This autumn greeting card celebrates the two best parts of the season: multicolored leaves and warm drinks! Today, I’ll show you how to use coffee to stain a Japanese maple leaf illustration. Then, we’ll use metallic watercolors to add some interest and shine.
1. Draw a Pencil Draft
First, use a pencil to draw maple leaves on a piece of 5″ x 7″ (127 mm x 178 mm) handmade paper or a watercolor card. If this step terrifies you, remember that there’s no shame in tracing! I’ve provided an outline for you to trace over a light box or a bright window, which you can find by clicking here.
2. Ink Over the Draft
Continue to add ink to the paper. Once you’re finished and the ink has dried, use a high-quality eraser to get rid of any remaining pencil lines.
3. Add Coffee
Now, put a small amount (~1/8 cup) of hot water in a small vessel. Stir in 1-2 tsp. of instant coffee to make a very dark, strong cup o’ joe. Then, use a fairly small paintbrush — size 2 or so — to paint over all the leaves and stems.
Once the coffee dries, layer on more coffee in various spots. In the short video below, you can watch me painting coffee on the leaves to enhance their look. (Please excuse the flickering light in the second half of the video. My toddler was overseeing my work and kept turning the light on and off!)
Once you finish staining the leaves, flick your paintbrush against your finger to make various coffee splotches. Then, when all your coffee has dried, you can use your pen and ink to make an outline around two of the leaves.
4. Add Metallic Watercolor
Coffee perfectly reflects the dull brown sheen of autumn leaves. But, for the sake of playfulness, we’re going to counteract that dull sheen with some gold watercolor. Moisten your gold with a bit of water, then, after a minute or two, stir in the water to mix up the paint. Then, use your paintbrush to embellish the base of some leaves and the tips of others with gold.
After you embellish with gold, you can add a bit of metallic red and bronze from the Finetec Pearl Colors palette. I used the two tones to embellish the card with spatters and add some contrast to the leaves’ stems. This is an optional step, but I like adding those warm colors to underline the autumn theme!
5. Write a Message
When all the coffee, paint, and ink has dried, you’re good to send your autumn greeting card! I decided to pair this card up with an envelope that I used coffee calligraphy to create. The two make the perfect coffee-scented autumn duo.
Even if you don’t make a maple leaf-themed card, I hope that you feel inspired by this tutorial to think outside of the box when it comes to artistic mediums! Remember, if you’re nervous about freehand drawing these leaves, you can find a traceable outline here. Thanks very much for reading, and have a fabulous weekend!