Watercolor prints

Published by Lori Pickert on October 8, 2008 at 03:34 PM

Here’s a great project for your nature journal.

You can use your watercolor paints to make monoprints in your journal.

Select some leaves and flowers. If you are in a park or public place, be sure it’s okay to pick fresh leaves; otherwise, look for fallen leaves that are still flexible.

Paint onto the leaves. Be careful not to leave too much paint on the leaf. The first few you try will be experimental. You’ll learn as you go.

Sometimes a leaf is so shiny it won’t hold paint. Try painting the underside. Does it have a different texture? The underside usually has more prominent veins and might make a better print.

This is what happens when you use too much paint! The print is still beautiful, though.

Carefully lay your leaf on the page. You can just rub the back of your leaf, or you can use a scrap piece of paper to press it flat and rub gently over it.

How many different colors of leaves can you find?

Try mixing your paints to match your leaf exactly.

Is your leaf just one color? You can paint on a mix of colors.

Remember it will take a minute for your prints to dry. You may want to bring along some extra sheets of paper for practicing and for printing on while your journal pages dry.

Don’t forget to write in your journal where you were when you made your prints.

You can bring along guide books to identify plants, trees, and leaves; if you want to, you can label the ones you know.


Comment by Teri on October 8, 2008 at 05:38 PM

What an awesome idea and the prints are so pretty. :^D

Comment by molly on October 8, 2008 at 05:40 PM

oh yes. this is so good...adding to tomorrow's plans. if the darn sun would just come out!

Comment by Sarah Jackson on October 8, 2008 at 05:45 PM

Those are so beautiful! How sweet of the boys to recreate it all for you.

Comment by Lori Pickert on October 8, 2008 at 06:31 PM

thank you, teri ;^)

molly, the sun just came out as we finished this morning -- now we have a gorgeous blue sky.

sarah, we had so much fun making prints yesterday that we were all enthusiastic about doing it again today!

Comment by Jennifer on October 8, 2008 at 10:58 PM

Those are beautiful! I know what we're doing tomorrow! Thank you Lori.

Comment by Lori Pickert on October 9, 2008 at 12:25 AM

thank you, jennifer! :^)

a reminder for everyone - if you are on flickr, you can share your photos here:


have fun!

Comment by Molly on October 9, 2008 at 01:17 AM

oh, we are soooo doing this. we need art. if you see a spike in those archives, it's just me nosing around.

Comment by Megan on October 9, 2008 at 01:33 AM

hey, this is awesome!

I was planning to do "leaf rubbings" with a group of young scouts this week. Instead, I think we will do leaf paint-prints!

Comment by Lori Pickert on October 9, 2008 at 02:27 PM

lol, molly ;^)

megan, good luck with your group! i recommend bringing pieces of (ideally watercolor) paper + maybe some scratch paper for their first prints (while they're in the learning phase). it does take a few minutes for each print to dry. if you use watercolor paper you can put several prints on one big page. watercolor paper is stiff so you don't really need a clipboard, but you'll probably want clipboards if you're using regular paper.

you could always do rubbings and prints -- they could do rubbings while their prints dried. ;^) let me know how it goes!

Comment by Megan on October 15, 2008 at 03:50 PM

The boys in my group had a great time - but I did not gather supplies up in time for leaf paint prints, so we scrounged crayons and tissue paper for leaf rubbing. I really need to have these sorts of materials on hand so that we can respond more easily to the desire of the moment...

The leaf rubbing went surprisingly well... light colored crayon on dark tissue paper, and dark colored crayon on light tissue paper worked best. And the tissue paper was thin enough that the details from the leaves came through really well. I remembered what you said about the underside having more texture, so we tried both, and the underside ones came out stunning. The boys loved it.

They cut them out and we arranged them on a big "Thank You" card we are sending to the Champaign National Guard troops who just re-deployed.

Comment by Karin on October 17, 2008 at 02:15 PM

I love this idea! So simple, so beautiful!

Comment by Lori Pickert on October 17, 2008 at 04:05 PM

thank you, karin! :^)

Comment by Susana on October 21, 2008 at 11:40 PM

What a wonderful documentation! Thank you for sharing.

Comment by Lori Pickert on October 22, 2008 at 12:28 AM

thank you, susana!

Comment by Lisa on October 28, 2008 at 10:45 PM

great idea. Thanks for the tip.

Comment by Lori Pickert on October 29, 2008 at 02:02 AM

thank you, lisa :^)

Comment by flmom on November 5, 2008 at 05:04 PM

These are really lovely! We'll have to give this a try soon. :o)

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 5, 2008 at 10:02 PM

thank you, flmom :^)

Comment by SnippetyGibbet on November 5, 2008 at 11:29 PM

It's amazing how beautifully those leaves printed. They hold up as artwork all on their own.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 6, 2008 at 12:46 AM

thanks, jan, i think so too!

Comment by Patty Palmer on February 17, 2009 at 11:52 PM

This is a fabulous lesson in nature exploration. I personally love the collection of leaves that you have. Thanks for sharing.

Comment by Lori Pickert on February 18, 2009 at 12:20 AM

thank you, patty!

Comment by lisa on April 9, 2009 at 01:18 AM

What a great idea! This is a step beyond rubbings. My girls love anything involving watercolors and nature.

Comment by Lori Pickert on April 9, 2009 at 01:30 AM

thank you, lisa! :^)

Comment by inês nogueira on April 23, 2009 at 04:29 PM

what a great idea, lori. thank you for the link. the pictures are beautiful. :)

Comment by Lori Pickert on April 23, 2009 at 08:06 PM

thank you, inês! :^) i saw your photo of the leaves on the pages and thought immediately of this project. :^)

Comment by Sonia on May 7, 2012 at 06:03 PM

Amei esta ideia. Irei aplicar com meus filhos no próximo fim de semana.


Sonia - Brasil

Comment by meljen on May 2, 2013 at 12:24 AM

Oh my gosh, I just found this post. I LOVE THIS - our daughter is HUGE into watercolors, and I have *always* wanted to use watercolors for nature journaling. At the same time, I didn't want to make big 'ol projects out of it for fear of never getting any pages done (as we haven't yet, hardly!) - so I LOVE this idea. Thank you so much!

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 2, 2013 at 08:14 AM


excellent! :)

my 13yo is preparing a post for the pbh kids tumblr — http://pbhkids.tumblr.com — about working his way through a watercolor book last summer. she might want to graduate to something like that eventually!

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