Watercolor and Ink for Beginners - Fun and Easy Ways to Paint Leaves | Kristen Knechtel | Skillshare

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Watercolor and Ink for Beginners - Fun and Easy Ways to Paint Leaves

teacher avatar Kristen Knechtel, Illustrator / Surface Pattern Designer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

14 Lessons (36m)
    • 1. Intro and Welcome to Class

    • 2. Materials

    • 3. Basic Leaves

    • 4. Basic Leaves - Multi-Coloured

    • 5. Basic Leaves - Adding Ink

    • 6. Basic Leaves - Ink First

    • 7. Basic Leaves - Kids Paint

    • 8. Large Leaf - Jagged Edge

    • 9. Large Leaf - Smooth Edge

    • 10. Large Leaf - Adding Ink - Jagged Edge

    • 11. Large Leaf - Adding Ink - Smooth Edge

    • 12. Wreath - Closed

    • 13. Wreath - Open

    • 14. Your Project

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About This Class

A fun and simple class for beginners! No experience or fancy materials required!

Whether you have just started illustrating or want to begin, this class will help get you started with the basics and simple projects to make your own.

We will explore a few different techniques to create leaves with watercolour paint and ink.  Using just a few simple materials, we will explore different ways to use and combine them for different effects.

The projects are fun and a great way to start exploring illustration.  Hopefully this class will inspire you to keep creating!

Materials you will need:

  • watercolour paint
  • paper (preferably watercolour or mixed media)
  • jar with water for your brush
  • brush 
  • pen 
  • palette for mixing (optional)

My Materials 

Below are the materials I use in the class. They are all economically priced and great for beginners!


  • Moleskine Art Plus Watercolour
  • Canson XL Mixed Media


  • Windsor & Newton Cotman Water Colours (tube set)
  • Artist's Loft Watercolour (pan set)
  • Crayola Washable Watercolours (kids paint)


  • Round brushes (mine are Medden)


  • Pigma Micron (various sizes)
  • Sakura Gelly Roll (medium)
  • Pilot V5 (extra fine)

You can find all of these on Amazon or in craft stores!

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Kristen Knechtel

Illustrator / Surface Pattern Designer



Hi! I'm Kristen and I'm an illustrator and letterer from Canada!  I always loved art and came back to it as a mom of 3 littles who craved a creative outlet.

My work includes tee designs, logos, surface patterns, custom invitations, wood signs/key holders, and printable wall art.

I'm addicted to all things botanical and bright.

I love to use watercolour paints + ink and to create digitally using an iPad Pro.


One of my favourite things about Skillshare is meeting people - say hi!! :)


You can find my prints, invitations, wood signs, and key holders on Etsy.

My illustrations on fabric on Spoonflower

Art print and illustrations on various goods on Society6.

