Color-Tinted Skeleton Leaves

Color-Tinted Skeleton Leaves

I’ve wanted to do this project for almost three years now, but couldn’t figure out the right way to do it.  I first saw this when I was pregnant with my first son and was looking at the décor in the doctor’s office. They were pressed between two pieces of plexiglass and I thought it was the coolest thing ever! I didn’t know what to call it when I went online to search how to even start making these. I searched “clear leaves” and “see-through leaves” and the only results I got were fake leaves made out of tulle and silk. I also found leaves that were bleached. This wasn’t what I was looking for either. I found out that these are called skeleton leaves. I guess the name makes sense, since you’re actually getting down to the bones of the leaf.

Now that I figured out what to call them, I needed to know how to make them. The companies that sold them sure as heck weren’t going to share their secrets with me. I dug a little deeper and came up with a lot of sites from colleges talking about the very scientific side of making skeleton leaves and why the formula works. It was way too technical for me! I found a tutorial on Pinterest, but after the cooking part, it seemed way too time consuming having to gently brush the skin of each leaf off with a tiny little brush (I’m so impatient), especially if making big batches of skeleton leaves.

I found these big sturdy leaves (I think they’re some type of palm leaf) in a park near our house and decided to try them out. I had to make sure the leaves were waxy and veiny because they work the best. Here is my step-by-step tutorial on how I made these beauties. Enjoy!

Color-Tinted Skeleton Leaves

 

**(PRINT INSTRUCTIONS HERE)**

What You Need: Waxy Leaves, Large Pot, Water (I used 12 Cups), Super Washing Soda (I used 2 Cups), Metal Tongs, Colander, Bleach, Shallow Dish, Food Color, Cooling Rack

*The amount of water and super washing soda will vary depending on the size and amount of leaves. I would suggest using one part super washing soda to six parts water.

In a well-ventilated room, mix water and super washing soda in pot and bring to a boil.

Color-Tinted Skeleton Leaves

Lower the heat to a simmer and add leaves. Allow the mixture to simmer for 2-3 hours. After the 2-3 hours, the water will look very murky.

Color-Tinted Skeleton Leaves

Using the tongs, place the leaves in the colander and run under cool water. (My leaves were pretty tough, so I don’t know if adding all types of leaves to the colander will work or if you’d have to rinse them individually if they’re more fragile.)

Color-Tinted Skeleton Leaves

Pour out the murky water and rinse out the pot. Fill the pot with just enough water to cover the leaves. It doesn’t have to be as much used before when simmering them. I added ½ cup bleach. Place the leaves into the bleach water and allow to soak for 20-30 minutes. This will remove as much color from the leaf as possible.

Color-Tinted Skeleton Leaves

Color-Tinted Skeleton Leaves

Now, this is where I did things a little differently. Instead of using the brush to remove the skin of the leaf, I placed the leaf flat on my hand and ran it under the sprayer on my kitchen sink.

Color-Tinted Skeleton Leaves

The skin started immediately coming off.

Color-Tinted Skeleton Leaves

After about a minute under the water, the skin was completely removed. I’ll admit that some of the leaves tore a little, but I still kept them because it added a little character.

Color-Tinted Skeleton Leaves

Mix water and food color in the shallow dish according to the tint you want. I used a blue and green mixture.

Color-Tinted Skeleton Leaves

Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Remove from water and place on cooling rack. Allow to completely dry.

Color-Tinted Skeleton Leaves

Color-Tinted Skeleton Leaves

After mine dried, I painted a cheap frame and used a piece of scrapbook paper for the background.

Color-Tinted Skeleton Leaves

Color-Tinted Skeleton Leaves

Color-Tinted Skeleton Leaves

 

Color-Tinted Skeleton Leaves

Comments

  1. Mary Jane Freitas says

    I love this and will be trying this out… love how you put them in frames so cool. Thanks for sharing :)

      • says

        hello,,i just saw this turtorial,and i got a question.and i also like to create kinda handmade things,so i want to find out,after drying them out they will be strongly and straight? or just were before?i mean, they are dry and crusted solid look to get in shape, or simply lose their natural color?

    • The Kreative Life says

      Hi, Patty! Super washing soda is a detergent booster and household cleaner you can find in the laundry detergent aisle.

      • Anshul Gwande says

        Hey der I just luved dis…..i’ve been looking for this for soo long & nw I’m definitely going to try dis…bt I’ve a doubt about d washing soda…i cannot find it anywhere around soo can I use any other washing powder????

  2. Peggy Deaux says

    Love this! Been looking for something outstanding for a collection of old frames. Ready to get busy with this.

