Falling Leaves Art Project

I’ve been enraptured by the double-loading painting technique for over a decade. The combination of two or more colors placed intentionally on a brush produces the most magical of color combinations. I’ve used this technique with many painting projects and when I was prepping this project, it seemed like a perfect way for a child to easily paint many leaves.

This is a great project to do in the Fall but if you switch the paint colors to red and white, you can easily paint a cherry tree for Spring. I did this for a Monet-Inspired Landscape project for my book, Draw, Paint, Sparkle.

Here’s a video that shows you the process for creating this pretty fall painting:


What you’ll need:

  • 12″ x 18″ light colored sulphite drawing paper (I like Tru-Ray by Pacon)
  • Puck tempera cakes (I used Faber-Castell Connector paints)
  • Liquid tempera paints (black, white, green, yellow, orange, red, fuchsia)
  • Medium and small round pointed brush
  • Chalk Pastels
  • Optional: metallic liquid tempera paint

Painting the Grass

Start by painting a layer of grass over the bottom edge of the paper. I decided to use cake tempera paints as they dry really quickly. I selected 3-4 warm colors (red, ochre, orange and pink) but the student can select their own anagolous colors (colors beside each other on the color wheel)

Painting the tree

Select the medium round brush and paint the trunk of the tree. It isn’t long; just paint 2-3″ up from the grass then extend the branches to each side and around the top.

Fill the tree trunk in with black paint.

Switch to the thin brush and if you want, turn the paper upside down. It’s easier to paint the twiggy limbs by pulling the paintbrush towards you instead of pushing away.

Tree limbs turn into small branches so to help the kids make branches that look realistic, show them how to place the brush on the brand and gently brush away, lifting at the very end. Sounds far more complicated than it really is.

Tip: If you use the black cake tempera, the tree trunk will dry quicker. This will allow you to paint the leaves without the paint mixing with the black paint.

Now the fun part…painting the leaves using the double-loading technique.

Dip paintbrush in a color (red) and then immediately into the white or even yellow. You should see two colors on your brush. Dab the side of the brush against the paper. I like to cluster like colors together. So I begin with yellow/white combo and dab about 10-15 leaves around the branches and even falling from the tree. Then, without cleaning the brush, dip into orange.

Dab the resulting color around the tree branches.

Continue until you have as many leaves as you want. It’s not hard to convince kids to paint the leaves as each dab delivers a small surprise. You never really know what color they will be. If the leaves mix in with the black, no worries. It’ll just look like you added shadows!

The final step is to use a bit of chalk pastel to add some details to the tree trunk (white and brown make some interesting texture) and also in the grass.

If you remember, add some fluffy white clouds and some blue sky using chalk BEFORE you start dabbing the leaves. I didn’t remember this once in all the samples I made. ┬áNot once. So I just added the extra color at the end.

This project began with a light green paper. The grass uses pink, red, and orange tempera cakes and I used yellow, aqua, white and green paint for the leaves.

This might be my favorite because of the added gold tempera paint. I love this stuff.

With this one, I tried really hard to add the blue sky on the grey paper. I like the effect it gives the sky…dappled and very fall-like.


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