Gouache in Adobe Illustrator: How to Successfully Vectorize Your Paint | Melissa Lee | Skillshare

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Gouache in Adobe Illustrator: How to Successfully Vectorize Your Paint

teacher avatar Melissa Lee, allow yourself to fail before you succeed

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

13 Lessons (1h 18m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Materials

    • 3. Painting and Inking

    • 4. Scanning Your Work

    • 5. Vectorizing Your Work

    • 6. Selection, Direct Selection, Duplicate, Scale, Rotate, & Reflect

    • 7. Pencil Tool, Pen Tool, Blob Brush Tool, Smooth Tool, Shape Builder Tool, Scissor Tool, & Puppet Warp

    • 8. Artboards, Align, & Pathfinder

    • 9. Choosing Color

    • 10. Applying Color

    • 11. Assembling the Elements

    • 12. Final Steps + Saving Your Work

    • 13. Thank You!

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About This Class

Bringing my gouache work into Adobe Illustrator and vectorizing it, so that I can use some of the awesome tools that Illustrator provides is one of my favorite methods for combining traditional and digital media, and I’m often asked about my process for doing so. So instead of just explaining it, I wanted to provide an in depth, visual demonstration that I can point people to. And thus, this class was born.


In this class, I’ll show you how I paint and ink in order to get the best results in Illustrator and make the digitizing process as easy as possible. Then I’ll walk you through vectorizing your work and assembling the elements. I’ll also go over all of the most common Illustrator tools I use for drawing, coloring, and assembling motifs. I love working both traditionally and digitally, and this method is a really fun way to combine the best of both worlds.

I’ve noticed in my time in various online art communities, that figuring out how to incorporate watercolor and gouache into Illustrator is something that a ton of traditional artists with a love of texture struggle with time and time again. I struggled with it myself. How do I keep the integrity of my traditional work using Illustrator? The unfortunate truth is that it's just not possible to keep every detail once you vectorize something. The sooner you understand that, the better. I essentially spent three years developing a style in Illustrator that I’m happy with, so if you’re feeling frustrated by this process, you’re not alone. And hopefully this class will provide you with an option for creating a traditional-esque effect that you can feel happy with.

Some familiarity with Illustrator is recommended, but I will be going over all of the tools I use in detail, so even if you’re a beginner, you can still follow along just fine. 

So get out your painting supplies and let’s get started.


Adobe, and Adobe Illustrator are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Adobe in the United States and/or other countries.

Meet Your Teacher

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Melissa Lee

allow yourself to fail before you succeed

Top Teacher

Hi! My name's Melissa Lee, and I'm an illustrator and surface designer living in the hilly forests of Northern California. Alongside doing freelance and art licensing work, I've spent much of my time cultivating my love of sharing what I know and encouraging others to nourish their creative side through teaching online art courses on Skillshare and Teachable. I love making patterns, character art, and watercolor paintings. I'm endlessly inspired by animals and nature (whether living today or extinct), science fiction and fantasy, space and astrology, witchy things, and bees.

Always bees. 

