Have you wondered how to watercolor a pile of fall leaves in this lovely season?

I’ve been wanting to get out to paint some fall trees — it’s been so pretty where I live! But every time I have time on my hands, it’s pouring rain. And when it’s sunny, I’m swamped and unable to go. So I’m satisfying my itch for fall color by painting some leaves in my sketchbook. Layer by layer!

This is how far I’ve gotten in my Sketchaday Sketchbook….Can I finish it in 2023!?!?!?!

Tutorial: How to watercolor a pile of leaves

The video is in realtime but with so many repetitive steps, a bunch were cut so you can go spend your day painting and not watching more leaves. 🙂

Watch the video below and scroll to the end to leave comments or questions — or click HERE to watch it on YouTube and leave comments over there. I read both dutifully!

Wet in wet first layer

I dropped color across my sketch in pretty much random order. I only barely targeted leaves, just a few here and there.

Carving with washes

Light washes allow for a slow buildup of layers. But don’t go too light; if you need to “match” a layer below, you’ll just have more and more layers to try to paint right up to an edge. But don’t go super thick either. Practicing in a sketchbook helps figure out how much paint will work, and how much will lead to mud.

Deeper layers

Darker colors — mixed from the very same colors in that first layer (New Gamboge, Anthraquinoid Scarlet, Lunar Blue). Each successive layer covers, typically, less than the layer above, so that smaller and smaller areas get richer and darker.

Final detail

I’ve chosen a few leaves to add a vein, a shadow, or a small detail to—and knocked some more leaves back into the depths with a wash atop them.

The inspiration

Go over to Paint My Photo and download the photo yourself if you like – and try my colors or others! Have fun practicing negative painting.


Some product may be provided by manufacturers for review and use. Compensated affiliate links are here at no cost to you. I appreciate your support of my work with your purchases! Full affiliate and product disclosure | My trusted partners in art

  1. Sketch a day by Lake Michigan Book Press 
  2. House of Hoffman Palette 
  3. Daniel Smith Watercolors:
    1. Hansa Yellow Light
    2. New Gamboge
    3. Anthraquinoid Scarlet
    4. Lunar Blue
  4. Artist tape 1/2” 
  5. Winsor Newton Kolinsky Sable Series 7 Round #10
  6. Winsor Newton Kolinsky Sable Series 7 Round #8 
  7. Da Vinci Maestro Kolinsky Sable Round 4 

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  1. Donna

    Beautiful work and your voice is so calming.

  2. Regina Auringer

    Einfach wundervoll.

    Liebe Grüße aus Deutschland

  3. Bonnie Tait

    Hello Sandy,I’m a fall girl,I have a nice sized oval shaped park in front of my house. The tress and leaves are such a blessing too me. They just shine in the fall. We have gotten a lot of rain recently, and some of the color wasn’t the same as past years, but the ones that are, are magnificent. I could watch you paint for hrs and hrs. Your watercolor talent truly is a God given talent. You

  4. Gab

    This is so so pretty

    • Cindy Madrulli

      I agree. So vibrant that I thought I was looking at a photo.
      Cindy M

  5. June from Minnesota

    Just fascinating to see your process!
    I am curious to know how much time you spend in your sketch book vs producing “final projects”.
    How do you balance “practice” and “experimentation” with “sellable art”, but in my case it would be “giveable cards” 🙂
    Thank you for sharing your talents!

  6. Cyndy Rogers

    This painting makes my heart smile!!!!

  7. Karen Zemko

    So amazing and relaxing to watch you paint. Always amazed at how a bunch of blobs of paint turn into a beautiful painting! TFS

  8. Jan Mills

    It is so beautiful to see finished art and to watch the process.


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