Printmaking: A Breeze with Leaves

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Materials Needed:

  • black construction paper (we used 12×18)
  • aluminum foil (for paint pallette)
  • flat paint brushes
  • leaves (still green and flexible)
  • newsprint/scrap paper
  • sponges (cut into four pieces)
  • tempera paint (the more quality, the better it will show up on black paper)

We set up the project with black construction paper, paintbrushes, newsprint, and foil.
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Before getting started, we had everyone pick two leaves: one big and one small.
You will get different effects using the top or underside of the leaf. I guide my students to use the underside so the veins print more detail.
On their make-shift tinfoil pallets everyone received white paint to begin painting their leaves.
After painting a thin layer of white paint onto the leaf, we placed the leaf on the black construction paper paint down. To keep everything a little more tidy, we placed newsprint sheets over the leaf and rubbed  the paper not the leaf before pulling everything up to reveal the leaf print.
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After printing anywhere from 3 to 8 leaves (depending on the size of the paper), we begin the color addition process. We stuck mainly to fall colors and encouraged the children to mix primary colors to create new colors.
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We then used the sponge pieces to sponge colorful paint onto the parts of the paper that have been left black. We encouraged them to avoid putting color on top of the white leaf prints, but never discourage them trying new things. We really like the black and white look, but layering color over the leaf prints can look cool as well!
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Students LOVED mixing colors and adding white was a special treat. Sometimes hands became part of the art and some students favored painting their backgrounds with a brush versus using the sponge.
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Master’s Class Additions (5 Years and up):
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Rather than using real leaves, leaf stamps were made by carving into Styrofoam. We started practicing drawing leaves on newsprint before drawing on the Styrofoam. We used print outs of various leaves for inspiration and copying.
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Once the leaves were drawn onto the Styrofoam with sharpie, the lines were traced with ballpoint pens to deepen the lines. It can be a good idea to have the children close their eyes and feel the carved lines to make sure that they’re deep enough.
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We then cut the leaf shape out of the Styrofoam with scissors. The Styrofoam leaves were then painted white with a flat brush and printed onto the black paper.
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After printing their Styrofoam leaves, the master students also mixed paint colors and sponged around the leaf prints.
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