 See full profile

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1. Intro and Welcome to Class: Hi, my name is Christine. I'm an illustrator and a photograph. I have been doing it for a couple years now. I put together patterns, principles, illustrations. I do it for clients and I also just do it for fun. But this class is for beginners maybe who haven't tried illustration before, painting or playing around with ink. Nothing too crazy, but to get you using your materials, getting excited about it and really just exploring what you can do with some simple materials. We're going to go over different types of paints and ink and paper. You can just use what you have. In this class, we're going to learn a few different simple ways to illustrate leaves using watercolor and ink. You can try, you can explore, you can mix and match them and get your brush to the paper, get your pen down there, interrelate to start creating. You can do it if you've never painted before. It's going to be a lot of fun. The goal of the class is to have fun, to explore, to get your painting. I'm going to show you some examples from my sketchbook as well as what materials I use. You don't need anything fancy, you can use what you have or something inexpensive. The goal is to have fun and to explore and to get you painting. 2. Materials: I wanted to go over with you some of the materials that I use. I'm going to start with my paper. This here is the Moleskine artist's watercolor pocket book. This one is my absolute favorite. This was my first one that I ever got. I love the way that it holds the watercolor, that paper's really nice. It's a good price point and holds ink well. It's something that I would definitely recommend. It also comes with a little elastic. That one is the Moleskine, if you can see it there. My next paper that I use a lot is the Canson mixed media books. These are my favorite, especially for when you are first starting out. They are really inexpensive, for what you get. As you can see, they come in few different sizes. This is the larger one here. It's 9 by 12 inches. This is the smaller one, 7 by 10 inches. It has a pretty good paper for holding watercolor. You don't have to worry about feeling like you're wasting more expensive watercolor paper. These you can find at craft stores, you can get them on Amazon. They are not expensive. I would definitely recommend using one of these, especially if you're just getting started with watercolors, sketching, it's really a great way to get into it. The paper is great, it's going to hold your paint. The paints, these are my current favorites. Have the Windsor & Newton Cotman water color tubes. This is Windsor & Newton's more economical or inexpensive set. They're not going to be as pigmented as, say the professional set, but they are going to be much less expensive and you can still get great results with these. For these ones, I squeeze a little bit into my palette. This is, I think $1 at Walmart. I use it all the time. You can reanimate your dried paints, you just mix in a little bit more water. Something else I use a lot, are just these artist's loft watercolor pan sets from Michael's, very inexpensive. My kids also use these. I find the colors aren't quite as pigmented as the tubes, but they still work great. You can mix your colors over here. There's a bunch of little wells. That's really great for mixing paint. I also use these sometimes, these are the kids Crayola watercolors. Didn't mean they're not amazing, they're not terrible. You can definitely still get some cool results with those. For brushes, I just have an inexpensive set off Amazon. I like round brushes. I try to look for ones that have pretty good points at the ends. That way you can get better details. These are the sizes I use, I guess the most. I have a 12 and a six. I use this one for sure the most. I got a whole set of them in various sizes. Water, so water in a jar. These are the pens I use on a regular basis. I have these Pigma Micron pens. These are great for if you want to do your ink first, and you're watercolor after. They will not bleed, they will stay intact on your page. They come in a ton of different sizes, which just means they're going to have different size. You can see on the end there. You can color thick lines, thin lines, these are great for sketching too. Now, let's see here I have an eighth. This is going to be a thicker line, if you can see the end there. That's the eight. Then a mid-range would be a three. Let's see, that's quite a bit thinner. Then, I also have the one. This one is for teeny tiny lines. It really just depends on what look you're going for, what you prefer. I use this one. This is just a Pilot ink pen. I just got this on Amazon. I like the extra fine. This one you really should only use after you have already painted and your page is dry, because this one will run a little bit. Last, I have the Gelly Roll white gel pen. This is a thicker one. I have the eight, which I believe is the medium size. It's not super fine point. But I also find, because it has a larger end, it doesn't clog or dry up as easily. 