Design a Watercolorful Alphabet: Turn Hand-Painted ABCs Into Versatile Vectors | Amarilys Henderson | Skillshare

Design a Watercolorful Alphabet: Turn Hand-Painted ABCs Into Versatile Vectors

Amarilys Henderson, Watercolor Illustrator, Design Thinker

Design a Watercolorful Alphabet: Turn Hand-Painted ABCs Into Versatile Vectors

Amarilys Henderson, Watercolor Illustrator, Design Thinker

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12 Lessons (14m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Class Overview

    • 3. What You'll Need

    • 4. A-Z Text Template

    • 5. Thinking Ahead

    • 6. Basic Tracing Method

    • 7. Watercolor Painting Technique

    • 8. Lightbox Tracing and Painting

    • 9. Converting Watercolor to Vector

    • 10. Grouping Each Vector Letter

    • 11. Using Your Letters

    • 12. Go Create! Assignment

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About This Class


Play between the tension of clean typefaces and the dynamic punch that watercolor offers. Learn how to paint a font in watercolor and prepare it for digital use.

In this 14 minute class, you’ll learn from Amarilys Henderson, an illustrator with design experience whose first love is watercolor. You'll be guided through how to use existing fonts as a template to create a hand-painted alphabet that can be used as a watercolor font.

This class is perfect for designers who want to give their work a fresh look or hobbyists that have been intimidated by watercolor paints. No prior painting experience is required, but some basic Photoshop and Illustrator knowledge would be useful to maximize your new alphabet. You’ll walk away with an on-trend typeface that’s all your own.

Meet Your Teacher

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Amarilys Henderson

Watercolor Illustrator, Design Thinker

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Hello! I'm Amarilys. I process on paper and I problem-solve with keystrokes.

As a commercial illustrator, I've had the pleasure of bringing the dynamic vibrance of colorful watercolor strokes to everyday products. My work is licensed for greeting and Christmas cards, art prints, drawing books, and home decor items. My design background influences much of my recent work, revolving around typography and florals.

While my professional work in illustration is driven by trend, my personal work springs from my faith. Follow along on Instagram


Learn a variety of fun and on-trend techniques to improve your work!

