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If your kids have collected bunches of fall leaves that are starting to dry and lose their color, this unique fall leaf collage 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 the details of ANY object – and 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.
To make your own photocopy fall leaf collage you’ll need:
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- 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 printable black & white photocopied leaf
- Craft glue, a glue stick or Mod Podge
- 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)
- Bleeding tissue paper (I like this kind)
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. 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 project that’s all your own.
Mixed Media Leaf Art Collage Instructions:
- Photocopy leaves or download and print our free printable
We gathered a handful 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).
- Cut abstract leaf shapes from tissue paper
We wanted to create a lovely layered leaf look (so many “L’s!”) so we cut some leaf-like 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 SO good that way! Layout your tissue paper leaves so it looks like they’re falling off a tree and floating through the air.
Working with younger kids? Regular copy paper or construction paper will be easier for them to cut. You can also tear the paper instead of using scissors.
- Glue your tissue paper leaves over the photocopied sheet
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. I couldn’t get the tissue paper colors to bleed for the life of me (I was using the wrong tissue paper – you need special bleeding tissue paper)!
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 fantastic! 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. Dont have Mod Podge handy? You can mix a little Elmer’s glue with water and brush it on for the same effect.
If you’d prefer to try the bleeding tissue paper method, simply spray the tissue paper with water, let sit for a couple of minutes and take the tissue off. Voila! Beautiful fall leaf shapes! If you’re trying this project with younger kids, this method may be easier and is definitely not as messy as a glue/Mod Podge.
Want to make this even simpler? Just use a glue stick!
- Cut additional leaves from your colored/textured photocopy sheets
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!
- Add details to your photocopied leaves with chalk, crayons, or pastels
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.
- Create a layered composition with all your leaves and affix with craft glue
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? When you feel satisfied, use
craftglue or a glue stick to glue all your top layer leaves down.
Now it’s time to step back and admire your gorgeous fall leaf collage! No matter what colors you’ve used or how many layers of leaves you’ve added, the end result of this project is always so beautiful and a wonderful intro to collaging for students. It’s also a great project to use as part of a fall mixed media art challenge (we have a free printable for that!).
Autumn is one of my favorite seasons for art-making! For more fall art projects, stop by our September night-sky-inspired constellation process art project, make your own autumn magic wand, or design a set of nature-inspired leaf stick puppets. This simple but beautiful torn paper landscape art is another one of my go-to fall projects – just add autumn colors!
*A note about affiliate links: We strive to use simple, earth-friendly supplies that can be purchased locally whenever we can, but sometimes we find the best universally available options, a rare eco-friendly find, or a niche product only available on Blick Art Materials, Amazon, Etsy, or Woodpeckers Crafts. When included in our supply list, these products are affiliate links, and if you click through to make a purchase we receive a small commission that helps us re-order these supplies!