3. Basic Leaves : For our first lesson, I'm going to show you how to paint and just basic easy leaves that you can build off of. You can play around with the shapes and the colors. This is my palette here. It's already obviously got some dry paint on it. For the most part, I can just mix in some water for the colors that I'm going to use and it will reanimate that paint. I'm going to use my palette. Got it ready here. I'm using these paints. These are the Winsor and Newton Cotman tubed watercolors. I'm going to start with this blue here. Generally I start with a couple of stems. It doesn't need to be perfect and then I'm going to get some more paint for the leaf. A couple different ways you can do it. One is just to paint the leaf shape and then fill it in. Another is we're going to press down with the brush and then lift up at the end to get that point there. If you want, you can leave the little white space in the middle, just adds a little bit interest. We're going to paint some leaves here. I like to use lots of water when I'm painting because I really like seeing how the paint will move and dry, so it doesn't look just like one flat color as you can see here, it's pooling. Some parts are darker than others. It doesn't need to be perfect. They can be overlapping. This one I'd use just all one color paint by having quite a bit of water on my brush. It gave me those, the lighter areas and the darker areas, which I personally really like. I think it adds interest to it and I love seeing how the paint moves and dries on the page. 4. Basic Leaves - Multi-Coloured: Next, I'm going to show you how to do the same thing except using two different colors, or really you can use as many as you'd like. I have a reddish color here and I'm going to use the same blue. I'm just going to add a little bit more water to it there. Essentially, you're just going to be doing the same thing. You want to make sure you have a decent amount of water on your brush so that the paint has a chance to mix before it dries, and that's what's going to give us the really cool mixture between the colors. Let's move this over there. I'm going to grab some of the red. Sometimes when I'm using more than one color, I try and get some of the pigment on my brush and bring it into the middle well where I can mix it and I don't have to worry so much about, I guess, contaminating the original paint color. So I got some of the red on here. As you can see my stem is already dried a bit, so I'm going to mix in some of the blues there and just try to wet this a little bit more. You will find if you use different brands of paper, some of them are going to dry faster than others. Just depends on what you're working on, how fast you'll have to go to get them to mix. What I'm doing is I'm just painting the leaves here the same way that we did. In-between I'm cleaning off my brush and going back to the red and doing some in the red and some in the blue. While the paint is still wet, you can just drop some pigment in there and it will move and dry in. We're just painting leaves and letting the paint interacts with each other and with the water. So the more water that you have, the longer it's going to take to dry, and the more time you're going to have to get the two colors to interact and to mix the colors. So I think that's pretty good. We're going to let that dry and see how it looks. Here's another way that you can use multiple colors with just this simple leaf pattern. For this one, I use the blue and green for the leaves and a red for the stems. 5. Basic Leaves - Adding Ink: I'm going to show you how you can add ink to your watercolor leaves. I'm going to first show you using my pilot pen. There are a few different ways that we can go about this. The first would be to outline all of the leaves and that would look something like this. You can see in this one I've outlined all of the leaves, for this one I just did it very loosely. I like that look when you can still see the paper underneath and then it doesn't match up perfectly. Another option is something like this, where we do a variety of different kinds of leaves. Use both black and white ink. For this one, I for the most part did not align the leaves. I drew details inside. I'm going to add some black to this one. I don't want to follow it too closely because that is the look that I prefer. Remember it does not need to be perfect, in fact I think it adds some interest if it's not perfect. Something else that we can do is we can go in here and add other leaves with only ink. If you want to add a few leaves that will essentially just look like they're white, they can add some interest as well. Just like that. You could even add if you wanted a whole another sprig over here. If you're working on a larger piece and you were looking to maybe make a pattern or fill the page, you could do a combination of watercolor leaves and also ink leaves. I'm going to show you now how you can actually add white ink in over top. I'm going to come back to this guy here. See, you can actually draw right over top of the leaves. Sometimes you need to go over a couple of times to really get coverage. You can add in lines, you can add in designs, you can add in dots, really whatever you like. I'm going to show you one other technique that you can use and that is doing the ink first. For that you need to make sure to use a bleed proof pen, so you're going to want to use something like the micron. I'm going to use the three, I think it's a good size. What you're going to do is essentially sketch those leaves in first, then you're going to go in and paint them afterwards. I tend to like it to look more on the messy side. I like to do it roughly. I'm not following the lines really whatsoever, adding blobs of color in the general vicinity. You could also do this with multiple colors, it would be the exact same technique. 