How to make leaf skeletons (with pictures)

How to make leaf skeletons (with pictures)
How to make leaf skeletons (with pictures)

Leaf skeletons are beautiful, delicate, lace-like leaves. They are used in scrapbooking, collage and a whole host of other creative activities. They can be expensive in the trade, but are incredibly easy to make. Not only can you save money by making them yourself, but you can also personalize them by bleaching or coloring them. Even better, you can choose the shape and size of your leaves!


Part 1 of 4: using sodium carbonate

Make Skeleton Leaves Step 1

Step 1. Place the leaves you want to use in a pan

Choose the number of sheets you want, but avoid putting too many at once. Place an even layer of leaves at the bottom of the pot. The best leaves for this exercise are those with a waxy, shiny surface, such as the leaves of magnolias or gardenias.

Make Skeleton Leaves Step 2

Step 2. Cover the leaves with soda ash and water

You will need half a cup to ¾ cup (between 70 and 105 grams) of soda ash and 4 cups (1 L) of water. Stir gently to mix the solution.

  • Do not use baking soda. It's not the same thing.
  • You will find soda ash in the laundry section of supermarkets and grocery stores.
Make Skeleton Leaves Step 3

Step 3. Cook the leaves until they soften

Boil the water over medium or high heat, then reduce the heat to keep the water simmering. Cook the leaves until soft. It will take between 90 minutes and 2 hours, depending on the type of leaf.

The water will evaporate as you simmer it. Add more water when necessary so as not to dry out the leaves

Make Skeleton Leaves Step 4

Step 4. Remove the leaves from the water

Start by putting on a pair of latex or plastic gloves. Then use tongs or a spatula to remove the leaves from the water. If they form a sort of viscous mush, place them in a basin filled with cold or room temperature water for a few minutes. They will then be easier to clean.

Make Skeleton Leaves Step 5

Step 5. Place the leaves on a paper towel

Then brush them gently to remove the flesh. Hold the leaves by the stem with tweezers and use a brush or soft-bristled toothbrush to gently brush away the flesh. Turn the sheet over and brush the other side.

  • It will be even easier if the leaves are cold or at room temperature.
  • Be very gentle during this step, as the leaves will be fragile.
Make Skeleton Leaves Step 6

Step 6. Rinse the leaves with cold water once more

The leaves will be very delicate during this step. You will need to treat them gently. Fill a basin with cold or room temperature water, then place the leaves in it. If necessary, gently rotate the leaves. If any residue remains, change the water and repeat the operation.

Do not rinse the leaves under the tap, as the force of the water may damage them

Make Skeleton Leaves Step 7

Step 7. Let the leaves dry

Place the sheets between two paper towels, then place heavy books on top. The towels will serve to absorb excess moisture while the books will dry them flat. If you skip this step, the leaves may twist and roll up on themselves.

If you want curled and twisted (natural) leaves, let them dry on a paper towel without putting anything on top. Without the weight of books, they will wring naturally as they dry

Part 2 of 4: try other methods

Make Skeleton Leaves Step 8

Step 1. Soak the leaves in water

Boil 2 cups (about 500 ml) of water with 3 tablespoons (about 30 g) of soda ash. Remove the water from the heat, add the leaves and let soak for 20 to 30 minutes. When finished, brush the flesh as explained previously.

  • This process is similar to the previous method, except that you are not continuously cooking the leaves.
  • This method is ideal for small amounts of leaves or delicate leaves.
Make Skeleton Leaves Step 9

Step 2. Soak the leaves in plain water if you are patient

It will take between 2 and 3 weeks. You will also need to change the water every few days so that it does not turn. You can add bleach to prevent the leaves from rotting. Once this time has passed, remove the flesh with a soft-bristled toothbrush.

If you add bleach, use one part bleach to 30 parts water

Make Skeleton Leaves Step 10

Step 3. Try organic detergent instead

Mix 2 cups (approximately 500ml) of water with a little over 100g of organic detergent. Add the leaves and boil everything for 30 minutes. Rinse the leaves, then brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Leave the sheets between two sheets of blotting paper for two weeks.

Part 3 of 4: color or whiten the leaves

Make Skeleton Leaves Step 11

Step 1. Use bleach to whiten the leaf skeletons

Pour 1 cup (250 ml) of water and ¼ cup (approximately 60 ml) of bleach into a container. Add the leaves and leave them until they turn white. It will take about 20 minutes, but it may take longer for darker or thicker leaves.

If you've made a lot of leaf skeletons, you may need to work bit by bit for this step. Do not put too many leaves in the container

Make Skeleton Leaves Step 12

Step 2. Rinse the leaves with cool water

Fill a clean container with cold to lukewarm water. Dip the leaves in water, one at a time, then place them on a paper towel. The water will remove the excess bleach and stop the bleaching process.

