How to Paint Loose Watercolour Leaves

How to Paint Loose Watercolour Leaves

In this step-by-step guide, Ill show you how to capture the vibrant colours and textured form to some beautiful Autumn leaves – I’ve focused on one leaf in this mini study- the beautiful maple leaf as I love the shape and vibrant colours at this time of year.

It’s a great way to observe and work from real life!

I’ve been getting really inspired by the colours of Autumn lately and how this change in the season is so impressive! I just love to walk in the crisp golden leaves with touches of vibrant reds.

We’re going to colour match our hues to the leaves before creating them in our sketchbook or piece of paper. I’ve even included painted shadows underneath my leaves as if they are really sitting on the paper. I will show you how..

What you’ll need:

Observing your own leaves, try to colour match and explore your paints to identify the colours your leaves are. If you’d like to follow mine, I have the equipment listed below for you:

  • Some leaves from your garden or from your autumn walks/or reference photo as your reference.
  • Mop paintbrush – Rosemary & Co Size 3/0
  • Daisy palette (for mixing watery paints)
  • Water bowl
  • Paper towel
  • Watercolour paper (I recommend Arches cold pressed paper) Or any sketchbook paper.
  • Paints (see colour list below). I use Winsor and Newton paints.

Paint colours needed:

  • A red colour (I used Alizarin Crimson)
  • A green colour (I used Olive Green)
  • An earthy vibrant yellow (I used Hansa Yellow)
  • A light yellow – (I used winsor lemon)
  • Burnt sienna
  • Burnt Umber
  • Optional lamp black to create the shadows.
  • Step 1: Place your leaves close by (or reference image) as near as you can to your paper. This will help you to get as close up as possible to observe the shapes of colour and tonal variations as you paint.

Step 1: Using this single leaf as my main study, I focused on the lightest colours first. I used winsor lemon to create the outline shape to my leaf. To capture the shape more accurately, you can even draw around your leaf if you’d like. I then filled the colour in completely with very watery paint.

Step 2: Into this watery wash, quickly drop a thicker mix of the Alizarin Crimson (e.g. red/pink colour) into the areas where you want to create depth in your leaf. Watch how the colour disperses into the wet lighter paint underneath.  At the same time, begin to introduce some burnt sienna and burnt umber to the tips of your leaf shape and the stem to define these areas. With these painted, it’s time to let this base colour fully dry.

Step 3: Once your leaf has dried, take your time to add in extra layers of colour and textured edges.  Look really closely at your real life leaves to decide where they should go. I used Hansa yellow to quickly add more depth and vibrancy to create the golden glow to my leaf. Repeat the process of letting each layer drying before applying the next colour.

*TIP* when you’re using watery washes whilst you paint, you may see ‘watermarks’ appear around the edges of the wet area, where the pigment can’t travel any further. These are to be welcomed. They’ll all add to the textural effects of your loose watercolour leaf*

Step 4: If you would like to, you can use your lamp black colour at a very light consistency to create the shadows underneath your leaf. I found this really fun to do and made my leaf ‘pop’ off the paper with those 3D effects! Simply observe your sitting leaf and to where the natural shadows fall around it.

Step 5: As a finishing touch, use the tip of your brush to gently create the vein details to your leaf. You can include as much or as little detail to your painting – it’s fun to experiment!

I couldn’t resist painting some more after my first experiment! As you can see, I loved using my red paint, so I further introduced more leaves to my piece of paper dropping this wonderful vibrant pigment into the watery yellow paint. Below are some further studies or acorns and acorn leaves – What do you think?

I hope this mini step-by-step guide has helped inspire you to paint your own Autumn leaves and given you the confidence to observe and experiment with your hues in watercolour.

If you paint your own autumn leaves, I’d love to see your results, so tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #jenniferrosegallery so I can see how you got on. You can also find me on Facebook

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Happy Autumn!

Love Jennifer Rose  xx

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