6. Basic Leaves - Ink First: I'm going to show you one other technique that you can use, and that is doing the ink first. For that you need to make sure to use a bleed proof pen. You're going to want to use something like the micron. I am going to use the three. I think it's a good size. What you're going to do is essentially sketch those leaves in first. Then you're going to go in and paint them afterwards. I tend to make it to look more on the messy side, so I like to just do it roughly. I'm not following the lines really whatsoever. Just adding blobs of color and the general vicinity. You could also do this with multiple colors, it would be the exact same technique. 7. Basic Leaves - Kids Paint: I wanted to show you that you also don't need to have fancy watercolors. You can really just use what you have around the house, even your kids' art supplies. These are just the Crayola kid watercolors. I am just going to show you that even using leaves, we can have some great results. To use these, all you need to do is get some water on your brush and you are going to put some on the watercolor just to activate it to get it going. I got some green on here. Let's see. I'm just going to do our basic leaves. Can see I need to get some fresh water. You can see they are pretty vibrant. Let me do some and add in some purple maybe do some purple ones. A little trick I use for if I'm using watercolors like this that don't have anywhere to mix my paints is I just use a lid from sour cream yogurt or whatever you have, and I use that as my palette. You are just going to go in there, get some paint on your brush, you put it on here. I rinse it. I'm going to get some other purple in there. You can see we can mix it in there, and so we can get some different colors and hues that way. Let me keep this paint as a little bit thicker than what I was just using. I've got to make sure I keep lots of water on my brush, to prevent it from drying too quick on me. Then I'm going to let this dry. We have some basic leaves using just our Crayola kids watercolors. 8. Large Leaf - Jagged Edge: For this exercise, I'm going to show you how to do a different style of leaf, a little bit bigger one that you can add more colors and we can add lots of interests and leader with our ink. One option you have is to sketch it out and pencil beforehand. This is just one of my daughters regular pencils. I suggest definitely doing it light because the darker the line, the more likely you are to see it through your watercolor. Sometimes you can't erase them after you paint it, but I find it can be difficult. I prefer to either just wing it and not use pencil or I try to draw really light. I'm going to sketch on here a couple of larger leaves. I'm going to do a bit of a jagged edge on this one. You can see that, well, I'll draw another one over here so we can have two. Okay, those are actually a little bit darker than I would typically draw, but you can see those on there. I'm just going to erase them a little bit, just so they're really faint, I can just barely see them. But enough that they know where to pain it gives me a little bit of a guide. Okay, we're going to use my round brush again. This one is my favorite one to use. I like the size, I like the pointed tip on it. Okay, I'm going to use and got this blue already. Actually, I'm going to mix up some of the green, might need to add a little bit more in there, just going to add a little bit more. This is the green that I have, I'm just going to mix up a little bit for that one, put some in the middle there. Okay, I'm going to start out with the green and what I'm going to do is essentially trace roughly the edge of the leaf. Now it doesn't need to be perfect. I tend to prefer more of a loose look just because I like to have the ink over top not exactly match up. I just want to try to fill this in fairly quick. I'm just adding just water at this point, so I can have lots of water and I want to get to the edges before they dry so I don't have a hard line there. We can add some water and then what I'm also going to do using a wet on wet painting technique is I'm going to add in some blue just so we have a little bit of interest. I can drop it into those wet areas. Okay. I forgot I need to add the stems. We're going to do the same with the other one, and you don't need to go all the way around the outside first. You can work however you want, filling it in. It does not need to be perfect. I'm just going to add some water in here, okay. Maybe add some water in there as you can see, when you drop some water into the paint, you get some really cool effects. You can see that. Okay, I'm going to leave this to dry before we come back to it with some ink. 9. Large Leaf - Smooth Edge: Another type of large leaf that we can do is one with a smooth edge. It's going to be very similar to these ones that we did with the jagged edge. It's just [inaudible] and I have a smooth edge. It's pretty much the exact same technique. I'm not going to sketch this one out because it's really such a basic shape. I like to add in lots of water, and I'm going to add in some blues, and sometimes I like to leave little white spots in the middle; I feel like it just adds some more interest when it dries. I'm going to add in that. For this one, I'm not going to add in any stems. I'm going to come back and do the stems with ink once this is dry. We're