Have you ever wanted to paint beautiful leaves with watercolor? Or anything beautiful with watercolors?

I have. I started painting when I was 12 with oil and acrylic paint, but have never been able to produce much of anything with watercolor paint, until recently. I like the control that oil and acrylic paints give me, because the paints stay where I put them on the paper and the colors are easier to remix and match. Watercolor just seems to go everywhere on the page when I paint. Any of this sound familiar?

I learned some things that I would like to share with you.

  1. Materials do matter, at least for me they did. I usually paint with my daughter’s school set of watercolors on card stock paper and this time I made the effort to get out watercolor paper and my good quality watercolor paints.
  2. I just used 1 color with more or less water to give highlights and shading. Since I usually have a hard time matching the exact color when I run out, this helped.
  3. I made a few strokes of paint and then let it be, perfect or not, so I didn’t overwork the leaves in this tutorial.
  4. I gave the wet areas a little time to dry before I added more paint.


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We will be creating 3-dimensional (showing height, width, and depth) leaves using watercolor paint for value (lightness and darkness of a color to create contour).

Step 1:  Start by practicing lines. 

Thin lines are created by holding the brush perpendicular to the page (straight up) and using the tip while lightly gliding upward.  Thick lines are created by holding the brush more like a pencil and letting the thicker part of the brush (called the barrel) glide along the paper.

Step 2: Thicker leaves 

Wet the medium rounded brush and dip in green paint.  Make one thick, curved line, and then make another thick curved line. Leave a small opening for a highlight.  Dip the brush in the paint again and use the tip to make a stem and the tip of the leaf.  Make 2 more leaves and connect them together.

Step 3:  Thinner leaves

These are done by starting with the tip of the brush, then quickly flatten the brush so that the paint is coming from the barrel of the brush and then pull the brush up to the tip again for the stem.  Make 3 or 4 more for practice. 

Step 4:  Small leaves

Each leaf is made by laying the barrel of the smaller brush down in dabbing, alternating motion.  Use the tip of the brush to make the stem after the leaves are done.

Step 5:  Rounded leaves

These are similar to Step 2 with thicker lines.

Make one thick, curved line, and then make another thick curved line. Leave a small opening for a highlight.  Then take the tip of the brush and make 1 small line on the same side of each leaf.  Add a brown stem with the tip.

Step 6:  Tiny leaves

Using the tip of the brush, make a stem.  With a lot of paint, start dabbing little leaves and small stems with the tip of the brush.  After the leaves have dried for a few minutes, come back in with a really light green (a little paint and lots of water) and just dab some of the edges to give the leaves highlights.

Step 7:  Grass

Start with quite a bit of paint on the medium brush.  Starting from the bottom of the page, make thick lines and gently pull up to the tip of the brush to make the grass pointed at the top.  Make a variety of light leaves (by adding more water than paint), dark leaves (especially near the bottom where there would be shadows),  and differ the lengths of the blades of grass.

TIP: Always start at the bottom, near the ground.  Let the grass dry a little before adding darker grass near the bottom.

Dab some brown at the base of the leaves to create the ground.  It is OK if the green and brown combine a little.

Try some of these out and send me pictures. Subscribe for more ideas!

Posted by:Karen Riley

3 replies on “Easy Art Project with Watercolor Leaves

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