November 9, 2023

How to Make Leaf Skeletons


Back Story and Uses

I've been making leaf skeletons for an upcoming artwork and the process is fascinating! When I shared a bit of the 'behind the scenes' online, there were immediate questions on how I did this, so I thought I would put together a simple tutorial. This is a quick and easy method, ideal for fast results.

These leaves are great to use in creative projects, as drawing reference or to decorate. They make a cute (though fragile) bookmark and would look beautiful on the front of a brown paper wrapped gift. An ideal autumn craft!

I personally will be using mine to create 'hybrid' plants, for an artwork on the topic of 'wonder for nature.' Follow me on socials to see how this turns out. :)

I'd love to see what you create! Use the hashtag #learnwithleigh on social media, so I can see your results.

quick and easy leaf skeleton tutorial

Quick and Easy Tutorial

You will need:

  • Leaves
  • A pot
  • Tongs
  • A stovetop
  • Water
  • 15 grams baking powder
  • 15 grams bicarbonate soda
  • Tray
  • Soft toothbrush or paintbrush
  • Paper towels
  • Gloves (if you don't want to dye your fingers like I did, haha)
  • Ventilation (it doesn't smell the best...)

Step 1: Gather

Gather leaves that have a good, solid structure. The best leaves are not already decaying, as these can become too fragile. Some leaves break down more beautifully than others and some can be harder to keep in tact, so trial a few kinds to see which work best for you.

leaf skeleton process

leaf skeleton boil


Mix 1 litre of water with 15 grams of baking powder and 15 grams of Bicarbonate Soda. Add your leaves and bring this to the boil. Bring the mixture down to a simmer and let it work for around 2 hours. The time may vary depending on your leaves. (You may need to top up the water if it boils down too low).

Note: If you are making a very large amount of leaves, duplicate the recipe accordingly, to keep them covered.

leaf skeleton scrub


The water will turn brown and the top and underside of your leaves will have turned soft. Once you can scrape away the pulp from your leaves, remove them from the water. One at a time, lay your leaves flat in a tray with a little of the boiled water solution. This will help lubricate the leaves as you scrub them. Using a soft brush (toothbrush or paintbrush), gently remove the leaf pulp from the top and underside of each leaf.

leaf skeleton wash


Once you are left with the leaf structure (or skeleton), rinse it off in some clean water.

leaf skeleton press


Sandwich the leaves between paper towels and press them under a book or other flat weighted item, for a couple of hours or until dry.

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