Modern Watercolor Fall Leaves

Modern Watercolor Fall Leaves

A watercolor tutorial to capture the beauty of fall. 

In this lesson plan, we create a modern, graphic image of autumn leaves with Faber Castell’s Watercolor Pan set. This premium quality watercolor paint set comes complete with 48 highly pigmented colors along with a water brush and detachable palette for mixing colors, perfect for studio or traveling.

 A picture of a tree


Why Leaves Fall- A Lakota Legend

Many moons ago when the world was still very young, the plant and animal life was enjoying the beautiful summer weather. But as the days went by, autumn set in, and the weather became colder with each passing day. The winds began to brush the skies and river tops, whistling though the mountains and trees. The grass and flower folk were in a sad condition, for they had no protection from the sharp cold. Just when it seemed that there was no hope for living, He who looks after the things of His creation came to their aid. He said that the leaves of the trees should fall to the ground, spreading a soft, warm blanket over the tender roots of the grass, and flowers. To repay and thank the trees for the loss of their leaves, he allowed them one last bright array of beauty. That is why, each year, during Indian summer the trees take on their lovely farewell colors of red, gold, and brown. After this final display they turn to their appointed task– covering the Earth with a thick rug of warmth against the chill of winter.


Recommended Materials:

Watercolors in Pans- 48

Pitt Artist Pen - White Bullet

Pitt Artist Metallic – Gold

Gold Metallic Paint

A few small to medium soft round brushes

Watercolor Pad


Water for rinsing brushes

Paper towels

 A sketch of leaves


I begin by lightly sketching out these simple modern leaf shapes. I design it so that there are parts of some leaves overlapping; this will give an interesting transparent look to parts of the painting.

Watercolor leaves


I use watery browns, purples, reds oranges, a little green, and yellow to paint the leaves, allowing some colors to bleed together while wet. To get the overlapping leaves effect, I wait for the first underlying leaf to dry completely before painting the second leaf on top.

Tip: Paint in a loose, relaxed manner. Watercolor paint by nature has a mind of its own; let it do its thing with its somewhat uncontrolled, imperfect and unexpected effects; this is its beauty.

Watercolor leaves

Pen detail

When all the leaves are dry, I add this gold and white pen detail, drawing the leaf veins in a graphic linear style. I draw on only some, in order to keep the design clean and simple.

Watercolor leaves

Gold detail

As a final accent, I add a little magic by painting this splashy gold modern design motif sprinkled all around!

A painting like this would look great in a mat and inexpensive, modern standard-size frame. Suitable frames can be easily found at local retailers such as Target and Homegoods.

Have fun!

Artist Biography - Janis Doukakis


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