      • The Kreative Life says

        Hello, Peggy! I approve comments before they are posted on my blog. This prevents spam comments or comments that aren’t family-friendly being posted without my knowledge. Great question!

  3. Candy Berg says

    oh these are so simple in design by nature and simply gorgeous. I just happen to have a brand spanking new house I will be moving into. I want to decorate with interesting and unusual things. I think this would be gorgeous, now to find the leaves. Thank you so much for the great tutorial and sharing.

  4. says

    I’ve always wanted to try this! I didn’t know what they were called either. And I don’t even remember where it was that I saw them, but I remember them!
    Thanks for the awesome tutorial. I’m pinning it for later!
    Kim @ 2justByou recently posted…Dr. Seuss FavoritesMy Profile

    • The Kreative Life says

      Rachel, when I was trying to find out how to do this, a lot of science articles came up. They were all too technical for me! Lol

  5. KathyB says

    This is amazing. I’d love to put them in a window as a privacy screen. Do you have any recommendations for getting them to stick to a window?

    • The Kreative Life says

      Hi, Kathy! The only thing I can think of is using a thin layer of Mod Podge or pressing them between two pieces of glass, but I’m not sure how well that would work.

      • Sandra says

        Not sire how old all these comments are. For the window, I think acrylic sheets could be used for mounting. They can be cut to fit the window using some sort of homemade swivel latches to hold it in. It should be lovely. Wonder how they will hold up in a sunny window?

  6. says

    We have a large screened in deck that really needs decorating. When summer finally gets here I will have to try this. My leaves right now are under 1 foot of snow with temps under 0.

  7. Pam says

    THis is so great!! Thank you for sharing!! i’ll be heading to my florist to see what I can find since we still have snow on the ground.

  8. Shirley says

    Very Impressive!! I love leaves and nature and always have. I have always liked things like this too but never knew how to get to this point with them. Looks like a very simple process too. ALSO, I really don’t understand the purpose of the food coloring? Do you need to do this step? I do see there is a bit of color to them after this process but is it really necessary? Again, Very Nice Job!

    • The Kreative Life says

      Hi, Shirley! The step with the food color isn’t necessary. I added color to match the color scheme of the room. The tint is a little more difficult to see on the pc, than it is in real life.

  9. says

    I LOVE this! I think my 8 year old granddaughter will love doing this with me. I think from the looks of this, what you used was probably a Magnolia leaf. We live in a city called the Magnolia Capital of Oklahoma and have been associated with Southeastern Oklahoma State University since 1966. It is called the Campus of a Thousand Magnolias so I think I am in business with leaves! :)

    • The Kreative Life says

      Hi, Pat! I don’t think it was a magnolia leaf, but I may have to go back to the park and check. We’re in southern Florida and where I found them, there were all types of palm trees around. However, I think a magnolia leaf would work great! P.S. I’m originally from Lawton, OK! Yay!

      • Sandra says

        Thinking about using elephant ears and split leave philodendron. Also have many and magnolia leaves. Anyway, when you put the leaves in the washing soda does it matter the size of the leaf? What I am wondering is what size pot yo use for split philodendron leaves since they are so large. But I think they would be beautiful.

    • The Kreative Life says

      Hi, Jessie! I just pressed it between a sheet of scrapbook paper and the glass on the frame. No glue at all.

  10. Denise says

    I’d forgotten how to do this and also tried looking it up and only found something online written up in the 19th century that was so complicated I eventually gave up. So seeing yours on Pinterest sparked my interest immediately. Thanks so much, they’re perfectly lovely

  11. Brenda Taylor says

    So you don’t have to put them between 2 pieces of glass or plexiglass? I LOVE LOVE LOVE this idea! I love doing crafts of all kinds, and this just blew my mind! Thank you for posting! Going to look for palm leaves!

  12. Linda says

    Pat, I thought it looked like a magnolia leaf also. Kendra, thanks for sharing your fantastic ideas. I am going to try this later in the year when it ‘thaws’ outside.

  13. says

    I love this project so much. I also pinned it awhile back and have been planning on doing this with my Mr. 6. We are big nature collectors since we do a daily nature study so this is perfect for us. I love your finished product. Beautiful! Thank you for the inspiration!

  14. Katherine says

    I saw the results of my mother doing this about 50 years ago. Hers became completely skeletonized with nothing between the vains. I thought she only used bleach. Don’t know the concentration. I ran across then the other day pressed between the pages of an old photo album. As beautiful as ever.

