Watercolor Painting: Leaves of Autumn | Ruxi Vlad | Skillshare

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Watercolor Painting: Leaves of Autumn

teacher avatar Ruxi Vlad, Artist/Illustrator/Semi-crazy cat lady

Watch this class and thousands more

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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

    • 1.



    • 2.



    • 3.

      Leaf 1 - Sketch


    • 4.

      Leaf 1 - First Layer


    • 5.

      Leaf 1 - Second Layer


    • 6.

      Leaf 1 - Finishing Details


    • 7.

      Leaf 2 - Sketch


    • 8.

      Leaf 2 - First Layer


    • 9.

      Leaf 2 - Veins and Blending


    • 10.

      Leaf 2 - Finishing Touches and Stem


    • 11.

      Leaf 3 - Sketch


    • 12.

      Leaf 3 - First Layer


    • 13.

      Leaf 3 - Painting the Veins with Masking Fluid


    • 14.

      Leaf 3 - Second Layer


    • 15.

      Leaf 3 - Third Layer


    • 16.

      Leaf 3 - Unmasking


    • 17.

      Thank You!


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About This Class

Hello and welcome!

Autumn is such a lovely time of year. It's a joy to wander around nature and experience it slowly bursting into color. And of course, collect beautiful leaves! Which is just what we need for our paintings.

This class features:

  • 3 separate projects, each with a different kind of leaf
  • supplies needed
  • step by step instructions, from sketch to finished painting
  • different watercolor painting techniques

You don't need a lot of experience because this class is suitable for all levels.

And, whether you decide to keep your artworks for yourself, or gift them to your loved ones, the joy of creating something beautiful will always stay with you.

So, come on, grab your paintbrush and let's get started!


The background music:

Green Tea by Purrple Cat | https://purrplecat.com
Music promoted by https://www.free-stock-music.com
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported


The music in the intro:

Creek Whistle by Steve Adams.
Music from the YouTube Audio Library.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Ruxi Vlad

Artist/Illustrator/Semi-crazy cat lady


Hello there, I'm Ruxi! I'm a freelance artist and illustrator from Bucharest, Romania. Since I can remember, I've loved drawing and painting. And I did it on everything I could put my hands on, including the house walls and on the back of the geography quizzes my dad had to grade :))) 

Having finished the graphics departament at the National University of Arts, I am very fond of going into great details in my artwork, be it etching, illustration or acrylic painting. Lately though, I have been making handmades, like painted totebags, t-shirts and broches and earrings.

I live and create in my studio apartment that I share with my furry darlings, Usagi, Ami and TziTzi. I would love to share some of my skills and ideas on this wonderful platform that is Skillshare, and al... See full profile

