Leaf Printing

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Finished prints matted with colorful construction paper

  • Things you probably have at home:
    • Leaves
    • Scrap paper – cut into 4×6 pieces (one per leaf)
  • Things to buy: Schedule a reminder 2 weeks before you want to do this activity to buy supplies
    • Black paper – 8 x 12 or larger
    • Paint – orange, white, yellow, red, gold
    • Brushes – one per color

See my thoughts below on how you can create another activity for finding your leaves!

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Ideal Age Range:

This is best for ages 5+

Mess Factor:

Medium messiness. Paint always has messiness. See our note about prepping your space to reduce this as much as possible.

Prep Time:

About 5 minutes + time for pressing leaves. We suggest collecting your leaves and pressing them earlier in the morning (or the day before). As you are setting up your space for this activity, if you can set up a space for painting and then a second space for printing it will help keep the finished pictures a bit cleaner. Make sure to cover the table(s) where you are working, and you may want to put a smock on your child.


This is such a beautiful fall keepsake that truly shows off the beauty of the leaves. If you take the time to create a mat for your finished art with colorful construction paper, you can save these and bring them out in the fall as decorations for years to come!

Active Instructions:

  1. Collect leaves and press in a heavy book. If you live in an area that does not have the typical fall leaves, any leaves with a nice vein pattern and shape will work.
    • You may want to do this earlier in the morning or the day before and break up this activity.
  2. Begin with the white paint. Point out to your child how there is a smooth side and a bumpy (vein) side to each leaf. The paint will be brushed onto the “ bumpy” vein side. Spread a very thin smooth layer of paint over the entire leaf, including part of the stem if it is still attached. (Too much paint will result in a blob print.)
    • Feel free to use another piece of paper to do some tests if you would like.
Step 1 – press your leaves

Step 2 – begin with the white paint
  1. Move the painted leaf to the black paper and put it PAINT SIDE DOWN onto the paper. Place a piece of scrap paper over the leaf. Rub the back of the scrap paper, making sure to GENTLY rub the entire leaf shape. Some children will use two hands to rub.
  2. Take the scrap paper off and then gently remove the leaf. Voila! (See the video below). This may take some experimentation to get a nice print, but remember this is about the process with your child, not the result.
Step 3 – place the leaf paint side down

Step 4 – press with scrap paper

  1. You can continue to use the white paint to make a few more prints on different sections of the paper. You can use the same leaf or try some different shapes.
    • Note that the leaves can be printed in different directions onto the paper.
  2. Use the different color paints and repeat the painting and rubbing steps. You can overlap the leaves as you add more.
Gently removing the leaf

Step 6 – repeat the steps by adding more colors
  1. You can also make single leaf prints on smaller pieces of black paper (see the picture at the beginning of this post).
  2. Matting the final print(s) onto fall colored paper creates a beautiful finished art project!
Multi-color print matted on yellow paper

This is another great project to pair with other learning activities surrounding leaves. As the leaves are changing in many parts of the country, it is a great way to integrate a nature walk or scavenger hunt (see below), stories about leaves and art!

Some other leaf projects are:

Added Engagement

This project uses leaves that you collect, which is a great opportunity to integrate nature walk or scavenger hunt. You can do this earlier in the same day, or do it earlier in the week for smaller children and extend the conversation about leaves as a topic for the week.

If you do any of these outdoor activities, when you come back inside, have a heavy book ready and place the leaves inside to press (Step 1 above). This will save prep time before you start the craft project.

Nature Walk Tape Bracelet

Try this great idea from I Am Momma Hear Me Roar – create a bracelet by turning a large piece painters tape sticky side out and creating a bracelet. As you walk around (your backyard, your neighborhood, the woods), have your child collect leaves that they like.

Try to stick them gently to preserve the shape of the leaf when you remove it. (You should collect some back up leaves to have as well.)

Great outdoor activity for camping. Nature bracelets using packing tape. Tried it last weekend and Halle loved it!!
IAmMommaHearMeRoar.net

Leaf Scavenger Hunt

You can grab free printables at Edventures with Kids so that you can hunt for leaves in varying shapes and colors as you are playing outside.

As an added bonus, if you want to add a math lesson into this check out this Leaf Graphing activity from Creative Tots Mason Preschoolers.

Project Video

Leaving in the unintended sound track!

If you want to pin this project, please use the image below.

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