  15. paola says

    Bellissima questa tecnica!Proprio un vrero peccato………..Non capire le spiegazioni!!!Soda…………Ma.Soda Caustica?!!!!!Chi lo sa!!!!!!!!Purtroppo,io non so l’Inglese!E così,non ci capisco nulla!!!!!UFFA!!!!!

  16. Laura says

    I saw these on pinterest, and was dying to make them too. The tutorial I found was in Japanese, and the photos weren’t very helpful, so for a long while I was soaking leaves in baking soda waiting for the leaves to turn into skeletons. When that didn’t work, I got to searching the internet for how to make them. Thankfully, I was calling them skeleton leaves from the beginning so I found directions fast. Soon I was making them all the time.

    I just wanted to share some things I have learned from making these. The leaves don’t have to be waxy, but those are the easiest to work with. When I started, I used cottonwood leaves, and they came out beautiful. But not all leaves work. I moved to Napa, CA and tried this with grape leaves, and they didn’t make it. You just have to try whatever leaves you want to and see what happens.

    When brushing the flesh from the leaves, I first used a little paint brush, but I don’t the patience for that, so I switched first to a tooth brush, then to a nail brush with softer bristles. These worked great, and make quick work of removing the flesh from the leaves.

    Not that it matters, but I bleach them after I make the skeletons out of them, and I use food coloring straight, rather then mixed with water for bold colors. I like jewel tones, so that works for me.

    It’s so nice to see that other people love these beautiful leaf skeletons as much as I do! Thank for your post.

    • The Kreative Life says

      Hi, Laura! Thank you so much for the tips! I tried brushing the flesh off, but it was easier (and a lot faster) for me to run them under water.

  17. Ciara says

    So beautiful and delicate! The wonders of nature enhanced by artistry even after the leaf has died! Am looking forward to trying this. Thank you so much for posting.

  18. teresita astrada says

    Gracias por compartir , me encanta la forma fàcil e interesante, muchas gracias! lo probare.

    • says

      Por favor yo también le solicito los ingredientes y el procedimiento para lograr transparentar las hojas. Agradezco mucho apoyo, anhelo lograr hacerlo.

      • The Kreative Life says

        Hola, Leti! Lo que usted necesita : Hojas de cera , olla grande , Agua (I usado 12 Copas ) , Súper sosa comercial ( I usado 2 Copas ) , pinzas de metal , colador , Bleach , un plato poco profundo , de color Alimentos , Rejilla

  19. Kara says

    after you get the flesh off how is there the skeleton and what the skeleton is mounted in how is that already there or do you mount it on something I really what to try this!!

    • The Kreative Life says

      Hi, Kara! The skeleton is the veins that are left behind after all of the skin is removed. The leaf is pressed between a piece of scrapbook paper and glass in a wooden frame to hold it in place.

  20. silvia says

    hi there
    i would like to know if I can change the super soda with similiar one,im in aportugal and that product dont exist here.
    Thanks for your response

    • The Kreative Life says

      Hi, Silvia! I don’t know what can be substituted for super washing soda, but you can buy Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda online.

    • The Kreative Life says

      Nancy, I used leaves that I picked off the ground, they weren’t completely dry but they were slightly brown.

  21. Lyn says

    Hi, I’ve just subscribed to your newsletter. I love anything to do with craft or art. I used to make these leaves by just soaking in water & changing the water daily it was tedious. That was when I was in school & only peepal tree leaves worked. Your method is great thanks. And the leaves you used are from an almond tree. My neighbor has one, I always use them for flower arrangements. I’ve also made roses wit them when they’re that beautiful red. These almond trees are common here in the tropics. I’m from India- Mumbai. Happy crafting!

  22. AJ says

    I remember doing something like this a few years ago with ‘peepal’ leaves (that’s what its called in India; botanical name is Ficus religiosa). All I did was put the leaves in water for a couple of days, and after that slowly rub the skin of the leaf off (putting them under running water might also work). This method is much easier than the one you’ve given. :)

    • The Kreative Life says

      Hi, Angel! You can find super washing soda in Walmart in the laundry detergent section. I used the Arm & Hammer brand.

  23. says

    me gusto lo de las hojas lo que si mi duda es de la soda aqui en chile no se como la puedo encontrar ya que los nombres de los productoa varian dependiendo del pais o si puedes enviar una foto del compuesto del producto
    seria genial de ante mano muchas gracias

  24. Lisa DeShane says

    I am really goung to have to try this too!
    I too have seen and admired them but tge ones i saw were all different types. I dont know what time of year it was when they made them. Does it make a difference or can they be done at any time?

    • The Kreative Life says

      Hi, Lisa! The time of year doesn’t matter. I made these during the spring. Now that it’s fall, I bet you can find plenty of leaves to use.

