Leaves | Skillshare Projects

Anna Day

Calligrapher & Designer





Some subjects I considered are teacups and/or teapots, fish, and leaves. I decided on leaves since I have models at hand in the garden. I picked some and took a photo. I won't use all these leaves, but they give me something to refer to and some ideas for colours.


Pen Drawings



To paint my leaves I used the following Winsor & Newton artists' watercolours: Winsor Green (Yellow Shade), Permanent Sap Green, Winsor Lemon, Indian Yellow, Cadmium Red (tiny bit), Permanent Alizarin, and Permanent Magenta.

I created contrasts between large and small, bright and dull, red and green. I hope these contrasts, along with the variety of shapes, will make the pattern more appealing, but at this stage I can't imagine how it will look.

I cut out my watercolour leaves and taped them to a piece of paper to scan them so that it would be easier to digitally separate them later. 


Remove Background

I do not have Photoshop, so I used Affinity Photo to make the background transparent and tidy edges.


Image Trace

I do not have Illustrator. Affinity Designer is my favourite drawing and design program, but it does not offer tracing. I occasionally use Inkscape. In the past I have successfully used image trace in Inkscape to vectorise a small black and white drawing, but I had never tried it with colour. I decided to test just one leaf first. Here is a comparison of my leaf from Affinity Photo, which is close in colour to my original, and two traces using Inkscape:


To scan a coloured bitmap in Inkscape one must specify the number of scans, which corresponds to the number of colours. A separate path is then created for each colour. According to the Inkscape documentation, colours are chosen via the Octree Quantization method, so the user has no control apart from specifying the number of colours.

Even with 70 or 100 colours, there is a big difference from my original watercolour. The vector leaves do not differentiate yellow well and look generally dull. To me they are unacceptable.

Furthermore, the file size just for one leaf is huge and the vector images are difficult to move around the screen. Of course, I could specify fewer colours, but when I tried that the results were even worse, with the same type of colour and patchy.

Therefore, I will use the images from Affinity Photo to create my patterns in Affinity Designer. They will work the same way as vector drawings: I can resize them, tilt them, etc. Since my watercolour leaves were reasonably big and I scanned them at 300 dpi, I can make them as large as I can imagine wanting them.

Repeating Patterns

For my first repeating leaf pattern I arranged the leaves in a simple block shape with all of them pointing in the same direction. Here is that pattern on a pale yellow-green background.


Here is the same pattern on a dark green background with the whole pattern tilted so the repeating block is not quite so obvious.


The red Croton leaf stands out, so I used it twice per repeat in my second pattern, rotating and scaling it for variety. I also repeated one of the smaller leaves, flipping and scaling it. Here is my second pattern on a pale yellow-orange background.


Here is the same pattern on a black background with blend mode Contrast Negate. I like these colours, which look cohesive even though they are not natural leaf colours.


For my third pattern I used recolour adjustments to make one of the leaves slightly more blue and several of them slightly more yellow. This pattern returns to only one Croton leaf per repeat, but it is also scattered, with leaves flipped, rotated, and scaled. Here it is on a pale yellow-green background.


With the subtle colour changes made for the third pattern, the leaves now look good on a dark blue background with blend mode Add.


Finally, for my most complex pattern, I used all four of the largest leaves twice in each repeat (once pointing up and once pointing down). The smaller leaves fill the spaces, scaled, flipped, and rotated as needed.






Filled Letters

As a calligrapher, I occasionally use filled letters. This could also suggest appliqued fabric.


Thank you, Jenn, for an enjoyable and stimulating workshop!


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