Autumn Watercolour

Huge excitement hit my house yesterday when my brand new Moleskine watercolour journal arrived. And, of course, like an energised kid, I had to try it out immediately.

I drew inspiration from the colouring and falling leaves here in the north – something I’ve always wanted to try painting. At the same time, I wanted to do a tutorial for you. You won’t believe how easy it is to get this effect!

So let’s get to it.

If you want a refresher of my favourite techniques, check out this blog post where I explain them all. 🙂

For this project, I used yellow, orange, red, ochre, brown and lime green watercolour pencils.

To start off, you should draw your design onto watercolour paper. Always try to keep the pencil lines as light as possible, or consider drawing in red or blue – colours that will pretty much disappear when you start painting. I opted for graphite pencil this time, and used a photo of autumn leaves for reference.


The second step is to colour the negative space, aka everything behind your design. For this, you want to use light pressure so the background won’t be too dark and distract from your design.

In this step, I used all the colours mentioned above, except the greens.

With a damp brush, I painted the negative space. As always, I started with the lighter colour values and worked my way to the darker ones. Whenever I completed a darker splotch, I rinsed my brush. Easy peasy.

The most important tip here is to keep the brush damp, not soaking. If too much water is added, the pigments will blend way too much and the gradients will be lost.

As you can tell from the photos above, I added green to the second layer of negative space, once the first layer had dried completely. I used my wet on dry technique, which is touching the damp paintbrush directly to the pencil tip, then painting as usual.

I added the green sparsely, but it made a huge difference in the overall look of the painting!

The next step was to add brown to the branches and yellow to the veins in the leaves. You’ll notice I didn’t completely cover the branches. By leaving some white spaces between lines of colour, you’ll get natural-looking highlights when you add the water.

Next, we get to colour the leaves. Using medium to hard pressure, I added reds, oranges and yellows to the leaves, keeping the lime green focussed on the very tips of some of the leaves.

The colour should be splotchy for this step, added in random little patches. It looks strange, I know, but adding the water will give a lovely effect. 🙂

The darkest colour should be focussed around the veins, lightening towards the edges of the leaves.

Now it’s time to paint the leaves!

Start with the branches and veins. I completed this step on each leaf before I painted their surfaces, just to allow the yellow lines a moment to dry. Again, a damp brush is key here, don’t flood the leaves with water.

From there, I painted from the tips to the centre, so the yellows and greens at the edges wouldn’t become too dark as the colour mixed. I also used small patting motions while I painted, to keep that splotchy kind of look. 🙂

Now it’s time to add the details. I darkened parts of the branches, added brown to the insides of the veins and added darker red splotches to some of the leaves. I also diluted some white acrylic paint with water (I don’t have gouache handy) to add highlights to the leaves.

Once all of that is painted, add your name – you’re done! I had to wait for morning to come before I photographed the final product. The lights above my workspace are so yellow that it completely distorts the look of the artwork, so the below pic is much more accurate when it comes to colour values!


I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial!

I’ll do a review on the journal for you once I’ve added some more art to it, but my initial thoughts are super impressed. The paper feels thin at first, but turns out to be sturdy and warps very little. You know I don’t have the patience to tape down my watercolour paper – horrible, I know.

Thanks for stopping by!



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