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Clay Leaf Tutorial

I needed a clay craft that I could do with my art lesson students that could air dry.

Here is a tutorial for these sweet little leaf “bowls.”  These all turned out very pretty and it even worked one-on-one with my six-year-old.

The clay I use says it dries in 2-3 days, but it took about five.

The precious little hand model is my son, Joseph:)
clay leaf


  • air dry clay (Crayola or Amaco air dry clay would work in the white or even the terra cotta. I don’t know that these would work well with Model Magic or Salt Dough)
  • leaves (even though the fall leaves are prettiest, the ones that are not “crunchy” at all will work best)
  • scrap paper
  • toothpicks
  • cup, bowl, or other form for the leaf to dry in
  • acrylic paint (this isn’t washable)
  • paint brush
  • clear sealant, I used Mod Podge (not washable either)

1. Ball up the air dry clay.  We discovered this works better if you ball it in your hands instead of rolling it on the table play-dough style.

leaf bowl

2. Pat out the clay. This is what the scrap paper is for.  (The clay will stick to styrofoam, aluminum foil, wax paper. . .) It doesn’t have to be completely even- no need for a rolling pin.  It needs to be a little less than 1/2 an inch.leaf bowl

3. Press down the leaf. The leaf goes vein-side (or back side) down. Make sure you get good contact with every part of the leaf.  No worries if it cracks or breaks. Leave it there.  This is not the part where  you peel it back up:)

clay tutorial

4. Cut around the leaf. This will be the hardest part for little hands. I used tooth picks to cut around.  The younger kids will probably break a few.  My six year old needed me to step in to make sure we had cut all the way through once he had finished.  Don’t worry if it is a little bit ragged. clay leaf

5. Remove the excess clay. Its easiest to remove it outside-in.  Tug at the outside of the circle and pull in towards the leaf.  Ball up all of the excess before you seal it off to prevent the extra from drying up. clay leaf tutorial

6. Peel away the leaf. Grab the stem and pull.  If the leaf was dry you may have to pick away a few small pieces. clay leaf dish

7. Pull the paper away from the leaf.  You will do less damage to the leaf if you do peel back the paper instead of peeling back the leaf (The picture is not the best example.)  I did this part for my six and seven year olds. On the leaves that turn out a little rough around the edges, this is the best time to smooth the sides down with your fingers.leaf tutorial

8. Put the leaf down in the form. I cut a red solo cup in half for this part.  Only let the leaf sink in a little if you want it to be dish-like.  I pushed some all the way down for the more bowl-like shapes.  Be gentle!  I showed the kids how to tap the middle down slowly so as not to destroy the pretty vein pattern.

Allow the leaf to dry.  I let all of ours dry for about a week.  After three days I took them out of the cups so they could dry more thoroughly. leaf bowl

9. Paint with acrylics.  We found it easiest to paint the back first and then flip.  It took the kids a good thirty minutes to paint theirs using several different fall colors.  We didn’t wash brushes in between colors because we wanted them to be very blended and also because I didn’t want to deal with watery paint.

It takes a little time to get all of the white spots covered.  Check out the leaf from several angles before you call it “done.”  I modeled to the kids how to press the paint into the leaf with the brush intead of just stroking across the leaf as a way of getting those hard-to-cover spots.leaf clay tutorial

10. Seal with Mod Podge.  After allowing the paint to completely dry (it took ours 5-10 minutes) cover back and then front with Mod Podge.  The kids needed a little reassuring that it would dry completely clear.  leaf art lesson

These turned out so well with several different ages!   Some kids mentioned wanting to put candy in theirs. . .note that I never intended these to be food-safe. I have my son’s in the window with a little votive:-)clay leaf tutorial

©   Feel free to use this with your kids, your Sunday School class, or even your students.  Just please keep it free:)  Also I’d be glad for you to share it on your site as as long as you link back to me:)

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2 Responses to Clay Leaf Tutorial

  1. Suzanne McRae November 23, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    Hi Jenny, I dropped in from Flying Lessons group. Saw you had posted and someone posted the link to your website.

    I just love this tutorial. Wished my kids were little again. I really like the one you put a little candle inside. What a neat easy and fun project to do with little ones. Thank you for sharing it with us.


    Jenny Reply:

    Thanks, Suzanne. I have made it with a few grown ups that loved it too:-)


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