Collect press and preserve fall leaves. If you love the colors that fall brings, learn how to preserve leaves to keep them around longer! Preserved autumn leaves make a great art and craft supply that can be used to make nature art and leaf craft projects of all kinds!
Learn how to preserve leaves to make fall arts and crafts with beautiful autumn colors. Preserve green leaves using the same leaf preserving techniques.
There are several ways to preserve fall leaves; scroll down to find directions to one leaf preserving method, and links to learn how to preserve fall leaves a few other ways!
Related: Best Fall Nature Crafts
Collect, Press, and Preserve Leaves for Nature Crafts and Art Projects
Do you like to collect colorful beautiful leaves in the fall? Hunting for gorgeous autumn leaves is one of my favorite things to do with my daughter. Our next favorite thing to do is to create nature crafts and art projects with them.
The problem is that they will turn brown, shrivel up and break into pieces if you aren’t able to use them right away. Today we are going to share what to do with fall leaves after you collect them so you can use them for nature crafts and art projects when you are ready.
Remember, preserving leaves is an inexact science with varied results. It is impossible to preserve leaves to look as bright and be as supple as the day that you found them. Approach each of these leaf preservation techniques like a scientist and choose the one, or two, that you like best!
Craft Supplies Needed to Preserve Leaves
Scroll down to have a look at the resources at the bottom of this page for more information about how to preserve leaves with the other methods listed.
- Fall Leaves
- Try this leaf press or this leaf press, or use cardstock and heavy books
- Mod Podge
- Foam brush
How to Preserve Leaves: Step by Step Directions
Step 1 – Collect Fall Leaves
In order to preserve leaves, you first need to get outside to collect them.
It’s fun to go on a nature hunt to look for vibrant fresh fallen leaves to bring home to create nature crafts, or, press and preserve for later. My daughter gets a rush of excitement every time she races for a pretty leaf!
Related: Marbled Clay Autumn Leaves Craft
Step 2 – Press Leaves
After you have collected some leaves it’s time to press them. If the autumn leaves, or green leaves, that you collect are dirty, rinse and dry them before you press and preserve them. It is important that the leaves are clean and dry or they can grow mold and peel.
Next, grab your leaf press, or a pile of cardstock and heavy books. Place the autumn leaves into the leaf press according to the manufacturers’ directions, or, place them on top of a sheet of cardstock.
How to Press Leaves with Cardstock and Books
- Clean and dry leaves so they do not mold while they are being pressed.
- Place leaves on top of a sheet of cardstock.
- Add as many leaves as you can fit between two sheets of cardstock.
- Place another sheet of cardstock on top of the leaves.
- Do your best to make sure the fall leaves lay flat under the cardstock.
- If you have a lot of leaves to preserve, place more leaves on top of the second sheet of cardstock, and then place another sheet of cardstock on top to press them.
- Repete as needed. Keep doing this until all of the leaves are between sheets of paper.
- Place some large heavy books, binders, or another heavy object on top of your stacks of cardstock.
- Press fall leaves for 12 – 24 hours.
- Don’t press fall leaves for too long, or they can begin to lose too much of their color, or, grow mold.
The photo below shows what our fall leaves looked like after we had pressed them under a stack of books for a little over 24 hours. After pressing them, it is important to preserve fall leaves as soon as possible in order to keep some of the gorgeous autumn colors.
Step 3 – Preserve Leaves
After you have pressed the autumn leaves that you have collected it’s time to preserve them. This method uses Mod Podge or a slightly watered down PVC or white glue.
A few other methods to preserve leaves are listed toward the bottom of this article.
It is almost impossible to apply Mod Podge to a fall leaf without getting it all over the surrounding area so we have come up with a super-easy leaf preserving hack to get it done without making a huge mess!
How to Preserve Leaves with Mod Podge
- Cover a table or other surface large enough to dry the fall leaves you have collected with a newspaper or an old sheet.
- Get out your pressed fall leaves, Mod Podge, a foam brush, and an old magazine or catalog. If you don’t have Mod Podge, use a PVC glue, or white glue with a little water added to it. The idea is to make it easy to paint with.
- Grab an old magazine or catalog to give yourself a surface to quickly apply the Mod Podge without concern. Open it to the first page and use your foam brush to apply Mod Podge to one side of the fall leaf.
- Once Mod Podge is painted on one side of the autumn leaf, lay it down on the surface that you have covered Mod Podge side up.
- After using the first pages of your catalog to paint a few leaves with Mod Podge they will be nice and sticky, am I right? Turn the page so there is a new clean surface to work on–tada! No muss-no fuss! Yes, this means that you will be slowly gluing the pages of your catalog together as you work, this is why it is important to use one that you don’t care about.
- Repeat as needed and allow time for preserved fall leaves to dry.
- Once the autumn leaves are dry, apply Mod Podge to the other side of each leaf using the same technique if desired.
Have a look at “Use and Care of Preserved Leaves” in the next section for more of our best leaf preservation tips, and, see how our preserved fall leaves look after a year!
Mod Podge goes on milky and dries clear. You can see some of our preserved autumn leaves drying below.
How to Use and Care for Preserved Leaves
Preserved leaves can curl and/or wrinkle a bit depending on the type of leaf it is. If you want your preserved autumn leaves to stay flat, press them again when the Mod Podge, PVC or white glue is dry until you are ready to use them.
The preserved fall leaves that we preserved by painting on one side of the leaf with Mod Podge, such as the ‘thankful’ leaf pictured below, retained a good bit of their color and turned out to be more flexible and better for art projects, than those painted on both sides.
Conversely, we discovered that fall leaves painted and preserved with Mod Podge on both sides are better for sturdy crafts like leaf lacing.
Some of our preserved autumn leaves have become a bit brittle over time, and a few have faded a bit, but we still have lots of red, yellow, and orange preserved leaves to play with!
Update: After a year our leaves from last year are still gorgeous. They have lost some of their flexibility, and some have become quite brittle now that they have been stored for a year, but they are still surprisingly colorful.
I wrote thankful on a leaf we preserved last year and placed it on our thankful tree this year! We have lots more ready to be added to our Thankful tree this year because we preserved so many gorgeous autumn leaves!
Fun Ways to Use Preserved Fall Leaves: Nature Crafts and Art Ideas
- Fall Leaf Lacing
- How to Make a Thankful Tree for Thanksgiving with Real Fall Leaves
- Watercolor and Fall Leaves Art
- Turkey Leaf Lanterns
- Thanksgiving Turkey Leaf Nature Crafts
- Best Fall Nature Crafts – Includes leaf art ideas and nature crafts made with real fall leaves.
- Autumn Leaf Fish in the Sea Art
- Fall Leaf Baby – The picture below was taken when the fall leaves used to make it were 2 years old. As you can see, they lose a bit of color over time, but are still lovely!
Other Methods to Preserve Autumn Leaves
As mentioned above, there are a few other ways to preserve leaves that you can try.
Preserve Leaves and use them for Nature Crafts and Art Projects
Pressing and preserving fall leaves is an easy crafting activity for kids and adults of all ages.
You might also enjoy our fall bucket list of fun activities and crafts!
Learn more about Rhythms of Play HERE!
If you liked How to Preserve Autumn Leaves, You May Also Like
- Forest School: Outdoor Learning and Nature Activities for Kids
- The Best Fall Art Projects for Kids
- Best Thankful Trees for Thanksgiving
- Real Flower Nature Crafts
- Nature Crafts and Art Ideas
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