This project started as an experiment, but we ended up loving it so much, we thought we’d share it! If your kids have collected bunches of fall leaves that are starting to dry and lose their color, this is a great way to “save” them without keeping a pile that has passed their prime. Here’s an amazing secret tip: black and white photocopies provide a fun way for kids to inspect ANY object – but it works especially well for leaves! The monochromatic color creates a simplified “skeleton” that allows for fantastic visual exploration and investigation opportunities. As soon as we had made our photocopies we thought they deserved their very own art project!
- A few pieces of thick paper or cardstock (we used 1 sheet each of white, neon pink and neon yellow-green)
- Tissue paper (we used a small 5″ x 5″ square of green, pink, yellow, orange and red)
- Collected leaves + a copier – OR our free black & white photocopied leaf printable!
- Mod podge (or similar)
- Craft glue or a glue stick
- Chalk or Pastels (we used a piece of white chalk)
- Scrap decorative patterned paper or paper you’ve stamped or printed with a pattern (we used dotted kraft paper)
- Kraft paper, a grocery bag, or lunch bag (we printed some of our photocopied leaves on a grocery bag we cut to fit in our printer)
As you go through the instructions, keep in mind that there is a lot of room for interpretation here. Maybe these kinds of leaves aren’t something you’re jazzed about – that’s cool – you can totally use some that are more you – go big and use a palm leaf! OR photocopy other things – the sky’s the limit! No matter what you choose to photocopy, you can still follow the same process – or make up a whole new thing that’s all your own!
Step 1: We gathered a bunch of different sizes and types of leaves, put them on our copier/printer flatbed, and made a copy on white paper, 2 brightly-colored pieces of paper (for emphasis!) and a piece of kraft paper (for texture!).
Step 2: We wanted to create a lovely layered leaf look (so many “l’s!”) so we cut some leaf-life shapes out of bright fall-colored tissue paper. These don’t have to be exact leaf shapes – in fact, ours were more abstract and we thought they looked better that way! Lay out your tissue paper leaves so it looks like they’re falling off a tree and floating through the air.
Step 3: My original intention was to put the tissue paper down, use a spray bottle to cover it with water, then let the colors bleed over the dark photocopied leaves. Crazy as it is (wah-wahhhhhhh) I couldn’t get the tissue paper colors to bleed for the life of me! Fortunately, my plan B was to use Mod Podge and even though it wasn’t the soft watercolor look I had originally planned for, it looked great! You can try spraying your tissue paper leaves with water OR you can use a small brush to paint the back of your leaf-shapes with Mod Podge, lay them down, then brush over the top with another thin layer.
Step 4: It will take about 15-20 minutes for the Mod Podge to dry – so set your page off to the side, and start cutting photocopied leaves from your colored/textured pages. I love the look of a thick brightly-colored edge around the black photocopy edges, which works as a fantastic scissor exercise for kids, as they don’t have to cut right along any line. The rougher the edge, the cooler it looks in my opinion!
Step 5: One of the things I really liked about the leaf photocopies was the fact that you could clearly see the veins. To add interest, make those leafy details pop and give the whole piece a fun graphic look, I picked a few leaves and traced over the vein lines I could see with a piece of white chalk.
Step 6: Layer, layer, layer! Now is the time to play around with your composition and choose the final arrangement of your leaves. Before you glue everything down, step back and take a look from an arm’s length away. Does everything look the way you expected? Do you want to use more patterned leaves, different colors, or do some of the shapes need to be moved or altered? Wen you feel satisfied, use a craft glue or glue stick to glue all your top layer leaves down.
Step 7: Admire your gorgeous fall leaf collage!
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