Mural Painting for the Tweener Set… Funky, Contemporary-looking Leaves

It can be a challenge to find the right decor for the child who is balking at Disney characters, but not yet appreciative of the subtleties of an Impressionist painting by Monet. Funky shapes and metallic paint can answer this dilemma. Here’s a simple and inviting “How to” project, but don’t try it until you’ve agreed to loosen up and have fun. This may even get you going on a larger project!

Step 1: Search for leaves in your yard (we have few in Arizona!) or do a google search for leaf clip art. Go wherever you find interesting images.

Step 2: Gather your materials – You will need:
• Pencil
• Xacto knife
• Bristol board or thick acetate
• 1″ blue masking tape
• plastic cups
• flat brushes
• acrylic paints (read below for colors)

I chose these colors, but feel free to choose your own, keeping in mind the color scheme in the intended space. Technically, the paints I used for this project are a combination of Liquitex tube acrylics (Michael’s, any art store), some canned latex paints I had on hand, and “Minwax Polycrylic” (most paint stores, Home Depot, Lowe’s). But for smaller projects of minimal wall coverage, I would recommend acrylic craft paint, such as “Folk Art” (at Michaels) and add a bit of Polycrylic for durability and smoother application. Consistency should be thin but not runny (for more information on supplies and techniques see my book, Creative Kids’ Murals You Can Paint,, pages 10-16).

Copper paint by Liquitex really sets everything off! The other colors are “Yellow Citron,” “Teal,” “Warm White,” “Cerulean Blue,” “Forest Moss,” and “Raw Sienna.” Generally, I mix 1 part paint, 1 part Polycrylic, and 1 part water.

Step 3) Draw your leaf shape on Bristol Board (or acetate) in pencil.

Step 4) Cut out your shape with an Xacto knife, making sure to have enough space around the cut out shape. This prevents ripping easily and painting in the “wrong” place.

5) Tape your cut out to your chosen wall space. Begin painting your “base coat” color of the leaf. I am using “Forest Moss” and applying from the center of the leaf outward, keeping a thin margin for a faux vein. I use a flat 2″ soft brush.

Step 6) I apply touches of Copper, Raw Sienna, Cerulean Blue, and Yellow Citron in different amounts using a 1″ flat brush — making each one of my leaves a little different from the next by varying the coverage of each color. Then, I use a very small round brush for final accents of veining, in off-white.

Step 7) Lift the stencil up. You may have some uneven edges. I chose to keep them, rather than wipe up edges as I think it adds to the hand painted look. Your choice. You can clean up by applying the wall paint with a small 1/4″ brush over the unintended “blobs” after they are dry.

Here is my final leaf.

And, here is my leaf in the broader context (Centennial Middle School, Phoenix, Arizona).

But, you may simply choose to randomly place leaves on your tweener’s bedroom wall as a simple solution to bringing together all the existing colors from bedding fabric, furniture, containers, and preteen chatzky (which there is plenty of!).

This could be a project you and your pre-teen produce together. I’d only recommend this, though, if infinite patience and fine motor skills are in abundant supply!

Rock on!