How to Make Leaf Skeletons

I wanted to share with you a project from one of my readers who shares with us how to make leaf skeletons. I LOVE this! I have several leafs in various forms displayed in my home and knew I needed to make some of her leaf skeletons to add to my decor. I love how a pattern of leaves can enhance the beauty in your home. So I asked Heather if she would mind sharing her project with you. You can find more great projects from Heather at her blog The Other White House.

I have spent hours and tried various ways of making these. Kailey did these last year in her botany class with our homeschool group. I found her page of tiny skeletons and thought these would make a great addition to fall. I’ll Mod Podge them to something I’m sure, but for now they are in between two panes of glass in a frame on the mantle. Anyway~ this ‘recipe’ is the only one out of a million that have worked!

You need washing soda, not baking soda! Very important! I found it at Harris Teeter and can also be found in some Wal-Marts.

Gather your leaves. Waxy leaves work best like Gardenia, Magnolia, Hydrangea, etc. I grabbed Gardenia and maple leaves, straight off the tree/ plant. Place them in a pot large enough to accomodate the amount you want to skeletonize.


Washing soda is a strong base so you may want to wear gloves when handling the leaves.

You will add 3/4 cup of washing soda and 4 cups of water to your pot of leaves. When the water comes to a boil reduce and simmer the suckers. I left mine for an hour and forty five minutes. After 40 minutes it begins to look really ugly..

Keep going, you will need to add more water so your pan doesn’t dry out. I added enough to cover the leaves. The washing soda will crystallize on top.


When 1.75 hours are up fill a glass baking dish with cool water. Gently remove your leaves from the pot. I used a blunt spatula. Place leaves in shallow baking dish with cool water and use a small blunt brush to remove the remaining pulp. I pounced on them gently.

I carefully removed them and rinsed with water and added clean water to the pan. With the spatula I removed the leaves to dry on a paper towel.

If you’re still with me, this is what I ended up with…

 I have a maple leaf which turned out not so well. We shall see when it dries. You could add these anywhere, I’m thinking a hurricane, hmm.. These will last depending on how you preserve them. You can spray paint them, coat them with a clear poly and even bleach them. I plan to bleach the next batch.

Pin It
You may also be interested in these 6 Methods on how to preserve leaves


  1. Carol & Stacy says

  2. Bonnie says

    Very unique. I had no idea you could do such a thing! I love how you framed them in between glass!

  3. Infarrantly Creative says

    Holy heck I love this. I am totally making them. I think I might have all the supplies on hand already.

  4. Amanda@The Hand Me Down House says

    SO awesome! I've wanted to make these too — thanks so much for sharing this project and her blog with us!! :)

  5. Heather - says

    This is a completely awesome idea!! Love it – thanks for doing all the hard work to figure it out!

  6. ACAlvey says

    Heather, you just saved me SO much money! I was planning on buying these for a big project, and can't thank you enough!
    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

  7. Colin says

    Has anyone really tried this? i have been cooking leaves and wasting my gas all day trying to make these.

    I used the washing soda, and cooked it for 2 hours.
    i have have is crusty base that foamed and, and added more water the whole time. after 2 hours i tried another sites idea and that didnt work also.

    "this 'recipe' is the only one out of a million that have worked! " has a different measurements

    which do i use?

    anyone willing to help, thank you :)

    • Arie says

      This recipe did not work for me at first. HOWEVER, I remembered from biology that sometimes waxy leaves have an outer coating to help keep in moisture, which was further supported by the fact that my leaves filled up with the liquid in which they were being boiled. By removing a section of the leaf’s edge, I found that the leaf had three layers, a top membrane, a bottom membrane, and the middle skeleton and surrounding pulp. Once the top and bottom membrane were scraped off very gently with my fingernail, the pupl could be washed off of the skeleton by softly rubbing it off with my thumb. It was extremely tedious, and easy to mess up, but it got me the skeletons in the end. Hope that helps some.

  8. Heather says

    The recipe is converted from teaspoons to cups. It's the same recipe. You can add more soda, as you add more water so your pot doesn't dry out. Also, what type of leaves are you using? I tried maple and they did not work nearly as well as the gardenia leaves. It's hard to see from your comment where the trouble might be. I have made a number of batches and it is time consuming.

    Heather @ The Other White House

  9. Heather says

    The bleach would probably work if you left the leaves alone long enough. The pH is roughly the same as the washing soda. I did try it, but I'm not that patient. The boiling helps to speed everything along. You need to break down the pulp. I did bleach a few in the end, to make them white. You could possibly take a scrubby sponge to the leaves and then try to soak them.