Level: All Levels

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1. Intro: Hey guys, my name is Rosie and I am a freelance artist based in Bucharest, Romania. Today's class is all about autumn and my favorite part of this changing season, all the beautiful colored leaves. The class is divided into three separate projects, each containing a different kind of leaf. The lessons are fairly easy and I recommend them for all levels. I'll take you through the materials I use. You'll learn how to paint using different techniques like blending, layering, and masking. Step-by-step we'll go from sketch to finishing the artwork that you can frame and hang in your house, or even give to a loved one. Let's go and get started. 2. Supplies: For this class, we will be using the following materials, a pencil, I am using a B; an eraser, this one is from Milan, and it's a soft squishy one; a liner brush, a very thin brush, a round small brush, and the water color natural haired thick brush. All the brushes are from Da Vinci, except the blue one, which is from Windsor & Newton. Masking fluid from Pebeo. The water colors are White Nights. These are one of the more high-end watercolors. The pigments are very bright and they blend very nicely. A cup of water, some tissue, a mixing palette, and an extra piece of paper to check the shades and transparencies before applying them, and the actual paper. This one is from Fabriano, 200 grams cold pressed and the size is 24 by 32 centimeters. I'll also be using some actual leaves for reference. You can follow along with me or use your own leaves, real ones or pictures. Let's get painting. 3. Leaf 1 - Sketch: I will make the painting on half of my paper and my leaves fit perfectly on the other half for reference. If you want to frame your leaves, you can leave a one-centimeter border to make sure the painting won't be covered by the frame. You can start your sketch by defining the overall height and width of the leaves. It won't be exactly to scale, I'm going to make it a little smaller to fit the page better. Then you can start to trace the contours of the leaves and you can even count their teeth to make them symmetrical. Take your time and make sure you don't press too hard on your pencil so you can erase any mistake that may occur without leaving a trace on the paper. After you finish sketching the leaves, you can draw the leafstalk and make it a little thicker towards the end. You can erase and retrace any lines that are not clean. Also, you can make the place where the leaf stems meet a little thicker. Next, you can erase the middle vein as we will trace it later in watercolor. Continue to clean up the sketch until you have a single crease contour. Okay, sketch is ready. 4. Leaf 1 - First Layer: Take the thick brush and water the shades that you want to use. In my case, with the White Nights watercolor set, you can water the carmine and the madder lake red light shades and wait for about 20-30 seconds for them to get soaked and ready. A natural haired brush is best, but if you don't have one, you can also use a synthetic round-tip. Watercolors, in general, needs some pre-soaking so that the colors will be more vibrant and saturated. From there, you can dilute them as little or as much as you wish depending on the level of transparency you want. Dip the tip of the brush in water, take some color, and check the shade on the testing paper. First, you want to make a transparent first layer that will serve as the undertone for the leaf. This leaf's undertone is a mix of the two shades of red. Using the palette, mix the two shades together. Then you can apply the result on your leaf in a thin coat. To avoid going over the contour, you can leave the edges of the leaves uncovered and fill them in later with a thin brush. Continue filling in the other two leaves without adding more color, just water. After you finish covering most of the leaves, it can take the liner brush and add some more color mix on the palette. Again, if the color is too intense, just water it down to match the transparency level on the paper. Then go ahead and slowly fill in the contour. Keep adding the watered down color, and even more water if necessary. I started the painting from left to right, and as you can see, that's a mistake, because I'm left-handed. Always start painting from the opposite side of the hand you're using. But if you do start from the wrong direction or need to feel something in and there is wet paint nearby, you can avoid accidental smudges by resting your pinky on a dry spot of the paper. Back to our leaves, you can add some Tuscan red to the edges to better match the color of the leaf. For the middle leaf, you can also add some cadmium yellow medium, then mix it with the Tuscan red and continuing to fill in the contour. At the top, add more red and blend it with more water on the brush. When you finish covering the whole surface, leave it to dry, and you are done with this step. 5. Leaf 1 - Second Layer: Take the fig brush, dip it a little in water and fill it with the pre-soft threads, then put it on the palette. After that, you can add in a little ultramarine blue on the darker areas. Then go ahead and apply the second layer of red on the leaves. Where there are darker spots, take a pinch of ultramarine and dub it with the tip to create some more texture. Clean the brush and take out the excess water on the tissue, then grab some titian red and apply it to the edges. Add more ultramarine spots, and then if you