How to journal with leaves

Hi Messians!

Today I am going to share with you some ideas on how to get nature directly into our art journals. I have used different types of leaves for all of my examples but you could use twigs, fruit, vegetables, flowers… anything with an interesting shape and / or texture. All of these techniques would make excellent background pages, patterns or illustrations – which is the direction I have gone in for this tutorial.


Splattering ink has got to be one of my favourite techniques. it is easy, fun and flawless!

I placed a variety of leaves down on my paper and splattered ink directly over the top, building layers with a few different colours. If you don’t have inks in your art supplies, watercolour or watered down paint would work just as well.

The results from this are abstract masked areas from where your leaves were placed.

This is also a good way to practice natural shapes and sizes, as you can see the space left from the ink splatter. Filling this in gives your illustration a realistic and natural appearance.


This method is really back to school but so vibrant and playful I couldn’t resist including it; we’re colouring in!

I placed my leaves, like before on my page in an interesting layout.

Grabbed my markers and loosely shaded around the edge of each leaf.

The results are these really fresh and semi-abstract leafy shapes. They would look so cool layered over one another.

Or you could work back into the shapes, like I have below.

I used a variety of mediums (water, oil pastel and ink) along with my felt tips for this three leaf series that started with the outlining technique.


I recommend slightly thinner paper for this technique as you want to get as much texture as possible from your natural element. I used oil pastels for my rubbings but chalk pastels would also work brilliantly.  I placed each leaf underneath my paper and using a variety of pressures, rubbed the oil pastel over the top of the paper. Again, this technique really helps you get the shape and feel of the leaf. I especially love how easily you can capture a bit of movement and organic line.

You could layer these rubbings over the top of one another or use them to inform an illustration, as I have below. I started my illustration out as a series of rubbings and then drew into the last one using layers of oil pastel and finished with an inky outline.


This is probably the most obvious way of getting natural shapes and textures into your art journal.

I covered my leaves with acrylic paint, some with just one colour and others with a mix for variety. Turned them over, applied pressure to the backs and peeled them back off again.

You are left with an echo of the object you have printed, I love the spine like thinness of the leaf veins.

You can use each leaf a few times, which makes for really interesting backgrounds.

I used one of the prints as a basis for this illustration, using the acrylic paint from the leaf as well as watercolour and ink

Action Step

Try at least one of these techniques with something other than a leaf!


Julia is a British designer and creative enthusiast. She loves to express herself through shape, colour and pattern – living by the ethos of more is more!


  1. Katie Smith

    I love these ideas, Jules!

  2. Lea Betty

    I love these ideas! Now to find some leaves…

    • Julia Cusworth

      Thanks! Have fun foraging 😉

  3. AntyPam

    Loved these ideas. Acrylic paint on the leaves then pressing on paper is my favorite! Thank you!