DIY Paper Bag Leaf Garland

This dramatic DIY Fall leaf garland is made from brown paper bags! It looks surprisingly realistic and costs next to nothing. Grab my free hand drawn leaf template below.
brown leaf Fall garland with neutral pumpkins

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Hey friend, I'm so glad you're here! If you're like me, you've been seeing these gorgeous large brown Fall leaf garlands on social media and wondering where you can get your hands on them!

The ones I've seen (like this one that Liz Marie used in her entryway) are all sold out, but I'm guessing they were fairly pricey. Well, after the success of my copper magnolia wreath that I made from brown paper bags, I decided to see if I could replicate the look of those beautiful dried leaf garlands....

...aaand the fact that I'm sharing the tutorial here means it was a success! A huge success if I might add, and I am SO excited to show you how to make your own gorgeous Fall leaf garland from paper bags! I'm even sharing my leaf template with you, you can find that a little further down...just look for this emoji ๐Ÿ‚

A quick note about this project before we get started - I'm not gonna lie, this paper leaf garland is a little time consuming, but if you're like me and find these types of crafts to be relaxing and dare I say even therapeutic - then you'll love it! It's even better when you have all the supplies on hand already, so this DIY costs you $0 ๐Ÿ˜‰ If you're the kind of person who doesn't have a lot of time (or a rainy afternoon) and wants to get it over with quick - I promise there are lots of shortcuts you can take, and I'll point those out along the way.

Before I share the steps to this paper bag fall garland, please make sure you're following me on InstagramYouTubePinterest and Facebook. And if you're not already subscribed to my newsletter, you can sign up here so you are the first to be notified when I post a new project!

Let's make a paper bag oak leaf garland for Fall!

We've had a lot of rainy days lately. I've read a ton of books (I even read Dracula and Frankenstein for the first time ever!) and I've done a lot of crafting!

I find it very soothing to put on some good music and just create. It forces my mind to focus on what I'm working on, rather than all the things my mind would love to stew about and worry over! Are you that way too?

Click here for links to all my Fall DIYs and decor



I think I had 11 paper lunch bags left from when I made my DIY copper magnolia paper wreath. I prefer using them over grocery size paper bags because the lunch sacks are a blank slate with no writing or logos to cover up.

Step 1: cut paper bags into sheets

I found it best to cut up the seam that's on one side, then cut around the bottom of the bag and back to the seam. That way the seam disappears and you don't have it in the middle of your sheet. In other words, don't do what I did in this picture - see that seam?

cut paper bag open into a sheet

Step 2: cut out leaves

This is the first step where you can save yourself some time! IF you like the realistic look of leaves that have curled a little bit, then trace the leaf pattern onto your paper bag sheets and cut out your leaves now. Shortcut: IF you're trying to save time, skip this step and move on to Step 3.

trace leaf template

Step 3: paint paper

Squirt out some brown, green, and orange acrylic craft paints onto a paper plate. Using a brush, water down the paints. Use broad strokes to paint the paper leaves and set aside to dry. I was after creating the most realistic-looking leaves. I found that if I heavily watered down the paints I got just a touch of color, which was perfect. As the wet paper dries, the edges of the leaves will slightly curl, in random ways, which looks so realistic!

If your time is limited, you can either paint the sheets of paper (use a roller to do this quickly) or you can skip this step altogether, although your leaves won't look quite as realistic. I painted some leaves first, and also painted some sheets and let them dry over my fireplace screen, before cutting out the leaves.

paint paper leaves and brown paper sheets

Step 4: cut out leaves

If you haven't already done so, trace the leaf shape (found below) onto the paper sheets and cut out the leaves. I was able to get 5 leaves from each paper bag sheet (some of them are a little wonky because I had to cut them a little smaller to get them all to fit, but that's the beauty of real leaves - no two are alike!) My homemade leaf template is 7" tall x 6" wide, so these are big leaves!

trace leaf template

Here's a fun little aside - I brought a dried leaf from my backyard inside so I had some help while trying to get the color just right. Check this out!

paper leaves compared to real leaf

I would say I succeeded, wouldn't you? Can you even spot the one real leaf below?

realistic looking paper leaves for Fall crafting

But I'm getting ahead of myself, because there's one more step to really add some realism to these paper leaves.

Step 5: wax the leaves

If you don't already have clear and dark furniture paste wax at home, or you just want to save time, you can totally skip this step.

However, I will say that adding the wax to the leaves added the most realism to my paper leaves! I couldn't believe how REAL they looked after this step!

apply wax to paper leaves

Waxing the leaves is really easy. Just use a lint-free rag (I use part of an old white t-shirt), and rub a little clear wax on a leaf, then immediately brush a little dark wax on. I used a small craft brush for the dark wax and just dabbed it on in small areas. I didn't bother buffing, just kept my wax coat light.

The image below shows you the transformation. The first leaf has been painted only, the second leaf has been painted and has clear wax (which really highlights the paint that otherwise is very dull), and the third leaf has been painted, plus the addition of clear wax as well as dark wax - see the dimension it added? I couldn't believe how real these leaves looked after the wax!

comparison of leaves with and without wax
Once the wax is dry (I allowed it to dry overnight), you can crease the center of the leaves simply by folding them in half and running your fingernail along the fold about 2/3 of the way up. You can do this before or after you paint and wax the leaves. This is another step that is optional if you're in a time crunch, but it does make a difference!

stack of painted and waxed paper leaves

crease middle of leaf

The next step is where it all comes together!

Step 6: build the garland

I used a 6-foot magnolia garland that I already had (and wasn't using) as my base for the dried leaf garland. Here's how it looked on my mantel. I stretched it out and put a small nail in each side of my mantle, then took it down to build the garland with the paper bag leaves.

One thing to note - see how I hung the garland with the backs of the magnolia leaves showing? That was intentional. The backs of magnolia leaves are brown and the color is more suited to Fall (even on these faux ones). That's the side I want facing out when I attach the paper leaves. 

magnolia garland used as base

Attaching the paper leaves to the magnolia garland was super easy. I used green craft wire and wound a little bit around one of the paper leaves to get started, then wrapped it tightly around one end of the magnolia garland two times. 

Designer tip: I didn't cut the wire until I was finished attaching all the leaves.

I worked in batches of 1 or 2 leaves and tied them onto the garland all the way across. It ended up working out perfectly! I had around 50 leaves total and used every last one! You do want to remember that the leaves are paper, so be gentle as you're wiring them to the garland. It was a little tricky to work around the magnolia leaves on the garland, I kept my wire short (wrapped around paddle), and just maneuvered it over and under as needed.

wire paper leaves to magnolia garland
You may have a better method to attach the leaves but this is what I did and it worked out great.

Ready to see the whole garland on my fall mantel? Just imagine you're hearing a virtual drum roll...๐Ÿฅ๐Ÿฅ๐Ÿฅ

The completed paper leaf garland

magnolia garland with addition of paper bag leaves

Isn't it ga ga gorgeous? I love how full it turned out!

paper bag leaf garland on mantel

paper leaf garland with neutral pumpkins

Unless you get right up close to it, you'd never know this garland was made from brown paper bags!

I needed to redo the top of my mantel because the other items I had on there were too busy. This garland wants ALL the attention! You can click here to see how my fall mantel looked before.

magnolia garland before and after adding paper bag leaves
I kept the mantel super simple with the addition of five white pumpkins, including my easy crochet chain pumpkin, and another one I recently added strips of lace to.

brick painted fireplace with fall leaf garland and neutral pumpkins

This DIY paper fall garland definitely steals the show!

white painted brick fireplace, neutral pumpkins and brown leaf garland

I truly hope you love this easy and cheap DIY as much as I do and are motivated to make your own paper bag fall garland! I tried to include very detailed instructions but if you have any questions at all, please leave them in the comments below!

๐Ÿ‚ Grab your FREE leaf template!

I hand drew my leaf template and it's sort of a cross between a maple leaf and a red oak leaf, LOL! I didn't want it to be too intricate and tricky to cut out and I wanted the leaves to be large so the garland would be more dramatic! If you'd like to, you can GET THE LEAF TEMPLATE HERE. Print it out full size on your home printer.

Love it? Pin it to remember!

Fall decorated mantel with paper leaves garland and neutral pumpkins

I always try to link to some similar items for those who don't have the time to craft, but I had the hardest time even finding neutral colored leaf garlands! Here are a few.


bringing beauty to the ordinary,


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  1. I loved your copper wreath so much, I was anxious to see the garland. I love this idea! It makes your mantle look so elegant. Well done!

    1. Thanks Michelle, I agree! Hope you get a chance to make the garland or wreath or both!!


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