Lifting Veins- Easy When You Know How!

by Mindy on July 26, 2011

in Botanical Art, Drawing Tips, Light on Form, Watercolor Tips

As a teacher of Botanical Art I am often asked about painting leaves. Leaves are probably the most important thing a botanical artist MUST master. In order for the painting to come to life, the leaves must look natural and have the proper venation. Here is a leave in progress:


I start by mixing my colors and deciding where to drop the color. I usually drop the color right along the vein. After the color has been sculpted I let the paper dry. I then use a chisel brush to lift out the veins.

I use the pencil line to decide where the shadow is going to be cast and then lift above or below the line… not directly ontop of the line, this is very important. If you try to lift the pencil line, you will get a muddy mess! The paint will lift and the pencil line will create a shadow. It acts as a guide and also makes a depth at the same time.

Another fun thing to do is to use a paint that will granulate to produce insect marks and crumbly bits. I think that it gives the leaf character.

What is your experience with lifting veins? Is it easy or difficult. Let me know what you do.

Have fun!

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

xana v July 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Lovely!  But when you say you use a paint that will granulate… what do you mean? Can you give examples and talk about how that works? I'd love to see a step by step if you felt up to that as well. 😀

Mindy July 29, 2011 at 7:09 am

Xana V: I will do a blog post for you on granulating colors. I am still trying to figure out how to get video onto my computer. Hopefully I will have this done soon and can post some demos. You can subscribe via the RSS feed so you can get the latest updates.

Zarina August 8, 2011 at 10:57 am

You mention using a chiesel brush. Can you please explain the brush itself and how to use it? It was not very clear in this blog post.

Mindy August 9, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Zarina~ Read the post on

The Wonder Brush & 5 Tips to Paint Brush Health!

I describe it better in that post.

Laura October 19, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Hello Mindy…wow your blog is so informative.   I so wish I lived close and could take one of your classes.  I have trouble with veins.   I have not yet tried life them out and usually paint with a small to create thin little space in between colour to create veins….then I usually glaze over the whole leaf with a yellow or light green.   However this is limiting because i cannot capture all vast variation leaves have and also my painting looks a bit " tight" and contrived…..I think anyway.
Thanks Laura

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