Inspiring children one color at a time

Fall Leaves

By on Nov 7, 2007 | 12 comments


Need a beautiful, accessible project for first graders? This fall stencil project is perfect.

You’ll need to gather about 50 leaves for a 25-student class so that each child has a couple of leaves to choose from.  Make sure the leaves are fresh, not the crispy dried ones that have already fallen. This is important as the paint must adhere to the leaf well.

Pour white tempera paint into a paper plate or plastic palette, and add reds, blues, greens and yellows to another multi-paint palette, then follow these steps:

  1. Place a leaf and a 12 x 18 sheet of black construction paper on each child’s desk/place.
  2. Put a stack of scrap paper in the middle of the table.
  3. Place one palette of white paint with appropriate number of brushes in middle of table.
  4. Demonstrate how to brush the white paint onto the “rib side” of the leaf. Be sure to coat the entire leaf. Place painted leaf carefully on black paper. Cover with a scrap and gently rub the leaf until you are sure all the paint is rubbed on.
  5. Lift up the scrap paper then peel the leaf off the black paper. Wow! The kids think this part is amazing. I do, too.
  6. Repeat step 5 at least 4 times. Encourage the children to go off the edge of the page for an all-over look.
  7. After all the leaves have been stenciled on, bring out the palettes of colored paint along with some small cut-up sponges.
  8. Using just one sponge per child, dip sponge in colored paint and dab around leaves. Kids can use two colors, or more. Leave it up to them.

Many art teachers and parents have asked whether or not they should apply the colored paint to the black paper first. You certainly could but you wouldn’t achieve the cool black and white affect with the leaves. If you do paint the background first, limit the color choices so that when you stamp the white leaves in place, they will stand out or contrast nicely.

This is one of my favorites for Autumn! What about you? What’s your favorite Fall Leaf project?

A few more Leaf/Autumn projects for Kinders and First Graders: Painted Leaves, Tissue Paper Leaves and Harvest Collage


  1. I have used your Picasso lesson, flowers you did with my class last year (adapted to younger kids), and now I am going to use your fall leaves lesson on Monday. I tell you, what would I do without you. :-) What’s a good lesson for teaching warm and cool colors with the little ones? I need to import you to Sweden. Thanks for all the ideas!!!

    The Half-Swede

    August 29, 2008

  2. I used your leaf print lesson with my Kinders. They turned out awesome. Thanks so much for your great blog. I get so many ideas from you. I hope it is okay, I have used some of your lessons and posted them on my own blog.

    Holly V.

    October 27, 2009

  3. I did this project last week. It turned out great. For a finishing touch, I had the students add a few
    mettalic circles printed with the end of a toilet paper tube. ( I had some left over metallic
    paint from another class) It turned out really pretty.


    October 8, 2011

  4. I am a first year art teacher and you are saving my life! Thank you thank you thank you. You are wonderful.


    October 20, 2011

  5. thank you so much for all of these lessons. i teach a tiny little class and your ideas are so awesome and helpful. i have bought several of your lesson packages and have to say the kids looooove the work. thank you for sharing so much!!


    September 18, 2012

  6. Just did this project today as an early finisher project after my 2nd-5th graders finished up some clay gargoyles they were making. WOW! I loved them, the kids loved them–so different and striking with this combo of white leaves and autumn colors in the negative space. LOVE it! Thank you! Mrs. P (

    Mrs. P

    October 16, 2012

  7. What a great project! The kids loved it. What is it about working with leaves that feels so relaxing?! Great space you have here, btw.

    Rachél ~ Creativity Tribe

    November 10, 2012

  8. Gorgeous! Can’t wait to try this with the little ones.


    September 4, 2013

  9. Yes, I did something similar with my 4th graders. We used warm colors to stamp the leaves…red,yellow and orange tempera on white paper…Day 1 and then after leaves were dried used sharpie markers in black to draw contour lines around the leaves until the page was filled…Days 2 and 3 for most. Then on Day 4 we used watercolor wash in cool colors over the contour lines. They really came out nicely and you are right that the kids love to stamp the leaves ( and yes they must be fresh ) but it was also very messy stamping them. I tied it into science a bit with leaf types using maple, oak and birch.

    Pamela Baldini

    September 5, 2013

  10. I have used this website for several art projects with primary students. The results were amazing!! I had one teacher comment that I am very artistic- so funny because I am so not!! I tell people that this is the best website ever for art ideas for kids. I just love it!! I am really looking forward to doing this activity with a grade one class tomorrow. I love how the activities here can be done with very young children.

    Tina Peddle

    September 11, 2013

  11. Would it work to paint the background colors first, let it dry, then stamp the leaves in white? Otherwise I am afraid mine will lose the outline of the leaves.


    October 13, 2014

    • Great idea Laura. Allowing it to dry does eliminate the possibility of losing the edges but it also adds more time. So instead of this lesson being a one-session lesson, it would require two. Let me know how it goes.

      Patty Palmer

      October 13, 2014


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