Does the thought of painting in watercolor intimidate you? Is it even harder for you to imagine how you might do it outdoors, in a park or meadow? Let me help get you started! Fall leaves are a great subject to start your painting journey with, since they come in so many different colors which softly blend together making painting a breeze.

With Autumn in full swing here in central Oregon where the sagebrush meets the pines, I was inspired to take a hike and do some watercolor painting. I brought along my camera so I could show you just how easy it is to incorporate watercolor painting into a nature sketching practice.

This is just a casual, unscripted tutorial I was inspired to make in the beauty of the moment, so please forgive the sound of the creek in the background, I couldn’t find a picnic table in a quieter part of the forest! And as wise folks like Confucius, Shakespeare, and Voltaire have said, in one form or another, “perfect is the enemy of the good”.

Before you watch the video, you may like to download my Cheat Sheet for Painting Autumn Leaves,  which includes the tips and leaf photo practice page as seen below the video.


A quick note: In this video, I dip my palette in the stream water, which certainly isn’t the best practice. I would recommend that instead, you wet your palette with a spray mister since some paints, like Cadmiums, can be harmful to wildlife if ingested. You should then pour any excess onto a paper towel instead of the ground.


Let’s review the painting tips from the video

  • Assemble your art supplies including watercolors, brush, pencil and paper.
  • Collect a variety of colorful leaves. If you can’t pick any of your own leaves, you can download the Autumn Leaves Practice Page  I created for you (as seen below).
  • Sketch a leaf or save time by simply tracing a leaf onto your paper.
  • Take some time to observe your leaf before you start painting. Notice and name the colors you see and how they blend together.
  • Paint loosely in a wet-in-wet technique starting by wetting the leaf you’ve outlined on your paper with clear water.
  • While your paper is still wet, paint the lightest color in your leaf , then quickly add darker ones, such as in this order: yellow, green, orange, sienna, blue.
  • Be bolder with your colors than you think you should, since watercolors always dry paler than they look when wet.
  • Don’t get too fussy or perfectionist by overworking the paints on your paper, just quickly drop colors in and move on, or else you risk over-mixing the colors and making mud!
  • Let painting dry then feel free to add emphasis with additional layers of watercolor, pencil, pen, or opaque white gelly roller pens.
  • Most importantly, have fun! I always encourage my students to enjoy the process over the product and progress over perfection!

Now It’s Your Turn

Now it’s your turn to try your hand at painting leaves in watercolor. Download my Cheat Sheet for Painting Autumn Leaves,  which includes the tips above and the practice page below.

Want to learn more about watercolors?

If you enjoyed this tutorial I bet you’d love my introductory online course on watercolor painting. It includes videos and downloadable guides that you can study in the comfort of your own home. Learn more about the course HERE!