Leave It!

It's of great coincidence that as I sat down to write this How-to, "Leave It" by the progressive rock band Yes, came up on my random playlist. Anyway, I'm sure that was pretty much one of the most retarded openings in Blog history, but it had to be done, all puns aside.

To the topic!

I've been inspired by my club's monthly painting challenge put together by my good friend and fellow blogger Mars (Mars' Project Blog). The comp has us painting something up some in autumn-themed colors. You see a lot of armies out there of various games that are seasonally based, usually in winter or the much more common summer themes. I've always wanted to try autumn for its vibrant color selection. The trouble is that its tough to simulate fallen leaves.

There are some companies out there that produce brass-etched packs of leaves, and these are pretty much awesome. I've seen a few examples including the brass leaves, and they look absolutely stunning. However, for my needs its just economically prohibitive to cover a bijillion Flames Of War bases with them. So I did the next best thing and begged for ideas from amongst the guys in the studio. I was not disappointed as the smartest Wookiee I know, James Brown (painter & modeller extraordinaire) pointed me in the direction of ground tea leaves.

Armed with some fresh ideas I headed home to start my trial attempts. After a few failed starts (one of which resulted in the entire contents of a tea bag being blown everywhere when I stupidly attempted to spray paint it) I finally settled on a pretty easy solution. So without delay, here's a quick run down on cheap and easy autumn leaves:

Step 1: Loot Tea Bags
I looted 10 tea bags from my fiance's stash. I then emptied their contents into a mixing bowl.
Step 2: Add Water
Next add enough water to make it a mucky muddy paste. The reason behind this critical step is so that you can actually paint the ground tea. Otherwise it will just blow away the second you turn the airbrush on it!

Step 3: Spread 
Then take the paste and spread it out in plastic container. I spread it out in a layer about 1/8" (3-4mm) thick.

Any thinner and you risk having it get blown away in the next step.

Too thick and you'll lose your color when the tea dries and you mix it together.
Step 4: Painting Orange
The next step is to paint the tray in the colors you want. Here I've pained one tray in Tamyia Orange.

Step 5: Painting Yellow
Then I painted the second tray in Tamyia Yellow.

Step 6: Drying
Once I painted the trays I placed them outside in direct sunlight for a few hours. I'm sure that you can do the same under a heat lamp or something similar.

The stones were added to make sure the tray didn't blow away. That's all.

Step 7: Mixing
After a few hours of chores and making a sandwich for lunch, I tested the yellow tray and it was dried out. The tea under the paint remained brown, which is good as it was the third colour I wanted in the mix.

Then I mixed up both trays together into one glorious pile.

Step 8: Storage
I had a few empty plastic containers so I conscripted one for my leaf mix. As you can see there are three tones.

I think there was a bit too much brown, indicating that I should have probably paid more attention to the thickness of my trays, but I'm still happy with the result.

Step 9: Testing
The final step was to test it out. I had prepared a stick with some basing done so I could test the mix. I was right in that the mix was a little dark, but I ended up detailing some of the leaves with Vallejo paints to bring out the color and add some variety in the autumn shades.

I am happy enough with the result that I'll be employing it forthwith... however I've totally missed the painting comp's deadline which inspired this in the first place. No worries, I've got something for leaves now!

As the final lyric of Yes' "Leave It" would have it: "One down one to go, another town and one more show!"


  1. I know what you were doing today. I think you should try it with loose leaf team, the bits are a little bigger.

  2. I will as soon as I can pick some up. I just don't want leaves the size of a man's foot.

  3. Just wondering what kind of tea bags you used for this? Even the type of tea (Earl grey, orange pekoe, etc) if you don't the brand would be helpful. The end result looks awesome!

  4. Heya, thanks for the comment! I started using just normal English Breakfast tea bags (from Dilmah) but as Wayne posted above the 'bits' are slightly too small, so I mixed in Dilmah leaf tea (also English Breakfast), which has larger pieces and adds more depth to the leaves.

    Also, having based most of my army already, I'm not to sure I'd go through the all of the coloring process. I'd probably just go with two trays of yellow. Then, after its been glues to the base, do some light highlights with orange later.

    Anyway, good luck, and have fun :)

  5. Thanks for the info! In lieu of the airbrush I'm just picking up a
    Couple cans of spray to suit my needs. I'm trying for a fall foliage 82nd Airborne army.

    When I get it it done I'll be sure to reference your articles on our blog.

  6. Sounds great. I'd be dead keen to see some pics!

  7. I love the look and can't wait to try it myself. I looted some tea bags from my wife and will be trying it out in the next few days.


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