Tutorial: How to paint a fall leaf in watercolour

Leaves are one of my favourite things to paint in watercolour! And they look their best in autumn, or fall if you’re from the US. I love the way they change colour so gradually, revealing all the beautiful yellows, oranges and reds.

watercolour autumn leaf tutorial

Supplies you will need

  • Watercolour paper sheets
  • Watercolour paints
  • Brushes (medium and small for details)
  • Water jars
  • Paper towels or cloth to dry your brushes

Paint colours 

I’m using Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolour paints in:

  • Cadmium Red
  • Cadmium Yellow
  • Burnt Umber

Painting an autumn leaf – step by step

  1. Sketch out your shape with a pencil if you like – it can make it easier to ge the scale right. Start with a small stem, then draw lines out to five points. The two top points are longer and wider than the bottom two. Create tips at the five points and then join up using curved lines. Add the vein lines in, starting from the same point near the stem.
  2. Outline your leaf in a warm yellow, including the stem. Working in one corner first, begin filling in the shape with a watery mix of paint.
  3. While the area is still wet, load up your watercolour brush with a red colour and touch it to the edges of the shape, allowing the paint to bleed and blend out. 
  4. Using a darker brown colour, touch your brush again to the leaf tips and allow to bleed out.
  5. Continue working in sections around the leaf, adding your yellow, red and brown colours, until your leaf is filled in.
  6. Darken the stem, and run a red line through the centre of the leaf, allow it to diffuse out. Let this layer dry completely.
  7. Use a fine brush to add the veins on top in a red-brown mix. Begin with the long lines running from the stem to the tips. Add shorter veins coming off your main ones. Try to make them curve as much as possible for a natural look.

That’s how to create a beautiful sycamore leaf in watercolour! Hope you liked this watercolour tutorial. Happy painting!

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