Introduction: Cement Leaf Casting
Envy those great leaves you see in peoples gardens or on tables as decor? It’s easy to make your own!
Step 1: Supplies:
Portland cement Quikrete
Plastic wrap or plastic shopping bags
Shallow box about 3” bigger on all sides of your leaf
Gallon zip loc (I mix my cement in this but you can use a pail or bowl. I just find this easier)
Jug of water
Masking tape or painters tape
Step 2: Get Started
It’s messy so get all your supplies and prep work done first.
Plan where you want to work. If you are doing a very large leaf (elephant ear) it’s best not to move the leaf for at least 48 hrs. You want a cool shady area so the cement can cure slowly. It’s stronger if cured slowly. Basement or garage.
Step 3: Setup
You will need a shallow container or box at least 3” larger than your leaf on all sides. If you have a large leaf you can cast on a surface. Cover your surface in plastic. I slip my box into a trash bag. For most leaves I use a berry box, you can find these at a grocery store, Sam’s club or Costco. Pour enough play sand onto the plastic to make a mound the size of your leaf. Pour water onto the sand to mold the shape you want your leaf. Play with it. Remember the shape you are looking at will be the bottom. Use your leaf to check the shape. Remove the leaf, brush all the sand off. I use a chip brush. Cover the sand with plastic wrap or plastic shopping bags cut open.
If your leaf has any holes, use masking or painters tape on the smooth side of your leaf to cover them. (Side without veins)
Lay your leaf smooth side down on the plastic covered sand. Last chance to change the shape. If you want to add curls you can use rolled newspaper under the plastic.
Step 4: Time to Get Messy!
Put on your mask and gloves. Breathing the cement dust is bad and the cement can be corrosive to your skin.
Put 2 c of Portland in a gallon baggie add 4 c play sand. Zip the bag and shake and kneed until sand and Portland are thoroughly mixed. This should be plenty for a 12” leaf. But if you need more you can add later.
Add 1 c water to the baggie, seal and mix by hand through the bag. You want the consistency of dough so add water if needed. The mix goes soupy really fast so add water slowly. If it is too soupy add more portland.
At this point I like to reach in and kneed by hand, make sure to get any that is trapped into the corners so you have a nice consistency.
Step 5: Cement
Once your cement is the right consistency, place a small amount in the middle of your leaf on the main vein. Add more working up the main vein at about 1/2” thick. Work toward the edges pressing lightly into the veins. Stop about 1/4” from the edge all the way around. Keep the shape of your leaf. Gravity will cause the cement to run toward the edge but by leaving space you can avoid going onto the plastic (if it does we can sand later)
Step 6: Hang It or Let It Sit!
Now you can add wire so it can hang or feet to sit level. I use a paper clip, broken in half, imbedded in the middle back for a hanger. Careful not to go too deep so that it shows. (See the pic) To stand I make 3 small balls from cement and position them to make your leaf sit the way you would like. Then slightly flatten.
Step 7: Wrap It Up
Once you have your legs or hanger in place cover it with plastic. I use a few layers of plastic shopping bags. Let it set for 24 hours, (48 for a large leaf) check and remove the plastic. Turn it over carefully and peel the leaf away, gently sand any rough edges. Now leave it sit for a week.
Step 8: Paint
It’s up to you! You can leave it just cement or paint. I let it stand for a week to make sure all the moisture is out and the cement is cured. I spray the top and edges with black or brown or navy. These are going to be your veins. Painting the back side is up to you!
Now the fun! Use craft paints or acrylics. I like multiple shades and metallics. I’m going to use greens for this leaf but any colors work I love the blues and oranges.
We are going to start to dry brush. Dry brush against the veins you want to keep the paint free of the veins. I tend to start with dark shades and work toward light, using metallics as accent. The sky is the limit. Once you have your leaf the way you want it. Let it dry a few days and use varnish or polyethylene to coat, especially if it’s outdoors! Enjoy.
Finalist in the
Stone Concrete Cement Contest