How to paint leaves in watercolor by Doris Joa

How to paint leaves in watercolor by Doris Joa
How to paint leaves in watercolor by Doris Joa
Additional Information to my Watercolor DVD/Video
'How to paint leaves in watercolor'
I am using the following material in this DVD
140 Lb cold pressed paper from Arches
No 2 watercolor brush &
No 8 watercolor brush
Make sure that your watercolor brush has a very good point.
Aureolin modern (a cool yellow) - Schmincke
New Gambodge (a warm yellow) - Winsor & Newton
Translucent Orange – Schmincke
Scarlet Red (a warm red) – Schmincke
Anthraquinoid Red (a cool red) – Daniel Smith
Sap Green – Schmincke or Winsor & Newton
Phthalo Blue (Schmincke) or Cobalt Blue (Schmincke or Winsor & Newton)
Phthalo Green (Schmincke)
A note to paints:
You do not need to use the paints which I use. It is often helpful to have a warm and cool
one from each colour. With time you will find maybe paints which you like the best. I only
want to show you what you can do with your cool and warm paints.
I also work with transparent colours, this means that previous layers shine through newer
layers and that is one thing what is so amazing about watercolor.
Reference photos:
When you shoot your reference photos of your flowers be always aware about the leaves.
Don't forget to photograph them at the same moment to make sure you have the light
coming from the same direction.
The leaves of each rose are different. Some are really very deep green, some are like
leather, some are very soft and swinging in the wind, others are light green.
 When drawing leaves make sure you paint the middle vein at first and then follow
this vein to draw the rest of your leaf.
 Veins are thin, don't paint them too thick.
How to paint leaves in watercolor by Doris Joa
Veins also have some form. Have a close look at how the veins look.
Observe the leaves in nature.
Leaves are often thick like leather and often they are soft and transparent.
Have a good look at where your highlights are.
In my DVD I help you to create the form of the leaves with warm and cool colours, with
lights and darks.
Make sure that the colours of your leaves vary in your painting. Make sure that maybe one
prominent leaf is warmer in colour temperature than the others which are more in the
background. Make them in the background a bit cooler in colour temperature.
As you can see in the photo above the leaf in the middle is much warmer in colour
temperature than the others. This means I was here really generous with my yellow
underwash and I used less yellow and more blue when I painted the other leaves.
Leaves in the foreground can have harder edges or harder veins than leaves in the
background. In the background they should have soft and lost edges.
Your leaf shouldn't be a competition to your rose or other flower. So make sure that the
hardest edges are always on the main subject. Leaves only support the rose or flower.
 Soften your veins with a damp brush.
 When your leaf is completely finished and you want to have a softer look, then
simply throw a clear water wash over the entire leaf and let it dry. You will be
amazed to see how this softens the look of your leaf.
 Also you can use your scrubby brush to soften all the veins.
VERY IMPORTANT are the highlights on the leaves. These highlights and also the darker
areas help us to create the interesting form. If a leaf doesn't have highlights or darker
How to paint leaves in watercolor by Doris Joa
areas it looks flat.
You can keep the white of the paper as your highlight or use a touch of blue to paint these
 Get some highlights back with your scrubby brush.
 You can vary the lightness of your highlights.The strongest highlight is the white of
the paper, the other highlights can have a wash of blue or a wash of violet (blue/redmix).
Painting Technique:
To have more control I sometimes work only on the dry paper and with a damp brush I
immediately soften the edges of the colour wash.
When wetting the paper first you can create soft washes but then you have less control.
The wet-on-wet-technique is perfect if you don't need to add a lot of details in this wash.
Using the wet-in-wet-technique gives you immediately a smooth look. But be carefully: If
the paper is too wet the added paint can leave some hard edges and then you need to
soften these!
Use this technique which pleases you the most and which is comfortable for you.
Less Water – More Control
More Water – Less Control
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have soft edges.
When you can't see the highlights in your reference photos, then put your photograph in
photoshop or any similar program and turn it into a black & white photograph.
This also will help you to see that some highlights are not so light as others, you also will
see the darks better and also the middle values.
How to paint leaves in watercolor by Doris Joa
You can also play a bit with the contrast to see light areas better. A black & white
photograph is always a helpful reference.
When painting leaves just paint what you see: Lights and darks. They create the
form and makes the leaf alive.
Always soften your edges. Your washes on the leaf need to be soft
Dark and Light Areas:
Light Areas:
In nature the light areas are those who are affected by light and sky (blue!!!). This means
these areas are cool in colour temperature – white or bluish.
The whites are our coolest and lightest highlights. Use the paper for that. Other highlights
are having a hint of colour. Paint these highlights with some blue or maybe with a violet
colour (blue and red mix).
Dark Areas:
Dark Areas are usually our shadow areas. I do not mean the cast shadow. I mean those
areas which are turned away from the light. This areas are warm and so we mix our basic
colour (the green) together with warm colours, like yellow, orange, red.
Colour Mixes:
Warm Green: Sap Green & Translucent Orange
Warm Dark Green: Sap Green & Scarlet Red
Cool Green: Sap Green & Phthalo Blue & Anthraquinoid Red
Very dark Green: Phthalo Blue & Anthraquinoid Red & a touch of Sap Green
Spring Green: Sap Green & Aureolin
Spring summer Green can also be created WITHOUT green:
Just mix Aureolin and Cobalt Blue (vary the mixes)
Cast Shadow Mix:
Sap Green & Anthraquinoid Red & a touch of Yellow.
How to paint leaves in watercolor by Doris Joa
for the warm areas: Aureolin or New Gambodge
for cool areas: Phthalo Blue or a mix of Phthalo Blue & Anthraquinoid Red
Colours for the Thorns:
The thorns are red. For the bottom of the thorns I am using an underwash of Aureolin and
then – when it is dry – I add some Scarlet Red. To make the Scarlet Red stronger at the
base of the thorn (where it comes out of the stem) then add a bit of Sap Green.
On the top of the thorn simply use a mix of Anthraquinoid Red & Phthalo Blue to create a
cool red /violet colour there.
I hope my Watercolor Leaves DVD is very helpful for you. When you understand how your
colours work and how you can use them to create form then you have come a big step
forward. The rest is practice, practice, practice.
The more you paint the better you will get.
Believe always in yourself and never give up. We always learn the most from our
Try to find your own style, figure out which technique works the best for you, which colours
you like the best and then paint, paint, paint.
There is no wrong way, there are only different ways of doing things.
This difference makes your art unique.
Happy Painting.
Doris Joa