want to blend them softer, clean your brush and dry it in a spinning motion on the tissue, then mix the shades on the leaf while the water colors are still wet. Continue the same process on the other leaves. For a steadier hand while painting the teeth of the leaf, you can rest your pink on a dry spot of the paper. In the drying process of the first leaf, you can redistribute the colors if they tend to paddle. This usually happens if the paper is either too thin or has a low cotton percentage like in my case. This is not a tragedy, just that the paper can't absorb as much water as a more expensive 100 percent cotton one, so you have to be a little more careful with the quantity of water applied per layer. On the sides of the leaf, add some mortician red and yellow. Where the two shades meet, clean the brush and with only a bit of water on it, blend the two colors in. Moving on to the third leaf, you can first add some yellow on the extremities, then proceed to fill the rest with red. Afterwards, add a pinch of ultramarine on the parts you want to be a little darker. If they appear too dark, dry the brush and as you can see it acts like a little vacuum. Also keep in mind that water colors appear brighter when wet and become more transparent after they dry. Continue blending the yellows and reds, and when you are happy with the result, leave it to dry. Second layer, done. 6. Leaf 1 - Finishing Details: Take the liner brush and drip some water on the colors. If you have a dropper, that can actually work best for the pre-soaking process. With the sepia and the burnt umber, start to paint the stems of the leaves and then the stalk. Add water to give it more levels of transparency. Keep the movement slow and steady so you can avoid any mishaps like I just had. If, however, they happen, add some water to the clean brush and firmly dab it with a dry and clean tissue. Finish the leaf stalk with a darker shade at the end, and define the final shape with a steady continuous stroke. Next, the veins. First, trace the midrib that will be slightly thicker than the veins. The midrib is also a little thinner towards the tip. Then, trace the veins, one for each tooth of the leaf. In-between these veins, you can add some smaller and more transparent veins. After that, repeat the process on the other two leaves. For a more realistic look of the veins, trace them a little [inaudible]. You can add more color on the intersection point of the veins with the midrib for a more organic look. After you finish with the veins, we can add some darker spots with the thick brush. Water down the shade and start applying the spots on the leaves. Remember, the shade appears darker when wet and will become transparent after it dries. Dip the brush in water and dab it on the tissue in a circular motion. Clean any excess color and blend it where you see fit. After you are satisfied with the result, put the brush down, and enjoy your finished work. Congratulations, your painting is done. 7. Leaf 2 - Sketch: With the pencil, you can start the sketch by tracing the overall height of the leaf. After you've determined the size of the leaf, makes some horizontal lines which will indicate the position of the lobes. Then you can start tracing the contour of the leaf. Take your time and make sure you don't press too hard on your pencil so you can erase any mistakes without leaving a trace on the paper. The paper has a one centimeter border if you want to frame it and even if you don't, it's more aesthetically pleasing if you leave a space between your leaf and the edge of the paper. When you're happy with your sketch, clean up the counter and erase the horizontal lines. That is it with the sketch. 8. Leaf 2 - First Layer: First, drip some water on the colors you intend on using, so they will be more vibrant than saturated. In this case, I presoak the red ocher, raw sienna, English red, yellowish green, yellow ocher, and cadmium yellow, and wait it for about 30 seconds. After the colors are nice and soaked, take the raw sienna and the red ocher and mix them on the palette. Then, we can start applying the mix on the top part of the leaf. The color can be cooled down with a pinch of sepia. Clean the brush off any excess color and continue painting. At the tips of the lobes, if you don't have a natural haired brush, it's better to use a thinner one to obtain sharp edges. The upside of our natural hair brush is that you basically have more brushes in one because the tip stays very sharp when wet, while the body gathers lots of color for wide strokes. Getting back to our leaf, you can combine more shades on a small surface while the colors are still wet to obtain a nice gradient effect. As you go down towards the base of the leaf, you can add some yellow on the middle part and brown at the tips. Continue to paint the tips of the lobes in a darker brown. Keep in mind that the darker shades, even watered down, will appear darker when wet, but will get lighter when they dry. Then, clean the brush, add some yellow and blend them. After that, add to the yellow section a tiny bit of yellowish green. As you get closer to the base, you can add a bit more green. Next, repeat the process on the other half of the leaf. In the yellow area, you can add some brown spots when the paint is semi-dry to get the softer blend. Add some red ocher on the central part of the leaf from the middle section upwards. Then on the lobes apply some umber. You can also trace the contour with this shade and then blend it