  25. Courtney Craig says

    I’ve wanted to make these for the longest time!!! I live in Louisville, Kentucky and have never found the washing powder, do you think borax would work? One of my good friends is from Lawton, Ok!!

    • The Kreative Life says

      Hi, Courtney! It’s a small world! Super washing soda is a detergent booster. You can find it in Walmart in the laundry detergent section. I used the Arm & Hammer brand. I’m not sure if borax would work.

  26. Kelly says

    Hi! Love this project idea. I know what I’m doing this weekend! Still, I am a little slow… I don’t get what super washing soda is specifically. Will you share exactly what I am looking for? Thank you so much.

    • The Kreative Life says

      Hi, Kelly! Super washing soda is a detergent booster. You can find it in Walmart in the laundry detergent section. I used the Arm & Hammer brand.

  27. says

    I can’t wait to try this. I want to bring some leaves home from our vacation in Costa Rica,rainforest. However, don’t see anywhere In the comments, if it’s best to work with fresh leaves, or if you can use dried leaves?

  28. mARTina says

    Hello, I really like such crafts!!! and I want to do thias!
    which kind of bleach do you use?
    I have to buy this in Germany.
    Thank you very much!
    mARTina

  29. Michelle says

    Once you have the finished product, do you think you would be able to decoupage them and make a bowl from the leaves?

  30. Jacqueline Vasquez Soto says

    se me urge aclarar el nombre verdadero,,,es sosa oes soda, y se puede usar detergente para lavar mas klorox’?

  31. Carliena says

    I just adore this! You are so very creative and this is amazing!! A few quick questions…

    How long do they keep in the frame?
    Can you do this with flowers?
    Can you secure them with glue or wold that damage the leaves?
    With the tinting, can you use gel colors or just liquid?

    I just think the way you laid this tutorial out was brilliant and easy to follow!!

    Thank you so very much,
    A curious new crafter!

    • The Kreative Life says

      Hi, Laura! It’s detergent booster that you can find in Walmart in the laundry detergent aisle. It’s an Arm & Hammer box.

  32. Char says

    Thank you for sharing your information on how to do this. I have only seen leaves like this on river banks or near a lake, but it also depends on the time of year when you see them, however, by the time I find them and bring them home , I just have crumbs, lol. So I thank you again. I WILL be doing this.
    Yours truly Charmaine M.

  33. stacey says

    Hi i was wondering what i would use instead of Super Washing Soda as i live in the uk and would need to order in from us amazon?

  34. says

    How did you get them to stay on the paper? Are they behind glass? Very nice idea. It would be just my luck I would tear the leaves but it would be nice to give it a try. Our granddaughter just moved into their new house would make a nice house warming gift.

    • The Kreative Life says

      Hi, Cynthia! I just pressed them between the glass and the backing of the frame, without using glue. I hope your granddaughter loves your gift.

  35. Chanel Camacho says

    This is an amazing idea! I want to ask though… do you need to preserve the leaf after you’re done so that it doesn’t crumble or change shape with age? I also wanted to know if you know if a Protea flower’s leaf is a suitable leaf to try this with?

  36. Matt says

    Love this my favorite season is autumn and I love cooking so i decided to decorate my kitchen in an autumn theme and I love it so I will be doing this for my kitchen thanks so much for sharing

  37. Izabela says

    Hi! I love these! It’s a great gift for friends. You’re so kind person that I want to hug you lots. I have a question – can I use washing powder against washing soda? Will the results be the same?

  38. LAURA LOPEZ CASTILLO says

    QUE BONITO, ME HE QUEDADO CON MUCHO INTERES SIGUIENDO TUS INSTRUCCIONES Y.. MANOS A LA OBRA!
    GRACIAS POR COMPARTIR

  39. Elvira says

    Hi Kendra, In Europe is a cheap and good brand Klok or Driehoek. Don’t forget the prices in Europe are much higher than USA. Aldo it’s the same, we have to deal with price +tax. And USA is a “whole-user+ no tax”
    But the “washing soda works great”.
    I want to show you this….. I made little paintings/ art of these skeleton leaves!
    Here is the How to……
    https://youtu.be/LzW69eQNpjY

  40. Marianne says

    Thank you.
    Found this on Pinterest. Want to do it. But: What is a Colander ? :-)
    I am from Sweden and have no idea.
    Marianne

    • The Kreative Life says

      Hi, Marianne! A colander is the same thing as a strainer, like when you strain the water from pasta.

  41. says

    Hi, I was just wondering if after I brought it to a boil could I put it in a slow cooker on HI for the 3-4 hours? Instead of on my stove? These are gorgeous.

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