Leaf printing

Leaf printing is messy and fun!  It doesn’t take any special equipment to print leaves, just Speedball water- soluble printing ink, white paper plates, paper and your fingers.  You can purchase the ink at Plaza Art in Rockville, or you can order it online.  Enasco.com and Dickblick.com both have a great selection of ink colors at good prices.

We collected leaves yesterday in a walk through Moyer Park, and students laid out their leaf compositions on a blank page of their sketchbooks to start.  You can see, on the right side of the photo, the printing ink laid out on a paper plate palette, too.

Leaves that print well (maple, gingko, gum, oak, tulip poplar, birch, honey locust and many others) have a rough, veiny side, and this is the side that students applied the ink to.  They took a dab of ink from the palette and they mixed it with other colors or extender (which makes the color more transparent) on their own paper plate.

Students used their fingers to apply the ink.  They paid particular attention to the stems and edges of the leaves to help them capture the overall shape and contour of the leaves.   When students had finished applying ink to a leaf, they flipped it over, ink side down, into their open sketchbook.  When the composition was complete, students “covered it with a blanket” by laying a clean piece of paper on top.

To get the print, they had to apply pressure to the leaves.  We did this in two ways:  by rubbing the blanket for 30 seconds with a hand or by placing the entire sketchbook (leaves still covered by the blanket)  inside a telephone book and stamping on it. Either way,  students “lifted up the blanket,” pulled off the leaves and found they had made wonderful prints!

Here are a few examples.  In this print, a student framed her composition with narrow, pointed cherry leaves.  You’ll find more great art in the post above!


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