going to let those dry. 10. Large Leaf - Adding Ink - Jagged Edge: 11. Large Leaf - Adding Ink - Smooth Edge: Okay, so these are drying out. I'm going to come back to them with ink so you can see they dried it's, cool to see where the water spots are, how the colors interacted. You can see where there were pools of water and gives it some really cool texture. Now what we're going to do is I'm going to use actually some black ink, I'm going to use this one. I'm going to start over, I think with this guy. I think I'm going to do just ink on the inside I'm not going to go around the edges with this one I'm going to do just inside details. So I drew just the line down the middle and I'm going to do just a few leafy veins out to the edges. You can also add a stem, I think I'm going to add a stem in for this one, there we go, and add another one in. This one I think I'm going to do long lines. Actually, I think that one, I'm going to leave and add some white after. So I'm going to add their stems. This one's pretty light, so I'm going to want to add some lines in just to give the shape a little bit more definition. Okay, I think for these other ones I'm going to add [inaudible] , you can add some white. You can either add only white or you can add it to some that already have some black. So for this one I'm just going to come in, I'm going to add some dots, maybe a few white lines. Whatever you want, add in there. Sometimes I like to leave some of them more unembellished like these ones here. Just because I think it's cool how the paint interacted in that and I want that to be the focus for those leaves. 12. Wreath - Closed: For our last little lesson, I'm going to show you how to do a basic wreath. I'm actually going to show you two types of wreaths: an open wreath and closed wreath. For this one, you may want to sketch as the basic shape so it doesn't end up looking super wacky. First, we're going to start out with just the round wreath, and I just have a rough kind of circle there. If you can see that, I have just a rough circle, it doesn't need to be perfect. It just helps it to make sure that it's not super lopsided. For this one, I think I'm just going to use mostly greens, maybe a little bit of blue. For the wreath, what we're going to do is essentially we are going to fill it up with leaves and stems. This one since it's a circle, we're going to go all the way around. All the leaves are going to be facing the same way. You can really choose if you want to go clockwise, counterclockwise. I think I'm actually going to go clockwise for this one. You can really start anywhere. I'd be easier to starting at the top just so your hands not always over wear your painting. You're just going to start painting your leaves. You can have them filled, you can leave spaces. Also, how full you want to make it is really up to you, if you want to have lots of leaves coming out of this side or if you want to have it just be more like one stem with a few leaves here and there. As you can see, you're just going to keep working your way around. I like to work my way around like this instead of painting a circle all the way around just because that way you can have leaves going over the middle and then your paint also will stay wet where you're working on it as opposed to drying before you have time to get there. I'm actually going to just fill some of these in. I'm just using a mixture of blue and green. I really like the colors that come from those mixed together. You can also move your paper around. That makes it easier. We've gone all the way around. If you want, you can go in and add some more over top or fill out certain areas. I might add in another one over here. It looks kind of empty. You have basic wreath. You can write something in there, you can leave it blank, whatever you want. 13. Wreath - Open: Next I'm going to show you an open wreath. It's very similar, except that it's open. For this one you are essentially just going to do two arches like this. You can either have them connecting at the bottom or you can leave them a bit apart. It's really up to you. Sometimes I like to put flowers or something in there and sometimes I like to have them connected, it's just like a big U. This one I'm just going to do two brackets. I have my lines on there just as a guide. You don't need to do this, you can always just wing it. We're going to do basically the exact same thing as what we just did with the full wreath, except we're just going to do it in two sections. For this one I'm going to use a little bit longer of a reef. It's very similar, just the shape is a little bit longer and a little bit thinner. There we go. 14. Your Project: For your project, I challenge you to take any of the techniques that I have shown you to make your own piece with leaves. You are welcome to mix and match. You can use different sized leaves, different colors, only one color. You can add ink or not add ink. Really, it's up to you. The combinations are endless. I can't wait to see what you create. Please remember to take a photo of your final piece, as well as maybe some pictures of your process along the way. Please don't forget to post it in the project section of this class so that I can check it out and other students can as well. If you posted it on social media, please tag me @writtenbykristen or use #writtenbykristen, and I would love to feature you. Thank you so much for watching. Can't wait to see what you create.