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Watercolour Painting

Easy Watercolor Leaves with Daniel Smith Watercolour Paints

Follow this easy step-by-step process by Peggy Dean to create loose, elegant leaves with Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolour Paints. Create them as a stand-alone artwork or use it to add leaves to invitations, cards and other decorative items.

What you will need:

Learning the brush stroke

A round brush is able to create thin or thick strokes, depending on the amount of pressure you apply. When using the tip of your brush with little pressure, your stroke will be thin. When you apply more pressure, the stroke thickens. The larger the brush size, the larger the strokes. Combine these two pressures in the same stroke to create a thick stroke that gradually thins out into a point. 

Once that feels comfortable, start to slightly curve the stroke to make one side of the leaf, then repeat on the other side to make a fuller-figured leaf. Leave a tiny white space in the center to act as the leaf’s vein.

Learning the brush stroke

Paint-to-water ratio

Not all pigments are created equally so get to know your colours you've chosen by creating opaque swatches. 

  1. Fully saturate your brush in water and paint. Do this by rolling the brush on its side while applying pressure. You want to make sure it’s covered throughout, not just on the tip of the brush. When it’s saturated, paint your first leaf.
  2. Without gathering any more paint, dip your brush in the water quickly, drag it lightly against the water jar’s edge to release excess water, and paint another leaf next to the first.
  3. Repeat step 2 until the water runs clear on the paper.

Repeat the exercise a few times to create different hues and shades of your two colours. If you feel you aren't happy with the 2 colours you've chosen as you see them together, now's the time to try some other colours until you find the right 2.

Paint-to-water ratio

Test your strokes

Have a scape piece of paper close by to test your transparency and stroke. We want this first layer to have a lot of transparancy. You can use a mixing well here to get the right mix. Once you find the right ratio of paint-to-water, begin painting your leaves.

First use the tip of your brush to paint a thin stem, then move into your dual-pressure stroke to create your leaves. Once you are happy with this light transparent layer, let it completely dry. I'm using Cascade Green.

Test your strokes

Create transparent layers

Now we can add the second layer using a medium paint-to-water ratio. Get creative with the placement and ensure you feature some overlapping leaves to show depth. Again, let this layer dry before moving on.

Create transparent layers

Multiple layers add depth

Now let's add the final layer. This is when I use some Perylene Green. I’m going to be using this with its full pigment on display, as it will be used to paint my most eye-catching leaves. You can use the same colour you’ve been using and just add more pigment to your brush this round. It will create the same effect. And that's it!

Multiple layers add depth

View the full tutorial online at

View more of Peggy Dean's work @thepigeonletters

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