on painting galaxies with acrylic paints, you will find out that I like using a sponge for that. I get a cellulose sponge and cut a small piece off. I use it either with a clothespin as a handle or just hold it with my fingers. First, I put paint on with a brush, mixing different shades of dark blue, purple and magenta right on the leaf, and then sponge it down. It makes the changes of colour very gradual and gives a speckled texture reminiscent of a starry sky.
4 — But I add still more stars! For that, I dilute white paint with water, then tap the brush gently against something hard (like another brush or a plastic palette), dropping a dozens of white specks down on the canvas. A leaf, in this case. Slip something like newspapers or a splat mat underneath to protect your working surface – otherwise, it may get starry as well.
5 — Finally, on preserving leaves. After the paint is completely dry, in a couple of hours, I put the leaves back in the sketchbook. That’s what I usually do with my leaves. Then, one day, I find them and feel pleasantly surprised. From my perspective, the nature of this craft is rather transient, so a photograph might be the best bet for keeping it intact. On the other hand, I don’t really see any problem with gluing the leaf to a piece of paper and displaying it in a frame if you like how it looks. It will not last eternally, but I think it can last for months and possibly even years.
I felt satisfied with my first experiment of painting leaves. A soft leathery leaf made a pleasant surface to work on. I think that we are often subconsciously looking for beautiful leaves in the fall. When the leaves were still drying on the table and I would glance at them from the corner of my eye, I would immediately have a sense of awe. And I am not in a habit of admiring my own crafts! The truth was, I saw an unusually coloured leaf, but the sight didn’t seem unnatural, like with rocks, and I could almost believe that it wasn’t painted.
What about my little helper? Anselm couldn’t stay away from painting leaves. But he wanted to add more colours to his galaxies, so his turned out like this. Quite a collection of specimens here!
Note: If you want your kids to make space-themed leaves for some special occasion, offer them a limited palette. :-)
We’d be delighted to see your painted leaves! Share on Facebook or Instagram and tag me @adventureinabox.
More Space Crafts?
Turn rocks into space magnets for your fridge!
How about painting space with watercolours?