    Again, gardenia and magnolia have worked for me.

    HTH, Heather @ The Other White House

  10. chica says

    I love this idea and always wondered how to do it. Any ideas on how to use the finished product other then just framing them?

  11. says

    These are wonderful! I get really excited seeing your final product because I can only imagine how much something that simple would cost at retail price. Thanks!

  12. Sammie says

    Awsome… This will make some great inexpensive christmas presents…. thanks soo much for sharing.

  13. says

    This has to be the coolest craft that I’ve seen yet. We’re looking for decorating ideas for a wedding and a new home. This could well work for both. I can’t wait to try it out.

  14. Anna M says

    Finding this totally saved me. I was trying to find a way to do this for a big project I’m working on, and this turned out great. How did you get so much of the pulp off the leaves without tearing them? I can’t seem to manage it :)

  15. Elsa says

    That is such a great tutorial! I wonder if you could use marijuana leaves? I think it would give an awesome effect!

  16. says

    The skeletonized leaves work great in printmaking. They can be used in collographs (glued down with Golden Medium), inked and printed. They can also be directly rolled with ink, laid on paper and run through a press. If the veins are thick enough you can get a good embossment too.

    • Beth Kagel says

      Carol, thanks for the note about printmaking. I LOVE printmaking and this would be a great way to embed an object into my work.

      Have you tried this with montotypes?


  17. Lydia says

    Hi! I am interested in trying this craft and I think yours turned out so pretty! But I was confused on your final project. How did you get them in the picture frame and on the vase? It’s probably a stupid question but I reread your tutorial and still couldn’t find out how to get them to stick to them. Sorry if you already answered this question before.

  18. says

    Great idea! I’m not surprised that washing powder does such a good job as I also use strong solutions of the same to clean old motorcycle parts via a process known as electrolysis.

  19. Shabnam says

    Long lived leaves work best. I’ve done this very slowly by just soaking the leaves in water and changing the water every other day… Requires patience, but come out really, really clean, with out any danger. If you walk down Janpath(New Delhi, India) you’ll find several shops selling miniature paintings on the leaves.

  20. says

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I might try it with some eucalyptus leaves and other Australian natives. Leaves are such beautiful things and this just adds to what we can use them for.


  21. Susan says

    I loved this idea SO much, I ran out and got everything needed, and decided to use magnolia leaves. Well, long story short, my leaves are STILL simmering after 2 !/2 hours and look no different (ok, maybe soggier) than when I started, no pulp even appears to be coming off ! Help ! What am I doing wrong ?????

    • shamshadqureshi says

      every leave can not be treated u can try other leave i use to do other local one

  22. elliegirl says

    you can also pick leaves and put them between two tissue sheets and keep them in a fat book for a month or perhaps less. mine turn out the same as this method!

  23. Brandy says

    I want to know about the bleach too! Anyone tried this with pool chemicals? I had put washing soda (soda ash) in my above ground large kiddo pool so it didn’t get funky. I don’t have the pool and am stuck with a ton of pool chemicals. I had read online I could use soda ash instead of pool shock. Just wondering.
    Also be really really careful when pouring the washing soda. It’s sodium carbonate. It’s used to open the fibers of celluloids and is very caustic. Wear glasses and cover your face with a mask or cloth. Never pour around children or pets and clean up all powder with water. You don’t want this stuff floating around your house, let alone your kitchen. you can also get 1lb of soda ash for less than $3 at the art material supplier I have some I bought there for tie-dye with my students.
    Thanks for the awesome project idea! I’ve always wanted to know how these are made!

  24. Many Paths says

    Michael Sage airbushes leaves white and jewel tones and mounts them in shadow boxes. Visit for inspiration.

  25. says

    That is AWESOME! I had no idea it was possible to make your own leaf skeletons, thank you so much for sharing. This will be a fantastic project with my son and afterwards we can craft with our new leaves :)

    Eveningsong Ink

  26. Ann says

    If you can’t find washing soda you can use PHup. It is for pools and goes on sale really cheap at the end of the season. I use it for fiber reactive dying. I am going to have a go at this in the summer when I can cook it outside.

  27. says

    That’s excellent, thanks a lot. I have two bags of washing soda for degumming silk, now I just have to wait a few months for the leaves to grow :)

  28. says

    A1 USA Limousine 773-774-8383 offers the best quality service for the most unbelievable prices. We offer service and special packages for Airport Runs, Proms, Weddings, Dances, Concerts, Bachelor /ette Parties,Engagements,4th of July, Nights on the Town, Site Seeing, Amusement Parks, and much more

  29. Cher says

    Your directions were spot on –What a very delicate looking leaf. Absolutely a perfect end result .. WOW I must try this ..Cher

  30. says

    This is pretty darned cool and I like the idea of just leaving them pressed and framed between two pieces of glass. Simple and elegant.

    Did the simmering leaves make your house smell weird? ;)

    • Felke says


      I’ve tried your tutorial with washing soda… I’ve bought mine in the supermarket ‘Soda cristals’, Natrium Carbonate

      I’ve boiled water with this washing soda and I’ve put my leaves in it (i used English Ivy leaves)
      After an hour boiling at a lower heat, my water looks brown-green and my leaves are much darker… but the ‘flesh’ doesn’t come off.

      What am I doing wrong?

      Thank you in advance!



  31. Vedette says

    This is amazing! would this work with any kind of leaves? Im planning to use them on maple and banana leaves.

  32. CINDY says

    Hi.. Any alternatives for washing soda? I cannot find these in Mauritius :( or if someone could send me some… lol

  33. Patricia says

    Hi : ) I’m going to try this way. From a YouTube video (that only partially worked) it said to add 3 TBLSP of the Washing soda to 2 cups water.. Boil 20 mins and wah-la ….. that was soo bogus !!! I was all over the place looked for Washing Soda. First place I checked was Wal-mart.. they were out, then went to K-mart almost 5 bucks a box ( for 3 tblsp?) so I passed, checked grocery stores , they too were a tad on the pricey side when it said I only needed 3 tblsp. FINALLY went back to wal-mart and they had some in stock so I grabbed a box as shown above in the process steps. But back to the first way, I then proceeded to do the 3 tblsp to 2 cups water. and boiled and simmered and nothing.SO I thought maybe i Had too many leaves so tried doing one at a time ..STILL NOTHING…..I then put them in a dish pan ( 97Cents at wal-mart) covered the leaves with water, added a little bleach as it stated to do so the water wouldn’t go rancid and they have been sitting in my kitchen and on the porch back and forth for over a week now…..I still can’t get the leaves to skeletonize ( is that a word?) I used Fruitless mulberry leaves. I will say that 3 of them have turned snow white but that’s as far as they are going. I have tried to gently brush them thru the week and nothing comes off .. The green of the leaves aremottled however Seems they are tearing just sitting in the bleach water (which I have changed out, adding fresh water and bleach) Hope the above works because I have big plans for these ( BEFORE Xmas !!) : ) BTW Thank you for sharing your process. Wish me luck !

  34. beth says

    Thank goodness I am not the only one that struck out with this DIY project. I picked hydrangea leaves as suggested and put some maple leaves in just for good measure. Nothing happened except I now have a dedicated DIY pot.

    I pitched the lot and tried again. This time the only thing that happened was the pin oak leaf was transparent, but I had to put it in bleach to get things moving. This is after 2-3 hours in that solution too.

    I have to ask why the emphasis on keeping the leaves at the bottom of the pot? Basic physics proves that is an impossible feat.

    Also, I have no idea what kind of instrument one could use to burnish the pulpy parts. I tried 3 different stiff brushes and none of them worked. I wanted to make them myself for a piece I am working on to sell on etsy. However this seems to have been inspired by Martha Stewart’s cruel cruel staff managers. I’ll either try putting the leaves between paper in one of my many fat books, or buy them gilded at hobby lobby.

    This really tried my patience. Can you tell?

  35. says

    Love this idea! Perfect little project with autumn around the corner. Love ideas that let me preserve parts of my favorite season. Thank you!! :)

  36. Patricia says

    Well over a month later and the same leaves I started back at the beginning of August ( See my Aug 14th post here) are still in the dishpan, white as snow from soaking them in bleach for over a month and still nothing. They’re all totally dried now too and still nothing comes off of the leaves. I have tried small paint brushes, sponge, small narrow house painting brushes, nothing brushes off to leave a skeleton GRRRRR

    It would really help if someone would monitor these posts and reply . All I’m seeing are a ton of links back to this page but no answers to questions asked.. : (

  37. Cheri Welty says

    I’m simmering leaves now. I chose to do this outside for fear of toxic fumes. Any worries about this?

  38. Michelle says

    I am trying this now with a huge elephant ear leaf. So far upon putting it into the pot some of the leaf flesh + veins in between the huge stem like veins came right on out.. I hope it all doesn’t do that.

