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Let's say I gather up some fallen leaves in the autumn time, and I want to turn them into colourful decorations. The first step must be to get them properly dried out for further processing like painting etc. What is the best way to dry tree leaves? Leave them in the sun, put them in the oven, some other method?

I don't care about keeping their natural colours; I just want the dried leaves to be sturdy enough that they don't crumble at a touch, still flat, and preferably a fast/efficient drying process.

If the answer varies according to climate (e.g. temperature or humidity of the surrounding environment), then I'd be interested in all different answers depending on the possible climates - let's make this post useful for as many people as possible.

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  • Are you asking about a reasonably fast / efficient process, about protecting the color or about keeping the shape? Depending on these factors, answers could be vastly different.
    – Stephie
    Mar 24, 2022 at 18:11
  • @Stephie Edited to clarify. Colour isn't an issue if they're going to be painted later, and I'm not sure what you mean about shape - is there a drying process that would dramatically alter the shape of the leaves? Mar 24, 2022 at 18:13
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    Some leaves tend to curl up a lot or become brittle when jut left to dry, so if you want to pile them in a basket, no problem, if you want to work with them, it may be difficult. Some press leaves under heavy objects to get flat leaves. Japanese maple with their feathery leaves for example, they are relatively flat when they have just fallen, but twist, roll and turn when they dry.
    – Stephie
    Mar 24, 2022 at 18:20
  • @Stephie Ah OK, edited again. I'm thinking of leaves hung or on the walls, so keeping them flat would be good if possible. Brittle is OK if it's unavoidable - they don't need to be folded or manhandled - but not if they're so fragile that they'd crack and crumble at a touch. Mar 24, 2022 at 18:23
  • Have you come across a flower press? They work for leaves as well
    – Chris H
    Mar 24, 2022 at 18:28

1 Answer 1

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I have dried plants and leaves by just putting them between leaves in a sketch- or notebook. Acid-free paper likely yields better results, and - especially with specimens that contain a lot of moisture - an extra layer of a more absorbing paper between the specimen and the leaves of the sketchbook is a good idea.

For thick leaves, a thick absorbent and soft material is favorable, as it will keep the shape better.

You can also use a flower press, or quite easily make one out of two sheets of wood and four wing screws:

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source

This will, however, not prevent those beautiful autumn colours from fading.
The colours of flowers remain in relatively good condition, but I think the process that leaves go through cannot be stopped by drying them (that's what happens naturally, as well).

I'm posting this as the additional info points out colour is not really an issue.
I have in the meantime read up on a potential solution that retains the colours, at least for longer, and provide the leaves with more strength. TBC.

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    Most leaves are acidic anyway, so there's probably no point using acid-free paper. The technique to maintain the colours may well neutralise the acid as well
    – Chris H
    Mar 24, 2022 at 21:32
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    @Randal'Thor I have used kitchen paper for it at times, yes.
    – Joachim
    Mar 25, 2022 at 5:12
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    @ChrisH That's actually a very good point :)
    – Joachim
    Mar 25, 2022 at 5:12
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    @fixer1234 Paper towels, right. I searched for 'kitchen paper' and got the right product, but that doesn't say a lot in a place where everything is being translated by artificial 'intelligence'.
    – Joachim
    Mar 25, 2022 at 17:40
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    Professional botanists use blotting paper in their plant presses. You can buy it as "standard driers" from Forestry Suppliers, or as blotting paper from calligraphy suppliers. Include a layer of corrugated cardboard for ventilation between every layer of plants.
    – csk
    Mar 29, 2022 at 0:45

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