Fall is a magical time of year. What was once a green landscape is suddenly alive with vibrant shades of color. Creating watercolor fall leaf prints with your kids is a great way to explore the fall season together. Learn how to create your own watercolor fall leaves with your kids in this easy tutorial!
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Watercolor Painting with Kids
When painting and crafting with kids, it is important to let them explore the process and not stress too much about the final product. Watercolor paints are a wonderful medium for kids to use because they are low mess. Plus kids love watching to see how the paint moves with the water.
For this guide, I will show you how to use watercolor pencils and watercolor paints. Both are easy enough for beginners and very fun to use. I find kids love using watercolor. To get the full experience, bring your supplies outside and do some painting outdoors together.
Any child who is old enough to hold a paintbrush can do this activity. Art is a wonderful form of self expression for kids. Plus painting with watercolors is just plain fun!
I encourage you to try painting alongside your children, as painting is a relaxing and rewarding hobby even for adults. Remember, making art is not just about the end result, but about the process.
Watercolor Painting Supplies
- Fall Leaves
- Watercolor Paint Set
- Watercolor Pencils
- Regular Pencil
- Paint Brushes
- Blank Watercolor Paper or Colored Pencil Pad
- Paper Towel or Rag
In the examples, you will see that I used a colored pencil pad when painting. This is because I use that pad as my nature notebook. These paintings were created as an entry while nature journaling. The colored pencil pad worked great.
You can also use watercolor paper which is specifically designed for watercolor painting. Use what you have and if you can, use thicker paper instead of plain printer paper. However, don't let not having the right type of paper stop you from trying this out!
Fall leaf templates can also be used for this activity. Simply download them and print them off on cardstock instead of plain printer paper. Maple leaves, oak leaves, and beech leaf templates are all great outlines to use.
Collecting Colorful Fall Leaves
Before painting, it is important to pick out some fall leaves. Head outside and look for leaves of different patterns and colors. Encourage your kids to pick out their own to get them excited about the painting project!
Fallen beech leaves are pretty easy to paint since they tend to be mostly one color, but really you can use any type of leaf. I picked out yellow beech leaves and red maple leaves. Spotted leaves, like the one above would be great for kids who are up for a challenge!
If you are not able to collect real leaves, fake leaves can also be used. A few options for leaves you can purchase include:
Painting with Watercolor Pencils
Gather your leaves, paper, watercolor pencils, and add water to a cup. Then take a few minutes to look over the leaves you collected. What colors are present? Are there any unique designs, spots, or blemishes that stand out?
Go through the color pencil set and pick out the colors you will need. Kids may notice brown, orange, yellow, and red. Pick them out then set them to the side.
Create a Leaf Template
Kids can then start to paint the leaves free hand or they can use the real leaf as a template. I laid the leaf on my paper and traced it using one of the watercolor pencils.
Kids can also trace the leaves using a regular pencil. If they make a faint line, it will disappear under the paint once they are done.
After drawing the leaf, go in with your watercolor pencils and start coloring in the template. Pick out and use different pencils depending on the colors in the leaf. To create a unique color, simply apply color using more than one pencil.
In the example, I used peach, brown, orange, and then yellow. Once kids add the water they will see all of the colors blend together.
Adding the Water
Now the fun really begins, after your kids colored in the leaf, it is time to add the water. Kids love seeing the pencil change into paint. Have your kids use a paint brush to smooth out the pencil and blend the different colors together.
Seeing the pages transform with water never gets old! Using watercolor pencils is a wonderful way to spark your child's interest in art.
To control how deep the color stays, add or take away water. Kids love seeing how the water changes the colors of the leaves.
The great thing about this project is even if you are not a professional, you can still create dynamic looking fall leaves. By using a few different colors, the leaf will have some dimension.
Helpful Tips: Add more details with the pencils if needed. Once done, lay paintings on a flat spot to dry to avoid unwanted drips and mixing.
Don't be surprised if they head out for another leaf hunt to collect more colorful leaves to create more paintings!
Painting with a Watercolor Paint Set
Still easy, but the next step if your kids are ready to try blending and creating using a paint set. Similar to the watercolor pencils, kids can trace the leaves or paint them free hand.
If your kids use a pencil, try to encourage them to draw a very faint outline of the leaf. The goal is to have the outline be a guide, but disappear once the paint is applied.
Using Watercolor Paint
Next, is to look over the leaf and pick out the different colors. Your leaf may have different shades of:
- Bright Green
Technically, when using watercolors, you are suppose to wet the entire template with water. Then start to paint. However, when I did that the leaf turned into a watery mess where all of the colors bled together. The example below was my first attempt at painting the maple leaf.
Applying Color Using Color Blocks
Instead, for my next try, I only applied yellow, my first color, only where there was yellow, instead of the entire leaf. Think of the leaf as being divided into different parts. Each section will be made up of different blocks of color.
After the yellow, I added in orange then red. Mix colors as needed to get close to the colors shown in the real leaf. Let your kids experiment by mixing different tones of one color to get close to the color shown on the real leaf.
Helpful Hints: If they want a saturated color, use less water. To make the color lighter, add more water to the paint.
Once I finished the yellow, orange, and red, I went in and filled in the empty spots with green paint. What is nice about doing it this way, kids can make detailed observations about the leaf as they paint each of the colors.
Remember the exact color found on your leaf will not be found in the paint set, you have to mix colors together to get the matching shade. This is a great way for kids to explore color tone, warm colors, verses cool colors, etc. Painting is a wonderful way to explore color in a hands-on way.
- Limit the amount of water on your brush
- Soak up extra water using the paint brush
- Its okay to start over if you are getting frustrated
I found that less water made it easier to keep the colors separate when painting the maple leaf. Since I had both green and red, when they mixed they made brown. By keeping the brush pretty dry, I was able to limit how much the colors blended together.
If your colors are blending together too much, try to suck up some of the water using your paint brush. Dry the brush off first with a paper towel or rag then dip it into the water. This will help move some water from your paper.
If your kids feel that they have messed up, simply let the paint dry for a bit. Once most of the water has dried, kids can apply more paint to change the color. Or they can do what I did and start over with a fresh sheet of paper.
Painting is a skill and with practice, they will get better. The goal here is to have fun and learn new skills, not to create perfect looking leaves.
Once they are done painting, put the paper in a safe place to dry. Finished paintings can be added to a nature journal, hung up as decorations, or turned into a fall themed card.
More Fall Activities for Kids
Hopefully this activity gave you some ideas and inspiration for how you can paint fall leaves using watercolors with your kids. For more fall activities, check out the posts below!
Have you ever used watercolor to paint fall leaves with your kids? Let us know in the comments below!