Re-post: Concrete leaf casting

7 05 2011

Originally posted July 2008. This is one of my top visited posts of all time with 8,717 visits to date!

Debbi and I have been making these concrete leaf castings for several years now, and my Garden Club members have also tried their hand at it. There are many sites that show how to make them. This one has step by step instructions with photos.

Since most of the leaves we create are smaller, we don’t often do the chicken wire reinforcement. Larger elephant ears do require a bit of reinforcement, though, and we have made some of those (the larger they are, the more likely you’ll need two people to move it when it’s dry!). Most of the ones we have done are made with leaves from hostas, pokeweed, grape leaves, caladium leaves, and smaller elephant ears. Leaves that have nice, deep veins work best. If you want to hang your leaf on a fence or wall, insert a curved piece of clothes hanger or thick wire (formed into a loop) into the back before the leaf is cured.

Artists Little and Lewis (http://www.littleandlewis.com/) suggest using powdered pigments to color your concrete before creating the leaves. Read more about their approach by going to www.marthastewart.com . Do a search for “concrete leaf casting” to find the segment where Little & Lewis discuss leaf casting and list supplies.

We haven’t tried the “color-in-the-concrete” approach yet. We do ours in the natural color and then paint after curing is done. Our favorite style is to paint the front and back with black acrylic paint, then rub on powdered metallic powdered pigments (the type often used in Sculpey jewelry projects). We used the Pearl Ex powdered pigment series, and we find silver, gold, bronze, blues, greens, and purples work much better than the pastel colors. We only apply the additional coloring and metallic powder to the front. The back remains black only.

Check out Pearl Ex pigments on the Jacquard Products website.

I buy my pigments from Michael’s or A.C. Moore Craft Store. They sell them in sets of 12 different colors, or you can buy a larger bottle of one color. It doesn’t take much to cover the leaf. We use a soft cloth to rub in the pigments, which are very concentrated and go a long way. It is necessary to paint the leaf black (or a dark brown) in order for the metallic pigments to be intense in color.

If you try this style, you’ll need to seal your leaf with an outdoor spray sealant to keep the pigment from rubbing off. The metallic pigments are stunning! Don’t expect them to hold up 100% in direct sunlight over a few years, though. The paint will chip a little but you can always paint over it and do it again to freshen it up. They still look good chipped and faded, though…sort of a shabby chic, relic-look! And you can try a new color scheme the next time around. If you hang or display yours indoors, you’ll still need to seal the pieces so they can be handled. And they certainly won’t fade as soon if they’re used as indoor art.

Here’s another posting I found that lists supplies, steps, and shows leaves painted with acrylic or latex paint.

http://www.garden.org/regional/report/arch/inmygarden/2527

The good news: supplies for this project are CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP and the results are incredible! The downside? Those bags of cement/quickrete, etc. are HEAVY!

UPDATE: Thanks to Kim, a fellow garden blogger, for this link to Craig Cramer’s blog, “Ellis Hollow.” Check out his advicehere.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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24 responses

23 01 2012
Debbie Truelove

There are no instructions as to how to make or mold the acutal leaf – how to make the acutal item. The instructions above only tale about pigments and paints.

23 01 2012
cindydyer

Debbie, in the blog posting, I put a link to a video that shows you how to make them. I didn’t lay out all the instructions because it’s been done before and been done well.

Here is the link: http://www.concretegardenleaves.com/concrete-leaf.htm

7 07 2012
Janet Pauly

AWESOME idea!! I’ve just been painting them with acrylic pearl paint and getting a nice result, but this is beautiful!! Now I’m going to have to get me some pigments! I’ve got a question though. I’ve been sealing my concrete creations with Thompson’s Water Seal, with a foam brush…. what brands of sealer do you use on these???

8 07 2012
cindydyer

Hi Janet, Thompson’s Water Seal should do the trick. Even though I seal anything I put outdoors, the paint/pigments can still fade after a few years, so don’t be surprised! The cool thing is—you can repaint, re-pigmentize (is that even a word?) and reseal again. Have fun!

9 07 2012
Janet Pauly

Thanks Cindy! I’ll put the Thompson’s in a spray bottle and give it a try.
I’m not too worried about them fading…. like you said, you can re-paint! That’s what Iike about the Thompson’s, it allows you to re-paint! Or yes re-pigmentize! If it wasn’t a word, it is now!

I LOVE the pigments!! Thanks again!

6 03 2016
Candee

I’ve made many of these and use actual concrete sealer from Lowes. Clear coat. I also first paint with black concrete sealer before painting. Mine have held up beautifully outdoors in snow, rain and sunshine.

