Create Colorful Poinsettias

Add festive colors with a traditional touch to a miniature Christmas setting
By Michele Carter / Photography by Kent Clemenco

Poinsettias are the first decorations that appear in my home to officially open the holiday season.  When I had a formal living room decorated in soft pastels, I would buy white or pink Poinsettias.  Now my house has darker, richer colors and I have reverted back to the traditional red, or dark red Poinsettias.  So when I was asked to write an article on how to make Poinsettias, I decided that I should probably figure out how to make all of the colors that are available in real life so that you would be able to make a Poinsettia that matches your dollhouse décor.

Materials List

  • Airmail weight paper
  •  Clay pot (5/8" to 3/4" tall)
  •  Green Floral foam
  • Twice as Tacky glue
  •  Small twig
  • Small, fine brush (size 000)
  • Dulling Spray or Super Matte Ceramic Sealer
  • Toothpicks
  • Lace Tool
  • Yellow Acrylic paint
  • Red acrylic paint
  • Tiny no-hole beads
  • Very sharp, small scissors
  • Piece of #30 wire
  • Super Glue
  • Mouse pad
  • Americana Santa Red for Red Poinsettia
  • Delta CreamCoat Forest Green for leaves
  • Americana Cool Neutral for White Poinsettia
  • Americana Dusty Rose for Pink Poinsettia
  • DecoArt Burgundy Rose for Dark Red Poinsettia
  • Waxed paper

Step 1 -  Paint, Paint, Paint

Decide which color or colors of Poinsettia you intend to make.  You will need 2 sheets of airmail weight paper for each color plant.  One sheet will be painted with Delta CreamCoat Forest Green for the leaves, and one sheet will be painted the color of the petals.

NOTE: If your airmail weight paper is smaller than 8.5" X 11", you may need to paint two sheets of paper for the leaves.

Test the grain of the paper by folding it in both directions.  "With the grain" direction will give you a crisp, exact fold.  "Against the grain" will give you an uneven, irregular fold. Cut your paper into two-inch strips in the direction of the grain.  Then fold each strip in half.  When you have all of your strips cut and folded, spread out a sheet of waxed paper.  Put your strips on the waxed paper,  which will keep you from getting paint all over your desk or table as you paint the leaves and petals.  Start with your brush at the folded edge and paint at a 45-degree angle to the outside edge of the strip. Keep you strokes even, and all at the same angle. When dry, turn the strips over and coat the second sides, making sure to keep your brushstrokes going at a 45-degree angle.  After the strips are dry, you will have a "V" shaped pattern of brushstrokes when you open the strips. This gives your petals and leaves a texture that emulates the veining.

TIP:  I sometimes get confused when painting the opposite side of the fold, so I open it flat before I start to paint and make light pencil marks that indicate the correct direction for each side of the strip.  That way when it is folded you will have a direction mark visible as a guide.

Repeat the painting process for the backs of the strips.  Do both leaves and the petals with this same technique. Put aside to let dry.

Step 2 - Prepare Stem Structure

Pack your clay pot with floral foam.  Make sure it is packed in snuggly.  Stick the base end of your small twig into the floral foam, centered in the pot.  For the stems, I use a small twig from the berry structure of a Nandia Domestica, (Heavenly Bamboo) plant.  I am not sure if that shrub is native to all of the US, but any small-scaled twig will do.  Your stem structure should be not taller than 1 3/4", and it should have 3 to 6 "branches".  Secure the stem by putting a few drops of Super Glue around the stem where is enters the floral foam.  When the glue is dry, paint the stem structure with Delta CreamCoat Forest Green craft paint.

When the paint on the stem structure is dry, glue about 5 tiny no-hole beads in a cluster at the end of each growing tip.  You should have between three and 6 growing tips, depending on the twig you select. If you have more than six growing tips, trim off some, but keep the stem structure balanced (you don't want all of your branches to be on one side of the plant).  These bead clusters become the center of each bloom.  I used yellow no-hole beads that were about the size of a Poppy Seed (very tiny).  There was no label or size marked on the package of beads I purchased, so I can't give you the exact size.  In a pinch you could use Poppy seeds, and then paint them yellow once the glue dries.

TIP:  These beads are so small that they are hard to handle with even the finest tweezers.  So to glue the beads in place, coat the tips of the twig with tacky glue, then dip them into a shallow container filled with the no-hole beads.  Knock off some of the beads if you get too many in the cluster.  To assure a good hold, you can use a toothpick to touch the cluster with a tiny bit of Super Glue after the tacky glue has dried.

When the glue is completely dry, paint the cluster (if needed) with yellow paint.  Once the yellow paint is dry, take a piece of #30 wire (about 3 inches long) and dip it in red acrylic paint. Touch the wire to the center of each of the no-hole beads in the cluster.  Try to make a nice, clean round spot on each bead.  You will have to clean the wire frequently to keep the paint from building up too much.  Now that your stem structure is complete, it is time to make the petals and leaves.

Step 3 - Cut, Cut, and Cut some more

I have provided patterns for cutting the leaves and petals.  I am sorry but there is no paper punch for making Poinsettia plants that look realistic.  Poinsettias have several different shapes and sizes of leaves and petals. Plus they are connected to the stem structure by a thin "stem" at the base of each leaf or petal.  This is an important detail that makes these Poinsettias look natural and believable.

NOTE:  If you do not have extremely sharp scissors with small cutting blades you will not be able to do the fine cuts necessary to make these leaves and petals.

Make sure your fold is crisp. If not, run a fingernail along the fold. Cut the leaves and petals along the fold so you get symmetrical shapes. Start cutting the leaf or petal from the "stem" end.  Make sure the brushstroke texture is facing UP and AWAY from the fold as you cut. 

TIP:  When cutting, hold your scissors still and move the paper.  This allows you to make finer cuts.

Cut so close to the fold that it feels like you are missing the cut.  Leave about 1/8th of an inch of leaf "stem" before you flare out your cut to create the leaf or petal.  Follow the patterns to create a range of small, medium and large petals and leaves.  Don't worry if your leaves are all slightly different in shape.  When I designed these Poinsettia plants, I "dissected" a real Poinsettia to determine the shapes and sizes of the petals and leaves. To my surprise, I found that no two petals or leaves were identical - similar, but not identical.  When you think you have cut enough, cut more.  You will need LOTS of petals and leaves.

Step 4 - Shape the leaves and petals

Carefully unfold each leaf and petal you have just cut.  You may need to use your tweezers to do this.  Once you have them all opened, place them with the creased fold to the mouse pad.  To shape the leaves and petals, drag your Lace Tool* along the fold, pressing the leaf or petal into the mouse pad, starting at the base and moving toward the tip of each leaf or petal.  When you have shaped each leaf and petal, check the "stems" to make sure that they are no wider than the thickness of thread, and no longer than 3/32".  Trim if needed. Bulky leaf and petal stems will detract from the realistic look you are trying to achieve.

*Lace Tools are available from Ceramic Supply outlets.  It is a stylus with a flat bottom, shaped similar to the presser foot of a sewing machine.

Step 5 - Attach the leaves and petals

TIP: To make it easier to build your Poinsettia plant, attach it to a small block of wood, or a 1/12th scale table.

Start gluing on the leaves at the base of your plant, using the largest leaves at the bottom.  Hold the leaf with your tweezers, dip the stem part of the leaf into tacky glue, and apply to the stem structure. Completely cover the stem structure with leaves, overhanging the edge of the pot so that the rim of the pot is not visible.  When you get up to within 3/16th of an inch from the "growing tips" where you have glued your bead clusters, start applying the largest of your petals.  Glue the petals in layered rings around the stem tip, using the smallest petals as you get near the tip of each branch.  Make sure the petals and leaves droop slightly.  Poinsettia leaves and petals are not "perky" and do not flare upwards.  They are heavy and droop slightly.

Step 6 - Touch up

Since these leaves and petals are made from painted white paper, the cut edges will show up as fine white lines.  Touch them up using a small brush to paint the edges of each leaf and petal.  To do this, hold your paintbrush perpendicular to the edge of the leaf or petal and touch the brush to the edge, working laterally around the leaf or petal. Do not move the brush up and down.  Make sure your brush is "dry" - meaning not much paint is on it.  You do not want globs of paint attaching to the edges of the leaves and petals.

Step 7 - De-Gloss Dark Red Poinsettia Petals

For some unknown reason (maybe a characteristic of the pigment) when the Burgundy Rose paint dries, it has a sheen to the finish.  This does not look realistic at all.  I tried several different brands of paint, in several different shades of dark red with the same result - a semi-glossy sheen.  So to kill the sheen, you need to spray it with a matte acrylic sealer.  Unfortunately, the most common matte acrylic spray does not remove the sheen from these petals!  You have to use a dulling spray (which photographers use to take the glare off of objects being photographed) or a truly matte spray finish.  The one I used is Duncan brand Super Matter Ceramic Sealer.  It is available on-line at and costs $6.95.

YOU ARE DONE! Happy Mini-ing to all, and to all a good night.

Click here for actual magazine article (file size 228K)

back to articles




© 2005, PepperWood Miniatures. All Rights Reserved