Create beautiful fall art with this easy project that kids of all ages will love. Watercolor gorgeous autumn leaves to use as fall decor, sweet gift tags, and more!
Last week, while walking with my family through the gorgeous fall leaves, I found myself in awe of the kaliedoscope of colors around me. Fall brings so many vibrant colors to the world, and it got me thinking…what a perfect time to explore color with my kids!
An idea began forming in my mind, and a few days later I invited my kids to join me for a fall-themed painting activity!
Set up was super simple:
I grabbed a few different types of leaves from the trees in our neighborhood, and set them on the table as inspiration. Then I set out watercoloring supplies for each of my kiddos (and myself too!).
I explained to them that I wanted them to fill their entire page with the colors of fall. I told them not to worry about creating any particular pictures or shapes because we would be cutting out the leaves after our paintings dried.
The great thing about this art project:
Because you cut the shapes out after you paint, kids of all ages can participate easily. Little ones don’t have to worry about staying inside the lines, or following an “example” picture. They can just swoosh their brush around the page and create an abstract field of color. Older kids can practice more advanced painting techniques, or even mimic the colors and patterns of real life leaves. Or they can just swoosh abstractly, too. 😉
It was so fun to watch my boys’ personal styles emerge as they painted with so few instructions. My oldest son focused primarily on creating different sections for each color and then blending them carefully together. My middle child noticed that some of the real leaves had spots on them and decided he wanted to experiment with splatter painting (just a little!) to create a speckled effect. The youngest got excited about creating diagonal stripes all across the page in all sorts of colors…some more fall-related than others.
NOTE: When kids express ideas or want to do projects in a way that doesn’t fit with your vision, ask yourself if there is a good reason NOT to allow it. Most of the time, the best choice is to sit on your hands and let them do it their own way, even if you end up with purple and gree striped fall leaves…hypothetically.
Once our artwork was completely dry, we cut out our fall leaves using the fall leaves template sheet (available to download below). And that was it! The leaves turned out absolutely gorgeous, and I can’t wait to hang them up as a decoration.
What do do with your watercolor fall leaves
Not sure what to do with your leaves when you’re done painting? There are so many fun ways to use this simple art project. Here are a few simple ideas:
- Gift tags: Punch a hole in the leaf, string some ribbon through, and tie them onto a simple gift to thank friends, neighbors, or teachers.
- Garland: Punch a hole in each leaf, string them onto a long piece of twine or ribbon and hang it up as a festive fall garland.
- Place cards: Hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year? Write each guest’s name on a leaf and use them as a unique place card. Kids will be so proud to contribute to the meal in a meaningful way!
- Window decor: Hang them on a window as a fun decoration.
- Mobile: Cross two sticks, and hang the leaves from some string to make a nature-inspired mobile.
Ready to make your own fall art for kids? Print out the fall leaf template, then follow the instructions below. Be sure to check out the “pro tips” at the bottom for helpful things we learned along the way!
Easy Watercolor Leaves Fall Art for Kids
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- Printable leaf templates
- Watercolor paints and brushes
- Watercolor paper or thick white paper
- A cup (or bowl) of water and paper towels for cleaning brushes
- Optional: real fall leaves, a hole punch, and twine or ribbon
Step 1: Set up the painting area. Start by collecting a variety of real leaves to use as inspiration. Don’t have access to real leaves? Grab some fake ones, fall library books, or just a picture on your phone or computer. Then set out painting supplies: thick paper, cups (or bowls) of water, watercolor paint, brushes, etc.
Step 2: Paint. Invite kids to fill their whole page with whatever fall colors they like. Encourage them to fill cover up any white space, but beyond that, give them freedom to paint however they want! Once you’re done, set your paintings aside to dry.
Step 3: Cut out your leaves. Once your paper is completely dry, trace fall leaves onto the back of the page (that way you won’t have visible pencil marks later). Use the templates to transfer the leaf shapes in one of two ways:
First option: Cut out the leaves on the template page, trace around them on the back of your watercolor page, and then cut out the painted leaves.
Second option: You can save yourself some cutting by creating a “carbon copy” of the template images. Rub a soft, dull pencil over the back side of the template paper, making sure to cover any areas where the image exists on the other side. Then place the pencil-rubbed template image-side up on top of your painted page (I still recommend doing this on the back side), and trace over the leaf outline you want to transfer. The pressure from the pencil will transfer the graphite from the back of the paper onto the your watercolor page. Now, you can see the desired shape and cut out your leaves!
That’s it! Enjoy your beautiful fall art for kids and display it however you want!
Brilliant tips you’ll want to know:
Here are a few last tips from a veteran art-making parent to help you make this project a success…and contain the creative mess as much as possible:
- Use THICK paper. Be sure to use watercolor paper or sturdy cardstock for this project. If you try to watercolor on normal printer paper, you’ll likely end up with a warped page that has holes in it.
- Contain the mess by putting down a cheap vinyl tablecloth or placemats to protect your work area.
- Ditch the cups of water! Instead of using cups of water, use small bowls instead. Bowls are much less likely to tip over when little hands go to dip their brushes.
- Don’t want blue leaves? Use painter’s tape (my favorite thing ever) to cover up any colors of paint that you don’t want your kids to use for this project.
Want more fall ideas? Try these: