If you are creating a painting that requires leaves, it is important to know how to paint leaves in a realistic and beautiful way. Painting leaves does not need to be a difficult endeavor, and knowing the techniques for painting leaves can help you to see leaf design and contours in a whole new way. Here are the basic steps for painting realistic leaves.
Study your leaves. Collect the leaves that you want to paint and examine them closely. Look at the colors, the shadows and the contours of the leaves. Notice where there are rounded and bulbous areas, and how the leaf appears darker where these areas meet the vein of the leaf. Next, squirt the colors that you see in your leaves onto your pallet, and mix them until you are satisfied with the combinations.
Block out the basic colors. See what the main color of your leaf is, and block out that color on your canvas by painting the basic shape of your leaf using a single color. Focus on creating the shape of the leaf during this step, and carefully paint the outside edges so that they look exactly like the leaf you are painting.
Paint the veins of the leaf. Using a lighter color, paint the veins of the leaf. You will want to include as many veins as you can because the more veins you have, the more realistic your leaf will look. You will need to switch to a thinner brush to paint the thinnest veins in the leaf.
Paint the shadowing and highlighting on the leaf. Notice that the leaf appears darker where it touches the veins. Paint this area in a darker color and gradually lighten it as you move away from the veins. Continue to use this technique for every veined area. Once your shadowing is finished, use a lighter color and carefully highlight the areas on your canvas where the sun or the light touches the leaf. You will not need to use very much of the lighter color--a little bit goes a long way. Once you are finished highlighting, use a dry brush and blend the shadows and the highlights.