6 03 2016
cindydyer

Candee, thanks for the comment. I’ll have to look for those products next time I make the leaves!

10 09 2012
Moniemonie

I am having a hard tme with cracking. how you correct?

20 11 2012
Karen Pagel

What kind of paint do you use? Flat, Semi, Glossy, I tried the glossy and I am having trouble with the pigment sticking and making an actual color. I am using the PearlEx powdered pigments Series 2. Or am I supposed to mix the pigment with something. I have just been rubbing the pigment on with a soft cloth. Please help!!

20 11 2012
cindydyer

Hi Karen, I use the cheap acrylic paints from Michael’s. Not glossy, though. It should dry kind of chalky on your cement. Then I use my fingers FIRST to smear on the colors (washing my hands immediately afterwards). Let me know if that works for you. I just paint the leaves flat black, letting it dry. Then I rub in the pigments.

14 12 2012
Karen Pagel

Thanks Cindy for all your advice. I finally got the pigment to work and they look absolutely beautiful. NOW i believe that I have the wrong sealer. I used a liquid concrete sealer and clearly it is the wrong thing to use. The colors all blended together and not so beautiful anymore. Please help again on what kind of sealer to use.Thanks

18 12 2012
cindydyer

Hi Karen, I used an outdoor sealer in the spray form—I don’t remember the brand, but you can find it at Michael’s or most other craft stores. Spray on lightly, allow to dry, then spray a second coat. It’s possible that the liquid sealer, because it’s NOT a spray format, caused the blending problem. This doesn’t happen with a spray-on sealant. Remember, after a few years in direct sunlight, your leaf colors will fade a bit. When that happens, I just clean off the leaf, repaint in the flat black, add new pigment coloring, then seal again. Another thing I’ve done is paint the leaves flat black, then paint over that with a blend of metallic indoor-outdoor paints from Michael’s. You get a similar effect as the powders, although I like the blending qualities of the powdered pigments. Hope this works!

25 07 2013
Janet dewling

A friend of mine makes these using rhubarb leaves. They make very nice stepping stones in a garden.

26 07 2013
JASPER MOHAN

Very nice & interesting instructions to follow!

5 07 2014
janet wessling

Do you apply the metallics when the black is still in the process of drying? Thanks so much,
Janet

10 07 2014
cindydyer

Hi Janet! Since the concrete is pretty porous, it will absorb the black paint really quickly (I paint the entire leaf, front and back, with the black paint). You can paint the back, let it dry, then paint the front. Let the front dry and then apply your pigment powders. It won’t take long for the black base coat to dry at all!

27 06 2015
Kim

Do you mix the power with something or just rub it on dry?

13 07 2015
cindydyer

Hi Kim! After you paint the base coat, you rub on the metallic powder. I use my fingers to do it, but you could use a dry or VERY slightly moist rag. Always coat with an outdoor sealant as the powder pigment will rub off otherwise. Every year or so, I clean off the leaves that are left outdoors, repaint, re-pigment, re-seal, then put them back out again.

23 03 2015
lyn

They don’t have the powdered pigment at our ACMoore….manager never heard of it. Any other places to look (I know abt. Michael’s) thanks for the great idea,I had already made the leaves without knowing this…….now digging them up so I can decorate!!

11 09 2015
Melinda

I ordered the Pearl Ex pigments from Amazon. Our local Michael’s didn’t have it.

24 03 2015
lyn

Aw,just went to Michael’s and they don’t have either. Tried with metallic paint but doesn’t blend as nicely as yours.

9 06 2015
Chari Holland

Can you use these leaf stones as stepping stones in the yard outside in the summer? We would store them for winter, I would imagine, since we live in Minnesota. Thank you for your input. Chari

18 06 2015
cindydyer

Hi Chari,

Yes, you could use them as stepping stones. You wouldn’t want to build up the mound of sand to make them cup-shaped, though. You would want to have them lay flat on the table/board that you’re working on. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to put a slice of chicken wire or some kind of reinforcement wire in with the mix. You would coat your leaf with a layer of the cement, then put down a piece of chicken wire that would cover the largest area of the leaf, then continue to coat with the rest of your cement mix. It’s not necessary, but it would definitely reinforce the leaf if you plan to walk on them. And yes, storing them in a place that gets as cold as Minnesota would be advisable! You can wipe off and repaint whenever they get dull.

23 03 2016
BJ Palmer

I’ve been wanting to do a birdbath exactly like this for years!! Thank you so much for the info and the instructional video links! I can’t wait to apply the pigments and no see the colors pop! This will be a great family “experiment” since we have to plant the Elephant Ears too. 💗

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