with some greenish yellow mixture. Continue to fill in the remaining blank parts and softly blend everything together. Add some more color where you see fit, and if you have too much water on the paper rub it with the brush. Define the tips to give them a sharp edge using a pinch of sepia. Finish painting the middle section in a greenish yellow shade. Then with the burnt umber, you can apply some darker spots on the top part and a few ones on the other parts of the leaf. Where the color bled too much, simply rinse and dry the brush in a spinning motion on the tissue and take the excess out. The color will continue to blend if the area is wet enough so the gradient will get smoother but you can also add more color if necessary. That's it for this step. 9. Leaf 2 - Veins and Blending: After the first layer has completely dried, we can now make the veins and continue with the blending process. Take a thin brush, dip it in water, and start to trace the first part of the midrib going up until about the middle of the leaf. Leave the water to soak in the paper for a bit, then with a clean and dry tissue dab it firmly. You can use this technique if you want to light up any areas that are too intense or too dark, or if you want to blend some areas to be smoother minus the tissue dab. For any of these three touches, it's best to use a thinner brush for a better control over the quantity of water. For the midrib with the liner brush, take some yellowish green and mix it with the yellow and start tracing thin lines on the sides of the rib. Make sure the color is water down enough. Then add the veins on each side of the leaf making them a little thicker towards the middle and thinner towards the tips. You can make the veins bleed a little on the sides by adding a bit of water and spreading them around. Keep adding more green in a translucent layer in between the first three veins where the leaf has the most green. Continue to trace the veins until the fourth lobe. Add more spots of yellow ocher on the middle section before the green has dried. Then with the yellow and red, ocher mix, finish the top part on the midrib and the remaining veins. Keep on defining the veins, little by little using the thin coat of color. Make the base of the veins slightly bigger than the tips. Repair any lines that are too thick by blurring them just with water. Then you can further darken and sharpen the tips of the lobes with some sepia. On the tip, only some small details remaining. 10. Leaf 2 - Finishing Touches and Stem: With the liner brush, fill in the stem of the leaf with the yellow ocher. Then give some definition to the green veins with the yellowish green and yellow ocher without adding too much water. Make the intensity of the color fade as you reach the tips of the lobes. After that, retrace the smaller veins with a more water down shape. Next, take the red ocher and gives more definition to the upper part of the midrib and veins, and also add some brown spots here and there. Blend the colors with water where the gradient isn't soft enough and define the contour of the leaf. Give the stem some depth with a darker shade of brown on the tip and side. We can give the leaf a more textured look by taking some color with the brush and tapping it to create a splatter. After that, we can give some of the splattered dots more definition with the tip of the brush. Once you are satisfied with the end result, put your brush down and rejoice. Your leaf is done. 11. Leaf 3 - Sketch: For this lesson, we are going to make a composition of leaves that will look awesome with a nice frame. That's why again, I left a one centimeter border around the paper for framing. Starting with the sketch, trace three lines where the middle of the leaves will be. Then trace where the upper row ends and the bottom one begins. Next, sketch the leaves, keeping the shape rounded and simple and add a little tip. After that, draw the stems, making them slightly thicker towards their end. Keep the pressure of the pencil very light so you can erase without leaving any marks or smudges. When you're happy with your overall shape and size of your leaves, pin them up by erasing any extra lines until you have a single continuous contour. After that, your sketch will be ready. 12. Leaf 3 - First Layer: Take your thick brush, dunk it in water, then drip it on the colors you want to use, and wait for them to soak for about 30 seconds. After the watercolors are ready, pick some color and put it on the mixing palette. Because I'm left-handed, I will start from right to left so I can prevent any accidental smudges with the side of my hand. If you're right-handed, it's best to begin from left to right. Beginning from right to left, take the green and amber shade and mix them on the palette. Use a testing paper first to see if your shade is right and then apply it in a thin and even layer. The colors I will use for the first layer will be the undertones of the leaves and the final result will be a beautiful overlaying of colors. These transparencies are what give the watercolor technique its distinctive appearance. For the middle leaf, pick the brighter green and mix it with the darker one and again, apply it in a thin layer. Rinse the brush and for the left upper leaf, use the madder lake red light shade and the sepia. Mix them on the palette and then filling the leaf evenly. If there is too much water, dry your brush and clean up any excess from the leaf. After the first leaf has dried, if you think the