Leaf Prints See the Light

Grant your lampshade new life with this simple, clever trick. Story and Photos By Dawna Edwards


Content Tools

Do you have an old lamp that could use some reviving? How about that estate-sale shade that could use a simple makeover? Your favorite herbs from the garden can lend a helping hand. Whether small scale or large, a few simple tools and your own creativity are all you need to give old lampshades new life. The beauty of your creation will lie hidden until the lamp is turned on, revealing the leaf and flower shapes stamped inside.

1. Pick Perfect Plants. Begin this project by selecting a few fresh, clean, dry leaves and/or flowers. In general, textured leaves will show greater detail than smooth leaves, but you also need leaves and flowers you can press relatively flat. For example, regular parsley might be too stiff, while flat-leaf parsley offers a nice shape but not as much texture. Also consider leaf stability. Something like cilantro won’t hold up well to painting and repeated use. Lemon balm, ginkgo and mint, on the other hand, offer ample shape, texture and stability.

2. Paint, Press, Practice. With your botanicals ready, squirt a dollop of paint on the cardboard. With a leaf face-up, brush paint across the top of it (see Figure 1), completely covering it with a thin layer of paint. If the paint is too thick, remove the excess paint from your paintbrush and then brush some of the paint off of the leaf so the detail will be evident. Next, place the leaf face-down and gently press it with your fingertips on a practice sheet of white paper to decide what will work best for your lampshade (Figure 2). Simply hold the sheet of paper up to any light (painted side toward the light and away from you) to see the effect.
3. Delicately Design. Once you’ve tested your leaves and flowers out a bit on paper, consider the design you want on your lampshade. Do you prefer patterns? A sucker for simplicity? What design will best suit the lampshade’s usual placement? Would you prefer a portrait of a single plant or a collage representing many?

Leaves and flowers
Piece of cardboard
or plastic plate
White acrylic craft paint
Small paintbrush
Piece of white paper
Sponge or paper towels
Small dish of water

4. Made in the Shade. Remove the lampshade from the lamp and dust it off if necessary (see “Tips for Cleaning Lampshades” at right), but keep the lamp nearby to check the light’s effect as you go along. If you’re using a lampshade lined with vinyl or plastic, it’ll be easy to wipe off any misplaced leaf prints with a damp sponge while the paint is wet. Continue painting and stamping leaves, just as you practiced, on the inside of your lamp shade. Choose to reuse the same leaf several times, mix and match many leaves and blossoms, or artfully display an entire sprig to render a creative new look for your lampshade.

I am never long, even in the society of her I love, without yearning for the company of my lamp and my library.
— Lord Byron

5. Enjoy Your Glowing Garden. Allow the paint to dry completely before replacing the shade on the lamp. Always use a low-watt bulb for safety. Switch on the light and watch your shade come to life with a little help from the herb garden.

A former Herb Companion editor, Dawna Edwards enjoys crafting and gardening with herbs in her Colorado home with her husband and two small children.