How to Paint Watercolor Leaves

Today we're recapping how to paint fall watercolor leaves. We covered the wet on wet technique used to create the beautiful blend of colors in class- but it's not something easy to master on your first try. Wet on wet technique can take time and patience to learn. Understanding just how wet the paper needs to be and when to drop in color takes practice! So whether this is your first time trying this project or your 100th, stick with it. Practice does in fact make perfect.

First things first, head outdoors and get exploring. Ideally you'll need 5-10 fall leaves to use for your project. Mother Nature makes the best inspiration, so take a hike, walk around the block, or venture to a park. You can use photo references online too if you really don't want to go out or the weather isn't cooperating. Pressing the leaves in a heavy book for a day or two will also help when you go to trace them by keeping them flat.

On your watercolor paper, lightly trace or sketch your leaves. You don't have to draw in the veins now, just an outline will do. Don't worry too much about the pencil lines, as long as they aren't super heavy and dark they can be erased later.

Working one leaf at a time, with a clean brush paint each leaf with fresh clean water making sure to cover each leaf with a sheen of water. Then drop in a light wash of color and let the water work it's magic to spread the paint throughout the leaf. Try using 2 colors to create variation within your leaf. Use your inspiration leaves for general ideas about what color to include. Make sure that your paper isn't soaking wet- you shouldn't be able to see beads of water or drips- just a nice sheen when the paper hits the light.

Once all your leaves are dry you can lightly sketch in the veining on each leaf. It's really handy to have a hairdryer nearby in the next step to speed the process along!

In each segment of the leaf, start with a clean water wash and then in add in a layer of darker color. The shades should grow deeper at this point so make sure your mixing enough pigment on your palette. Each segment should still have slight color variations. Be careful with geen and red though! It's a tough combination to master. If it's your first time, try sticking to colors closer together on the color wheel, like red and orange or yellow and green. Red and green make brown- so if you choose to use that combination do so carefully or your'll end up with a muddy brown leaf. But hey, Mother Nature also makes those!

Work through each segment one at a time, making sure not to work on two wet segments that are touching each other (this is where the hair dryer can really help speed things along!) When you're finished with all your leaves, you're ready for the final step.

Using a small size brush, add in the veins between the segments of your leaves. I think this step is totally optional, and I really love the look of the leaves with all the section lines exposed. It's your project so you choose! Either way make sure you let me know how it goes and send me a picture of your work (or work in progress.) I would love to hear what you think of this project. Happy painting!



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