My kids and I love craft projects almost as much as we love being outside. Any time we can combine those two we are happy. Recently, on a lazy summer day we thought we’d try leaf printing. It is a super-simple craft that is easy to implement and looks great. It basically involves painting leaves then stamping them on fabric. I wanted to make new pillows for the couch so I used canvas. My kids wanted to make new t-shirts. Our projects turned out fairly well and I could many possibilities for new projects such as: tablecloth, tote bag, cloth napkins, quilt squares, apparel fabric.
What you need
- Fabric paint
- Paint brush or sponge
- Scrap fabric, paper towel, or wax paper
Start by collecting leaves.
We found waxy or smooth leaves, like hosta or oak, gave a nice finsh. Rough leaves like sunflowers absorbed a lot of paint so didn’t transfer as much paint, but did show more detail of the leaf.
Fresh leaves ideal. Dry leaves are harder to press won’t give a nice clean edge. Stiffer leaves were easier to transfer and remove; more delicate leaves like fern stuck to the fabric after pressing and flopped around when trying to place.
Protect your work surface with newspaper.
When painting t-shirts place newspaper in the middle of the shirt to prevent paint from bleeding through from front to back.
Arrange leaves on your fabric.
To get an idea of what the final fabric would look like I laid out the leaves before I started painting. I was able to shift and move things around without any penalty of smeared paint.
Paint the leaf.
You can paint the top or the bottom of the leaf. The underside of the leaf will show the veins better, but both sides can be used for variety. Keep in mind the thickness of paint. A thinner layer of paint will show more details of the leaf, but may have some bare spots.
Try to apply the paint evenly on the leaf. If there are globs of paint it may bleed out the edges or into the vein sections. Alternatively, not enough paint will lead to uneven coverage.
Try to work fairly quickly. One a couple of the larger leaves the paint began to dry by the time we had painted the whole leaf. As a result not a lot of paint was transferred to the print.
Carefully lay the leaf on the fabric.
Try to not drag the leaf on the fabric otherwise you’ll smear the paint. If your leaf has a lot of leaflets or lobes, like a fern, be careful the lobes don’t overlap or stick together.
Gently press the leaf down with your fingers.
Cover with a cloth, paper towel, newspaper, or wax paper and firmly press being careful to push down and not slide the leaf.
Remove the cloth and carefully remove the leaf.
Embrace the imperfection. You leaves may not be a perfect impression, and that’s ok.