paper ginkgo in a vase

Watercolour paper ginkgo for passionate crafters

In the small coastal village in which my husband and I live, in one small street, every autumn, a young ginkgo tree flares up in an amazing display of colours. It is visible from far away and its bright yellow and soft orange nuances make me promise myself to make at least one similar branch from paper. I’m thinking, especially watercolour paper.

Watercolour paper was what I first started making paper flowers and plants from long ago. So, these days are somehow an emotional return to those first very inspiring moments full of experiments and new discoveries. In fond remembrance of that time (and also to fulfil my promise to myself) a new watercolour plant has been born. 

watercolour paper Ginkgo

The materials

Watercolour paper, of course. I used a 190-gsm white one, from 100% wood pulp from Born. Also, you will need watercolour or acrylic paint and markers (I used alcohol based). Also: glue (I used Tacky craft glue), thin wire (I used twist ties), scissors, pliers and a brush. Here I confess a sin – I didn’t use pliers, but one of my best paper scissors, so soon I will need to buy new ones. Nothing destroys scissors so effectively as cutting wire, even the thin wires. You will also need crepe paper in any colour and weight that you have. You will need it only for wrapping the wire and making the branch and you will colour it in brown. 

So, my suggestion is, as usual, to look around at what materials you have at home and then buy new ones only if you need them. I know, craft materials are so alluring, sometimes I crave new ones like fictional vampires crave virgin blood. But I’ve found that if I’m careful to first use what I have and only buy what I need I will have more money for really exciting materials and instruments. And the best thing is this allows my imagination scope to be titillated into finding new ways of using existing materials and methods.

How to make the ginkgo leaves

The easiest way is first to draw some ginkgo leaves and cut them out. They will become your templates. I suggest drawing at least 3 different shapes – this will make your branch a lot more realistic.

ginkgo leaves - handmade templates

Second, using these templates, outline the number of leaves you want and cut them out. Because ginkgo leaves grow in groups, consider a larger number of leaves – at least 3 for each group.

watercolour paper ginkgo leaves

If you have no time for drawing and cutting, here are my free Cricut-friendly ginkgo templates. You will only have to colour them, which for me was the most exciting part.

free templates banner link pic

Colouring is very simple. You need only the brightest yellow in your palette plus some darker shade. I used yellow on one side of the leaf and sienna on the other to create more “volume” and nuances when the branch is ready. Leave the coloured leaves to dry a bit…

colouring paper ginkgo leaves

When the leaves are dry, add more shades and colours with the markers. 

I drew some lines as leaf veins and some light and dark brown dots in the central area of the leaves. Normally ginkgo leaves don’t have these dots in the centre, but because these are not real, but paper leaves, I was feeling they need some extra…”something”… So, I added these dots. Of course, good quality watercolour paper already gives the leaves good texture, so if you are happy with the plain yellow, leave them that way.

colouring the paper ginkgo leaves with alcohol based markers

Here is how my finished ginkgo leaves look.

paper ginkgo leaf - yellow with brown dots

If you like them, you can find the Cricut files in my Etsy shop with instructions on how to assemble a ginkgo branch with these files.

How to make the branch

The branch I made from twist ties and feel very happy with the way they work for me. But first I prepared some strips from very, very thin crepe paper that came from party streamers.

thin light crepe paper for wrapping the ginkgo branch

Then I used the twist ties to make the branch. Their specific characteristics helped me: 

1. Twist two twist ties together.

2. Fold the top to make a thicker part.

3. Fold this thicker part in half, to make it even thicker.

4. Bend this thickest part to make the “bud” from where the leaves grow.

stages of folding wire to create a ginkgo branch

Each group of ginkgo leaves will need its own wire construction like the one shown.

how to attach paper ginkgo leaves on a wire branch

After preparing all the wire elements, spiral wrap them with the crepe paper strips and glue.

wrapping the ginkgo branches with crepe paper and glue

How to assemble the branch

The easiest way is first to glue the chosen leaves on both sides of the “bud”…

attaching paper ginkgo leaves on the wire branch

… then wrap the “bud” with more crepe paper…

watercolour paper yellow ginkgo branch - work in progress

… and in the end to connect all the “bud” pieces together.

When wrapping, be careful not to tear the leaves’ stems. The leaves have only paper stems, which is why you should use good quality watercolour paper, which is tough and strong.

watercolour paper yellow ginkgo leaves

Colouring the watercolour ginkgo branch

This is the second last step before your ginkgo is 100% ready. Colour the branch with brown, sienna and black. Colour only the crepe paper, not the ginkgo leaves’ stems.

colouring the ginkgo branch with different shades of brown

The most important thing is to make it mottled, not a single solid colour, to make the wood look more realistic.

Then leave the branch somewhere to let the paint dry. You can also use a hairdryer to assist drying but use it on low-speed mode to not tear the leaves.

paper ginkgo branch

The last step is to gently open the leaves’ stems and to arrange them in different directions.

paper ginkgo leaves

And to put your watercolour ginkgo branch in a vase to brighten your room!

paper ginkgo branch in a vase

If you like working with watercolour paper, try also my Marigold flower.

watercolour paper Marigold flower

Have fun and enjoy your craft time!

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