Practicing Leaves

Check out some of our helpful drawing tips regarding leaves that we teach in our course, The Practice of Botanical Drawing!


Monocots & Dicots

The difference between Monocots & Dicots is found in their cotyledons (first leaves). Monocots have one cotyledon, while Dicots have two!

Monocot leaves (Monocotyledons) have parallel veining, which means they are usually long, strappy leaves that bend over creating twists and turns. Leaves with parallel veining are grasses, tulips, irises, orchids, palms, corn, and bamboo.

Dicot leaves (Dicotyledons) have net veining, also known as branching veins. Leaves with net veining are rose, hibiscus, oak, and hydrangea.


Subtle Veins

The key to realistic leaf veining is subtlety. Do the veins branch off before they reach the outer margins? Make sure the veins are not too straight or curving too much, but have appropriate zig-zagging to look realistic. Include the proper width variation and tapering at the tips and edges.

Practice, practice, practice with your embossing tools! Subtle veins can be achieved in 3 steps – 1. watercolor 2. emboss 3. colored pencil


Leaf Close-Up

Take a closer look at recessed veins on the front of a leaf and the raised veins on the back. Also notice the light and dark sides, the highlight, and some tips to remember! Use tones to create slight pillowing, tone right up to the secondary vein, but tone all the way to the primary vein. Leaving off a little before lets our minds connect the dots. Also try embossing over wax paper and then adding more pencil on top!



The secret to drawing a convincing rolling or twisting leaf is for all the edges to appear connected.

The closest edge is drawn in green, the center vein is red, and the outer edge is blue. It is important to keep track of all three lines, as sometimes an edge will disappear. We still want to visually continue all lines even when we can’t see them so they appear to connect. Tone the overlapping areas. Add layers of colored pencil, and add in details from your leaf, such as suggestions of the veining.



The secret to drawing a convincing rolling or twisting leaf is for all the edges to appear connected.

First, draw the entire center midvein, even if it is hidden from view, and show how it curves. I have indicated the midvein with a red pencil and used a dotted line where it is hidden from view. I have drawn all three lines with different colors in order to keep track of edges that are hidden.


Leaf Planes

The two sides of a leaf receive light differently because they are two separate planes, similar to an open book. When light hits these two planes, one side receives more light and the other side more shadow. If you tone your leaf using this formula, it will look dimensional, even though a leaf has very little thickness.


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