How to Paint a Basic Leaf with Watercolors

eHow Crafts Blog


As an artist, I enjoy experimenting with various mediums. One of my favorite mediums of late is watercolor. I appreciate it can be daunting medium to some, but as with most things in life, the more you practice, the easier it becomes. The beauty of watercolor is the dynamic results you can achieve by manipulating it for simple abstract art, or stunning and complex realism art.

It’s no wonder watercolor has made such a great come back, not only in fashion but decor and design.


With fall fast approaching, I thought it would be fun and appropriate to show how to paint a very basic watercolor leaf.  You can apply the same technique to various leaves and create a beautiful work of art.

Foliage can be found everywhere and in all seasons, coming in an array of shapes, sizes and colors.

The following tutorial provides a basic technique to paint leaves, but hopefully encourages you to try various techniques to achieve your own painting style.

Supplies required:
Watercolor set
Various watercolor brushes (I used #0, #10 and #20)
Watercolor paper
Various leaves from the garden or photos of leaves for reference

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The first thing you will need to do is prepare your color palette and test the colors on a separate piece of paper.  Do not be afraid to play around with the various shades until you arrive at colors you are pleased with and ensure you have fun with this process.

Here is a quick chart of the colors I used:

1. Permanent sap green
2. Green blue shade
3. Raw amber
4. Blue green
5. Burnt sienna
(the other shades are a mixture of the various colors above)

Lightly sketch a basic leaf shape and fill it in with a wet brush. This will make the spreading of the first layer easier.
Apply the lightest shade of green you have prepared.
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Allow first layer to dry slightly and apply the second lightest shade (you will see a little bit of bleeding occur).
2013-10-19 17.11.33Here I applied yet another layer of the same color and while the paint was still wet, I tilted the paper ever so slightly to allow the paint to travel to the tip of the leaf. You can see the darker concentration of paint.
2013-10-19 17.12.26Allow to dry and apply yet another shade of green.
2013-10-19 17.13.45 As you have undoubtedly noticed, watercolor is all about layers; the more layers you apply, the more vivid the image becomes.
2013-10-19 17.23.45-1Dip your brush in water and go over the surface of the leaf. While still wet, apply a light layer of the raw amber to the lighter side of the leaf.
2013-10-19 17.23.53-2 While the paint is still wet, load your brush with burnt sienna and allow paint to drip onto leaf. You can see the paint colors bleeding into each other.
2013-10-19 17.24.59 Drip the paint in various areas as desired.
2013-10-19 17.35.19 With a wet thin brush (#0), draw in some veins and allow to dry. You can continue to add more details if you wish.
2013-10-19 17.35.49Here is the entire process so you can see the progress.

2013-10-19 18.00.01As you become more familiar with this process, you can start to really enhance the detail.  Personally, I like the looseness of watercolor.

howtopaintwatercolorleaves2Practice and have fun with it!

howtopaintwatercolorleaves3A (good) word of caution – watercolor can become very addictive and the more you pick up that brush, the more likely you will be to fall in love with it.

You can apply the same technique to paint variations of leaves, remembering the beauty of watercolor is it does not have to be perfect
Here is a fun piece I did using similar principles.
howtopaintwatercolorleavesI hope you check back for future posts, where I will continue to provide watercolor tutorials.
Have any questions or need clarification? Please feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line at Or, leave a comment below!
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