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How to Paint Weeping Willow Leaves with Homemade Onion Skin Ink

How to Paint Weeping Willow Leaves with Homemade Onion Skin Ink

Experimenting with homemade inks and paints can be so much fun! Today I will show how to paint weeping willow leaves with homemade onion skin ink. The result is truly stunning, very stylish and delicate. I will explain a few notions of composition, the rule of thirds and how to create a visual dynamic only with a few lines. The only thing you have to do is to follow the steps and create a beautiful, nuanced and textured painting with me. I can't wait to show you this. Let's dive into the inspiring and rewarding world of painting with natural inks!

Hello, I'm Adeline-Julie and I'm passionate about watercolor painting, pigments and natural colors. One of my favorite things is marvelling at the colors of nature. With this ink recipe you will succumb to the magic of homemade ink and natural colors. And I bet you will crave to paint with it! 


Prefer watching the full walkthrough instead?



To make the ink recipe: note that all the tools are only used for the purpose of ink making.

  • Onion skins (red, yellow)

  •  Stainless steel pan with a lid

  • Spoons (1 wood & 1 tablespoon)

  • Salt

  • Container with a lid for your ink

  • Glass containers

  • Fine mesh strainer

  • Coffee filter

  • Coffee filter holder

  • Clove essential oil

  • Gum arabic

  • Paper for testing

  • Paper to clean up

  • Sticker paper

Paint leaves with onion ink

To paint the weeping willow leaves: 

How to paint with homemade ink


Step 1: Make Your Ink 

Put the skins in a pan and add water to cover the skins. For a full jar of onion skins, use the same jar and put 2 full jars of water.

Make your own onion ink

Start cooking but don't make it boil, it has to simmer.

How to paint with ink

Test the color with papers.

Prepare your own onion ink

 Add salt while cooking it will help to fix the color.

Make ink at home tutorial

Filter the ink in the sieve & in the coffee filter. First, pass the juice in a sieve to get rid of the skins and then in a coffee filter. 

How to paint with onion ink

Time to add clove EO and gum arabic!

Painting with homemade ink

Label your jar’s ink properly and now you're ready to paint. Let's do this! 

Paint with homemade ink


Step 2: Draw the First Weeping Willow Stem

Draw the first stem and give it a small curve in the middle.

Draw easy line art leaves


Step 3: Add Leaves to the Stem 

Add three leaves to the first stem. The leaf is curved and on the opposite side has a wavy movement, a bit like in the stem.

How to paint leaves with ink


Sep 4: Add More Leaves and a New Stem

Give movement to the leaves and let them weep. When you draw the leaves, think about the fact that they should stretch out a bit like a drop. Make sure to vary the sizes of the leaves to give different scales. 

Painting with homemade ink tutorial


 Step 5: Repeat Steps 3 & 4 to Build Your Composition

Think about the rule of thirds as you repeat the previous steps in order to balance your composition. The rule of thirds consists of dividing the page into approximately three, in a fairly intuitive but balanced way in order to anchor the visual information on these key lines. Change leaves and stems orientation to create visual dynamics.

Make onion ink at home tutorial


Need some more nature inspiration? Look no further.


Step 6: Add Texture to the Leaves

Add small stripes and lines inside the leaves. Don't color the leaf with your pen, but texture it with lines for the veins instead.

How to paint leaves for beginners


Step 7: Paint a Background with Ink

Take the wash brush and stretch the color background from the top of your paper sheet to the bottom of your leaves and repeat this several times. Add ink while doing this and frame the drawing with the colored background. Let it dry.

Paint simple leaves tutorial


 Step 8: Add Another Background Layer

While applying the second layer, leave the ink to mix randomly - this will give a texture to the background. This method gives your background depth and a deeper dimension.  

Painting simple leaves


Step 9: Add Ink to the Leaves 

Take the brush N°2 and paint the inside of the leaves. To have different shades, tints and intensities add color to some leaves and not to others. Repeat this at least two times after the drying times.

Draw weeping willow leaves


 Step 10: Highlight the Stems with Ink

Take the round brush N°3/0 and go over the stems with your ink. Don’t put too much ink on your brush and overline the stems. If you want, leave a few stems without the ink on top.

How to draw weeping willow leaves


Step 11: Paint Leaves with Lemon Juice 

Pro tip: dip your brush in lemon juice to change the hues.

Take the round brush N°2 and dip it in the lemon juice. Pick a few leaves and just pass your brush on the paper. This gives it slightly altered effects and color tints to the painting. Now that you've touched up some areas with the lemon juice, let it dry. 

Admire the nuances and delicacy of your work. You have created this! So, enjoy! And my advice is: you should frame your painting!

Paint with homemade ink

 Once you’ve tried this tutorial, tag me (@adelinejuliebee) and Peggy (@thepigeonletters) so I can share your painting. I was so happy to take you into the magic world of painting and natural colors. I hope you enjoyed it, let me know! Cheerio friends 😉


See all of Adeline-Julie’s tutorials on the blog!

Adeline-Julie is an artist and teacher specializing in watercolor. Former textile designer, lover of pigments and natural colors, she finds her inspiration while foraging through the bountiful valleys of the Belgian Ardennes collecting ingredients used to create her own inks & watercolors.

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