undertone is too transparent, add a bit more on the edges. When your water gets too dirty, change it with some fresh one, especially if you paint with yellow, so as to keep it nice and bright. Continue with the bottom row, remembering to begin from the opposite side of your hand. Take the cadmium yellow medium shade and start filling the leaf. Actually, the whole row of leaves will have a yellow undertone. The only difference is that the yellow on the right leaf is applied in a thicker coat of color than the other two. Just add more water on the brush and continue filling the remaining leaves. After this, wait for the layer to dry completely and when you're ready, move on to the next step. 13. Leaf 3 - Painting the Veins with Masking Fluid: In this step, we'll use the masking fluid to make them mid-ribs and veins of the leaves. The best way to use it is not to shake it, but to gently stir it with the brush. When stirring it, put the bottle upside down so it won't make that dry ring that I just fished out. The best brush for these kinds of thin lines is of course the liner brush. Deep the brush not too deep in the masking fluid and start with the midrib, making it thicker, then make the veins thinner. I wanted to give them a more decorative look, so I'll make them simple and straight. If you make a mistake before the fluid dries, you can quickly put some water over it and erase it with the brush or you can wait for it to dry and remove it with your finger. The fluid will dry in about 10 minutes. It is also recommended to use a brush that you're not very fond of like I am with my lovely liner brush. But again, if you want to thin and straight lines, you must use a good brush. My advice is, if you use a more expensive brush, immediately after finishing with the massing fluid, go and wash your brush with hot water and soap until you take everything out of the hairs. Oh, and don't forget to put the lid back and close the bottle first. Then you're finished with the step. 14. Leaf 3 - Second Layer: With the thick brush, dip it in water and take some titian red. Then, apply some spots on the top right leaf. Continue by adding more shades with the madder-lake red in the middle area, and sepia on the edges, and a little on the base and the tip. Next, for the top middle leaf, mix the carmine with the madder-lake red and cover it with a second layer. On the top-left leaf, add some sepia to the red to obtain a blood color and cover the whole surface too. Because the veins are covered with a masking fluid that doesn't allow water to get through, the colors will disperse and dry in an uneven shade and that will look beautiful. Next, clean your water cup or have more of them. I didn't really have space for more cups because I wanted flowers and all sorts of leaves in the frame. Moving on to the bottom row, further right leaf, take some yellow ocher and paint most of the leaf leaving the edges uncovered. Then, add some raw sienna to the very middle just around the midrib. You can also add a bit of titian red here and there. On the middle leaf, take the titian red and cover it with a second layer, then add some spots of madder-lake red. Finally, on the left leaf, take some titian red again and cover it with a second even layer. This time, we will use the madder-lake red in a more concentrated shade, and dab the leaf to obtain some more intense areas of color. Leave it to dry, and you are done with this step. 15. Leaf 3 - Third Layer: After the colors have completely dried, you can start with the third and final layer. We're just going to give the leaves some more intensity with some darker shades here and there. Add some more umber mixed with a darker green, and paint a few spots on the top right leaf. Then clean your brush and add some other like red and sepia to the top in a leaf, concentrating more on the base of the leaf. Add some umber to this mix for the top left leaf and really apply a generous amount of color. On the bottom row, you can just add some brown spots. While leaving them to dry, we can make the stems. Take the thin brush and with the umber, start drawing the stems. A very good example of what can happen if you're too eager to paint before the area has dried. I made some splashes around the still wet leaf. Okay, I'm going to fix that, I just need some clean water. With a clean brush and clean water, paint over the spill, leave it a little to soak in, then with a dry and clean part of the tissue, dub it firmly. I guess it's good enough. Continue with the stems covering them in a single layer. One more step to go. 16. Leaf 3 - Unmasking: For this final step, make sure everything is completely dry and your fingers are clean, of course. Then start to scrape away the masking fluid. You can clean it away with an eraser as well. If the coating is thick enough, you can also peel it off, but that is not really recommended because it could come off some some of the color too, even though it's so satisfying. After you scrape everything away and clean any remaining pencil marks, your done. Congratulations. 17. Thank You!: Thank you so much for watching. I hope you enjoyed painting this beautiful autumn leaves as much as I did, and found lessons to be informative and fun. I hope to see your works in the project section and would love to read your feedback or to answer any questions in the comments. Also, if you enjoyed this class, check out my other classes and give me a follow up to be notified when I post new ones. Bye for now. Oh for God's sake.