Painting Leaves Part 1: Sunflower Tutorial

Paintings sunflowers on leaves

Painted sunflowers on a fallen fall leaf

Painted fall leaves

This blog post is part of a 3 part series on different ways to paint fall leaves. You can find the other tutorials here: spiderwebs and abstract. Have fun!

Fall is my favorite time of the year and I thought I'd celebrate Autumn Equinox with an art project inspired by the season! I decided to replace my sketchbook pages with some fall leaves and tried painting them in a few different ways: adding sunflowers with a brush, experimenting with abstract and palette knives, and doing something a little more Halloween inspired with spiderwebs.

Trying a new canvas was interesting and I had a lot of fun painting leaves and seeing how each one turned out! 

I hope you'll take a stroll outside, pick up some leaves, and see where inspiration takes you! If you'd like to try adding sunflowers to a leaf, here is a step-by-step tutorial with photos:


  • Leaf/leaves (not too dried otherwise it may easily crack)
  • Acrylic paint in: yellow, orange, brown, dark brown, green, dark green, white (I like Liquitex brand acrylics as they are a bit thicker consistency)
  • Palette for paint (you can use a paper plate, yogurt lid, it doesn’t have to be fancy!)
  • Small brush, I used a 4 round
  • Cup of water to clean brush between colors
  • Paper towel to dab brush so it’s not too wet 


1.    Start by painting 3 dark brown circles on your leaf for the centers.
2.    Mix the following colors for the first layer of petals: yellow with a touch of     
       orange and dark brown to create a darker burnt orange color. 
3.    Paint petals around each dark brown circle. It doesn’t have to be perfect
       and it’s ok if it’s not smooth (more layers will be added on top later). Place
       the petals next to each other without overlapping. The base of the petals
       can be wider and the tips more narrow.
4.    Next, use the yellow paint to create a second layer of petals by applying it
       on top of the darker petals you just painted. Use a little more paint so you
       create thick petals. Try not to mix the two layers together.
Painting sunflowers on leaves, steps 1-4
5.    Going back to the centers of the sunflowers, add small dabs/dots of brown
       to the dark brown to add a bit more depth and interest.
6.    Clean up the edge of the centers where the petals join by adding dabs of
       dark brown all around the circle (it’s ok if you paint over the base of the
7.    The last element is adding the leaves. Using the dark green paint, create
       petals between the flowers. Add green paint strokes on top for depth and
8.    The final step is to add highlights. For the petals, mix white with a bit of
       yellow and add some strokes on the edges and tips of the petals.
9.    For the centers, mix white with a bit of brown and dab some small dots on it.
10.  For the leaves, mix white with a bit of green. Add a few short strokes onto the leaves.
Painting sunflowers on leaves, steps 6-10


  • Since leaves have texture and aren’t smooth, use a little more paint to create thick/chunky strokes to cover up the uneven surface.
  • Try to create each shape in a few strokes and resist the urge to keep going back to “fix” it—that can make it worse/muddy up the paint you’ve applied/blend edges you want to keep clean and visible.
  • Have fun with it!
Happy painting and happy fall! :)
This blog post is part of a 3 part series on different ways to paint fall leaves. You can find the other tutorials here: spiderwebs and abstract
Painted leaves
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