  39. says

    Hey there! I just wish to give you a big thumbs up for your excellent info you have right here on this post.

    I’ll be returning to your blog for more soon.

  40. Nancy Reynolds says

    I don’t know where you’re located when you skeletonized magnolia leaves, but Arkansas magnolias must be made of stronger stuff than yours. I have boiled the darned things for over 7 hours and they are not skeletons yet! After all the strong testimonials I thought it would be a breeze, but it hasn’t turned out that way. And, yes, I used Arm and Hammer Superwash. I was going to demonstrate ways to use them at a craft program next month, but scratch that!!!

  41. Nic says

    Has anyone tried to do this with Prickly Pear cactus leaves? I really want to get the skeleton from the leaf of the Prickly Pear but don’t know how… :(

  42. says

    This is so pretty, gosh I wish I was crafty, so much that I could do. I still have a bunch of things that I would love to do. I can live in hope I suppose.

  43. says

    Helpful information. Lucky me I discovered your site
    by chance, and I’m surprised why this accident did not happened in advance!
    I bookmarked it.


  1. […] How to Make Leaf Skeletons – The Idea Room – StumbleUpon Crafts Adventure Apartment Crafts Craft Home [+] Crafts bottle tutorial Room decorating whatever Things To Make melted magazine scaly DIY Projects please board crayon diy learn Crafts pomander archive maple DIY Projects crayon polaroid paper HOME DECOR spice handmade online holder DIY bedrooms honestlywtf retro HOME light Crafts chica friendship Origami tutorial Around the House centsational funny Crafts martha stamped julie Stencils/Patterns/Ideas scarf clothing سوبليمينل diy coffee adelynstone gawked Sewing stepping bleaching tutorial DIY1 slime homemade Things to Do craft corner kismet flowers (mostly paper) anyone maple home accessories custom maple Projects lyric stuffs for the home guest Craft Ideas always water infinity Room Design Ideas designs inspiration artists DIY PROJECTS grater never Crafts whatever gallery Crafty Site stewart ideas Craftiness saltwater make your own sugar design yummy Stuff I want to make create container holidays Crafts build under yummy Craft sites and blogs simple young decorating DIY borderline watermark do it yourself stylish minute Crafty Tree iphone craft shows/reference crafts alphabet events Crafts yummy crafts blake tutorials flower Random things I wanna do / like inspired crafts inchmark Something useful. online Crafts and Cool Projects gifts Crafts home • contact • blog • fb • twitter to experience pearltrees activate javascript. […]

  2. […] < mariebutcher Get flash to fully experience Pearltrees How to Make Leaf Skeletons 11. Onions The Power: Quercetin is one of the most powerful flavonoids (natural plant […]

  3. […] photos using clothes pins on them. You can use a frame you bought or a frame you made by yourself. How to Make Leaf Skeletons I want to thank both Small Bird Studios and Hello Hydrangea for featuring my cut canvas idea! This […]

  4. […] < websites i like < tchurinskas Get flash to fully experience Pearltrees How to Make Leaf Skeletons My husband and I both have cell phones. And both of us have phone chargers. And that means lots of […]

  5. […] some great wall murals out of nothing more than string and push pins. DIY: Hanging Crayon Hearts How to Make Leaf Skeletons | The Idea Room Design COOL crafts Craft sites and blogs Photography [+] home diy transfer craftsmanship […]

  6. […] four-square, and of course draw and create silly stories. you knew i was going to make one. How to Make Leaf Skeletons Tutorial: Shabby Chic Dangly Earring Display This fun little shabby chic earring stand, made from […]

  7. […] < sirbearone Get flash to fully experience Pearltrees How to Make Leaf Skeletons What does it take to transform a pile of old T-shirts into spectacular works of woven art? Just a […]

  8. […] Holder for Charging Cell Phone (made from lotion bottle) My husband and I both have cell phones. How to Make Leaf Skeletons As you may have already noticed I'm in love with this spectacular stickly little thing – double […]

  9. […] < jessie4222 Get flash to fully experience Pearltrees How to Make Leaf Skeletons <b><i>I fell head over heels </i></b> for this summer house in Mykonos and […]

  10. […] < Random < jade510 Get flash to fully experience Pearltrees How to Make Leaf Skeletons – The Idea Room OH SO PRETTY the DIARIES: the DIY: MAGAZINE ENVELOPES Well I got this idea from our friend Nina. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *