A recipe for crisp-edged watercolors

photo of desktop showing drawings, paint, and paintingsLast week I posted some gentle little watercolors, and briefly described the process. Here, as promised, is a more detailed view of that process.

Step one: Draw your shapes in pencil.
step one: pencil drawing
Step two: scan the drawings, and import to Adobe Illustrator. Trace the shapes using the pen tool, refining as you go, to create your idealized vector shapes.

step two: scan and trace the pencil shapes in Illustrator

Step three: print out your vector shapes. Tape the print to the back of a sheet of watercolor paper, and place both on a lightbox. Now you can paint with precision using the vector shapes as your guide. Be sure to bleed the color outside the lines so you have some wiggle room.*

step three: paint, using the vector lines as a guide with a lightbox

Step four: Scan your watercolors and import to Illustrator. Using your vector shapes, you can create a clipping mask for your hand-painted fills. (For this little prawn, I matched the color of his feelers to the paint, and kept the vector circle as his eye.)

step four: use the vectors as a clipping mask

The finished product is an illustration with all the the warmth and charm of watercolor, and the crisp edges of a digital drawing. And, as each drawing is self-contained, you can move them around like puzzle pieces to create all sorts of compositions.

This process would work using any number of media— pastels, acrylic, colored pencil, ink, etc. I love this technique, woot!
photo of the tools of the trade

*Pretty sure this is somehow a rule of Life.

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