Make Skeleton Leaves Step 13

Step 3. Let the leaves dry

If you want them to flatten out, place them between two paper towels, then stack heavy books on top. If you want a more natural result, let them dry on a paper towel without putting anything on top. Without weight above them, the leaves will twist and curl slightly as they dry.

This process should take about 20 minutes

Make Skeleton Leaves Step 14

Step 4. Soak the leaves in food coloring

You can also use colorful watercolors. Mix water with enough food coloring or liquid watercolor to achieve the desired shade. Soak the leaves in the solution for up to 20 minutes, then peel them off. Rinse them with cool water before drying them using the method described above.

  • If you want flat sheets, wedge them between two paper towels and stack books on top.
  • If you want a more natural look, just let them dry on a sheet of paper.
Make Skeleton Leaves Step 15

Step 5. Paint the leaves with liquid watercolor or food coloring

Pour the desired colors into small cups or capsules. Use a soft watercolor brush to paint the leaves. You can paint the leaves with a solid color or make stripes of different colors to create a color gradient. Then let the leaves dry between two books.

Avoid using brushes with stiff bristles, as this can damage the skeletons

Make Skeleton Leaves Step 16

Step 6. Spray paint if you want a metallic effect

Place the leaves flat on a paper towel. Lightly spray the leaves with a spray bottle of metallic paint. Use tweezers to lift the leaves. Transfer them to a clean paper towel and let them dry. Repeat the process for the other side.

  • Do not let the leaves dry on the paper towel full of paint or they will stick.
  • Use a spray of floral paint for best results.

Part 4 of 4: decorate or use the leaves

Make Skeleton Leaves Step 17

Step 1. Make them shine with pearls, sequins or even rhinestones

Put liquid glue on the outline or the central rod then sprinkle a little extra fine scrapbooking glitter. You can also use tiny beads or tiny rhinestones. Alternatively, you can draw on the leaves using glitter glue.

  • School glue or craft glue with a thin tip is best. You can also apply the glue with a fine, pointed brush.
  • Don't use classic glitter. They will be too thick for this project.
Make Skeleton Leaves Step 18

Step 2. Use the dry leaves to make a bowl or box

Cover your bowl or box with stretch wrap. Mix equal amounts of school glue and hot water. Dip the leaves in the glue then place them on the bowl or box. Let dry then lift the leaves. Remove any pieces of stretch film stuck to the leaves.

  • Sprinkle extra fine glitter over the glue for a little shine.
  • If you don't have school glue, you can try craft glue, heavyweight glue, or glue glue.
Make Skeleton Leaves Step 19

Step 3. Use the leaves for scrapbooking or making cards

You can glue the leaves to cards and scrapbooking paper with a glue stick. You can also put a thin layer of liquid glue on the back of the sheet to stick it on your creation.

  • For something more sophisticated, use a hole puncher or cutter to cut out an interesting shape (example: a heart, star, moon, etc.) in the center of the sheet.
  • You can also use the leaves as stamps. Paint the back of the sheet with watercolor and press it against a sheet of paper before removing it.
Make Skeleton Leaves Step 20

Step 4. Glue the leaves to glass candle holders or vases

Start by rubbing alcohol on the object. Then paint it with glossy glue varnish. Apply a thin layer of glue varnish to the back of the sheet, then apply it to the glass object. Cover the sheet with a final touch of glue varnish.

Make Skeleton Leaves Step 21

Step 5. Tie the leaves into a garland

Sew the leaves where the central stem meets the bottom of the stem of the next leaf. You can even make several garlands and hang them vertically to create a decoration. The threads should be thin enough to pass through the skeleton of the leaves. The most delicate sheets may not withstand heavy threads or baker twines. Stronger sheets may be able to support thick yarns like these or thicker twine, as well as knitting yarn or jute twine.

If you want the leaves to keep their position on the thread, tie a small knot on each side of the leaf


  • The leaves that will work best are gardenias, holly, hosta, bay, magnolia, maple, oak and rubber leaves.
  • Do not rush, you risk tearing the leaves.
  • It is not necessary to clean the entire sheet. You can remove only half of the flesh for a single result.
  • If you don't have liquid food coloring or watercolor, you can use any other type of liquid dye, including floral dye. You can also use powdered drinks!
  • If you want bright colors, you'll need to bleach the leaves first. The colors will then be more visible.
  • This process can smell strong. Leave a window open or turn on an exhaust fan.
  • You can make your own soda ash by heating baking soda in the oven to between 205 and 230 ° C. Sprinkle the baking soda in a thin layer on a baking sheet. Leave to cook for about 1 hour and mix halfway through cooking. When the powder is grainy, it will be ready.
  • Be sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush designed for sensitive gums or for children. Conventional toothbrushes are too hard.


  • Soda ash is caustic. Wear protective gloves when handling it.
  • Children should not complete this project without adult supervision.

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