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1. Introduction: Hi. My name is Emilless Henderson. I am an illustrator. I work mostly in watercolor and I used to work as a designer, so I developed this love for typography that way. Today, we're going to learn how to make a watercolor full alphabet. I know that's a mouthful but it's just that awesome. So we're going to take the alphabet, find whatever font you like. We're basically going to trace over it. We're not looking to create a new font-style so much as a new treatment of that font. Watercolor is so on trend and so is typography. So why not combine them both? This would be helpful for anyone who is a designer or wants a reason to break out their watercolor paints and just try it out. I'm going to walk you through some basics of watercolor and we will paint our letter and if you'd like to take it a step further, you can scan them and we'll talk about that, about making them more useful for whatever you like. So let's get started. 2. Class Overview: Let me give you a quick overview of what we're going to do. We'll lay out our letters digitally and then we'll print them out and transfer them to watercolor paper. Then we'll paint them by hand in watercolor using the wet on wet technique. Then we will scan them and bring them back to the computer to convert them to vectors and use them for anything we want. 3. What You'll Need: Okay, so let's talk about what you'll need. Of course, you'll need watercolor paper, something that's not too rough. Other than that, you need number 2 pencil, a round brush, watercolor brush, sable brush, of course, some water to go with that. As far as paints, I'm not going to be picky and talk about brands here. But as far as a color scheme, choose three colors that are similar to each other. You'll also need a computer and a printer, and if you want to digitize your watercolor, you'll need a scanner, and we'll be using Illustrator. 4. A-Z Text Template: Your first and very basic step is to create basically a template that we will be tracing over to create our watercolor alphabet. You can do this in Word, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and all you need to do is lay out all your letters. Be thinking about how you're going to be using it. As I mentioned before, if a lowercase serif font would look great for what you're going for, maybe you're doing a drop cap in a newsletter or a magazine and you want uppercase letters, of course, Helvetica is a popular choice if you want something simple that is classic, or if you want to also take it into caps. If you don't feel comfortable with watercolor, you can do them huge, and that way you have a little more liberty as you're taking the plunge with the brush. Let's create this A and R. I did this in Illustrator, of course chose a letter size page so that I can print it out easily. Very basic user-type tool. Write whatever letters you'd like to do. If you're going to do the entire alphabet this large, you might want to use InDesign or something that has several pages. I chose a serif font. This is Myriad, and it shows the letters A and R because their personal for me and my husband, I thought I might put something up in our bedroom. Changed the font to Bodoni, and I think I'm ready to hit "Print" and just get going. 5. Thinking Ahead: As you're gathering your materials and you're getting ready to do this I want you to consider how you'll be using your water colorful alphabets. It's going to have some implications on these first steps. If you start thinking about how you want to use it for an existing design project, or maybe you have an illustration in mind, or maybe you're just tinkering around be thinking about what kind of type faces you like and how you want this to look as a final piece. 6. Basic Tracing Method: Now we're going to cover just a basic tracing method. If you don't have a light box, if you don't have carbon paper, if you don't have graphite paper, this is the way to go. All I need is my printout and a number 2 pencil. Obviously, I turned it over. I am covering all the edges that I'm going to end up tracing on my letter A. I chose to do Bodoni. I like the serifs. They can be tricky. You might like a simple Helvetica and now, I have my watercolor paper. It is Canson brand, 150 pound cold press. Place my letter on top and start tracing. Of course, I'm pressing down pretty hard so that those lines show through. The purpose here is just to get that outline on the watercolor paper so that we can get to work painting. There it is. 7. Watercolor Painting Technique: Now is the fun part, now we get to paint. But first I'm painting with water. This is the wet-on-wet technique. First I lay down water with my round brush and I smooth it over basically where I'm going to have the paint be. Since it dries fast, I'm going to go ahead and get some paint and drop it in there. I selected a second color of those three that I'm going to use to just drop in and not blend a whole lot. I let the paint blend itself so that it looks more interesting and just really relish in that beauty of the watercolor. Dab a little more paint, dab a lot of paint into wet areas, let it dry. It's this beautiful watercolor. 8. Lightbox Tracing and Painting: All right, I took out my light box. It helps facilitate a lot of things and it costed me about $30 at a hobby store. I placed my sheet of paper on top. I printed all the letters on it. You can do this in Photoshop, InDesign, Word, wherever. I'm taping it down loosely, since I'm going to have another sheet of paper on top. Like I said, the font I used was Bodoni. You, of course, are welcomed to use whatever font you like. Taking out my watercolor paper, that cold press paper. It's about a 140 pounds and line it up. I'm not going to take this down because I want to be able to manipulate it if something goes wrong with my paintings. So if I paint this letter A badly, I could just shift my paper over and paint it again. Again, I'm doing that wet on wet technique. So I'm first painting with just plain water and now I'll dip my brush in one of my three colors. This time I'm going with pink, orange, and red. In both color schemes, I'm going for an analogous color scheme. That means that the three colors I choose are side-by-side on the color wheel. Kind of similar. So that when they blend in this kind of a technique, it doesn't look terribly jarring. They go together nicely and they can blend on their own and I don't need to worry about how it's going to look pretty soon here when it dries. This technique makes you work a little fast because you want to lay in your paint before your water dries. But the fun part is that you can just dab it in, you can just drop it in, and let the watercolor do its own thing. There's my A. I wanted to show you my first few letters without the light box lights. There it is, it's looking great. So I better get back to work. Here they are, all the letters A through Z in pink, orange, and a little red. 9. Converting Watercolor to Vector: Here's my alphabet scanned at 300 PPI that had I pulled from Photoshop. You can tell it's one big image that I opened here in Illustrator. I'm going to trace it. I'm going to take the easy route. I can use this image trace for high fidelity photo, or sometimes 16 colors works well. I'm going to go with high fidelity photo, it's going to take all those rasters and make them at million little vectors. As you can see, they're all grouped together. It's one big block. We're going to ungroup them. Go to Edit, Ungroup. Now we want to remove all the whites. I'm going to select one thing that's white, then go up to Select, Same, Fill Color. I grab all of those white pieces and delete them. Right now, all I have are the colorful parts. I'm going to use my Lasso tool and hold it down to wrap around my letter A and group it. If you look at my layers palette, you see that all of these pieces are all done separately. Now that I've grouped my A, it's one nice little group. I'm going to do the same thing with each letter until I finish my alphabet. 10. Grouping Each Vector Letter: As you can see, they're all grouped together as one big block. We're going to ungroup them. Go to Edit, Ungroup. Now we want to remove all the whites. I'm going to select one thing that's whites, then go up to Select, Same, Fill Color. So I grab all of those white pieces and delete them. So right now, all I have are the colorful parts. I'm going to use my lasso tool and hold it down to wrap around my letter A and group it. If you look at my layers palette, you see that all of these pieces are all done separately and now that I have grouped my A, it's one nice little groups. I'm going to do the same thing with each letter until I finished my alphabet. 11. Using Your Letters: All right so you see here I went through the work of grouping all my letters with my Lasso tool and I have the full alphabet. I made another layer because I want to show you just a quick idea of a way to use your letters. I'm going to make a cute little quote with my letters. I'm selecting all the letters I'm going to need. Copy, paste them, arrange them. We'll see if you can guess what I'm writing. Did you guess? I need a period of course. Just doing a little grouping, a little aligning so my print will look great for my friend who I said this recently to because she's been such a sweetheart to me. Of course you can do anything with your letters. I'm just trying to give you an idea of something that might be fun. Are you getting any ideas of your own? I hope so. 12. Go Create! Assignment: We printed our letters, and we traced them, and we watercolored them, and scanned them, and we put them into Illustrator, made them vectors. I want to see what you're going to create with your watercolorful alphabet. Post your project and I'd love to see it. I'm a human being behind this computer and I'm happy to comment and answer any questions that you might have. I hope you really enjoyed this tutorial and I hope you use it and I'd love to see how.