The classes that I teach on Skillshare focus primarily on illustration (digital and traditional), watercolor techniques, and character design. I hope to see you there! See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hey there. I'm Melissa Lee, a designer and illustrator living just outside Sacramento, California. There are so many different ways to mix traditional media with digital, but for years, I only really used Photoshop. It was the first digital program I learned how to use plus it's pixel-based rather than vector-based, so it just seemed like the obvious choice, but then I learned Adobe Illustrator and after using it for five years, it's now my preferred program. Bringing my gouache work into Adobe Illustrator and vectorizing it so that I can use some of the awesome tools that Illustrator provides is one of my favorite methods for combining traditional and digital media. And I'm often asked about my process for doing so. So instead of just explaining it, I wanted to provide an in-depth visual demonstration that I can point people to. And thus, this class was born. I'll show you how I paint and ink in order to get the best results in Illustrator, and make the digitizing process as easy as possible. Then I'll walk you through vectorizing your work and assembling the elements. I'll also go over all of the most common Illustrator tools I use for drawing, coloring, and assembling motifs. I love working both traditionally and digitally. And this method is a really fun way to combine the best of both worlds. I've noticed in my time in various online art communities that figuring out how to incorporate watercolor and gouache into Illustrator is something that a ton of traditional artists with a love of textures struggle with time and time again. I struggled with it myself. How do you keep the integrity of your original work using Illustrator? The unfortunate truth is that it's just not possible to keep every detail once you've vectorized something. The sooner you understand that the better. I essentially spent three years developing a style in Illustrator that I'm happy with. So if you're feeling frustrated by this process, you're not alone. And hopefully, this class will provide you with one more option for creating a traditional-esque effect if you will. Some familiarity with Illustrator is recommended, but I will be going over each tool that I use in detail. So even if you're a beginner, you should be able to follow along just fine. So get out your paintings supplies and let's get started! 2. Materials: I'm just going to go over some of my favorite materials when it comes to painting with gouache. First of all, you'll want some container for water. I have this nice pretty little ceramic cup that I use. Then of course you'll need paint brushes. I have a ton of different paint brushes of many different brands, but I recently got fellow Skillshare teacher Peggy Dean's set of brushes from her company, The Pigeon Letters. They're really nice. I have a round 8, 6, and 2. They just have a really nice snap-back quality, and the tips stay nice and sharp. I really like painting with them and I highly recommend them. I think they're worth buying. I also like to use ink and pen nibs for detailed line work. I get most of my calligraphy supplies from a website called Jetpens.com. It's my absolute favorite website for these sorts of materials that I've ever found. They have a bunch of different pen nibs, nib holders. They range from expensive to really affordable, quality stuff. The best thing about the site though is that they have guides for everything. They have ink type guides, and pen nib guides, and calligraphy pen guides, et cetera. The guides really help you figure out what you want to buy and are just really detailed and useful. I love that site and yeah, I'll link to it in the Projects & Resources section so you can find that. I also have ink of course, and the cap broke so that's why I have this makeshift cover thing. When it comes to paint with gouache, it's really important to get the artist grade paint. I first started using gouache years and years ago. But I got one of those cheaper craft sets of gouache, and it had like 12 or 15 colors, or something like that. It was like maybe $10. I really didn't like how the paint applied. I didn't enjoy it, and I didn't understand why people liked gouache so much because I just didn't realize that the quality really matters in this case. Because for some paints it doesn't matter as much like, I don't think it really matters quite as much for watercolor. But for gouache, you really want to go with the unfortunately more expensive. I know they can get pretty pricey. But you definitely want to go with Winsor & Newton, or Holbein, or any of those high quality brands. It makes such a huge difference, I can't express it. It's imperative really. I have a set of six that includes the primary colors, green, and black, and white. Really, I think you'd be fine with just this to begin with, because gouache is fairly easy and pretty fun to mix, or at least I think so. I also have a yellow ocher and flesh tint because Winsor & Newton's versions of these colors are really nice. Of course it's up to you, but I think you'd be fine with just a set like this to begin with. Paper, my favorite thing to use with gouache is this Illo sketchbook that I have. I don't think you can buy these in art stores, but I'll link to where you can purchase it in the Projects & Resources section. I really like it because the paper is really smooth and thick, so you don't have to worry about the paper wrinkling. It handles gouache really well, it goes on so smooth and nice. I really love cold press smooth paper with gouache. Any cold press paper should work fine. Another paper I use with gouache a lot is the Canson XL paper. That also works really nicely. Another plus is that it sits really flat, so it's really easy to scan, good, high-quality scans width. When it comes to palettes, there's so many different options. I just got this little one that I plan to use for gouache. I also have this tin. I use it for watercolors a lot. My favorite thing to use though, is the Masterson's Sta-Wet palette, it's really handy. It comes with a sponge that you wet, and then it also comes with this special paper, which makes it so that the water soaks up into the paper and keeps your paint wet, but the paper is really sturdy. It will keep your paint wet for a long time, which it's so nice because you can save a lot of paint with it, because gouache can dry fairly quickly if you're not careful. Again, I will link to pretty much everything that I'm showing you here. You will also need some sort of tracing paper for this class, as I use it to draw the detail elements on the top, which I will demonstrate later of course. 3. Painting and Inking: With gouache, I like to mix in water with the paint until I get the smooth consistency that I want. Whenever I start a project where I know I want to eventually work in Illustrator, I have to go about it with a bit of a different mindset. I paint my elements with the intention of vectorizing them later. Basically, that just means that I paint and draw each element of my motifs separately. It's a good idea to work somewhat simply at this stage so that you don't get too attached to how they look traditionally. That way, once you vectorize it, you'll be much happier with the results. If I want to keep the exact textured quality of my original paintings, I work in Photoshop. So just to reiterate the unfortunate truth is that it's just not possible to keep every detail once you vectorize something. The sooner you understand that, and that you have to make adjustments for working in certain programs, the better. I essentially spent three years developing a style in Illustrator that I'm happy with, so if you're feeling frustrated by this process, you're not alone. I'm not too concerned with color at this stage because I plan to change the colors in illustrator. But you can choose to be more picky about colors at this point if you want to. It might make things go a little bit faster for you later on honestly. Here I'm mixing colors with a color shaper, which is a rubber tipped tool that I like to use. So as I said in my introduction, I used to only bring my traditional work into Photoshop because it's a raster-based or pixel-based program, rather than vector-based like Illustrator is. If you don't know what that means, the simplified explanation is that pixel-based programs can hold a lot more detail, thousands of colors, and are more painterly, while vector images are more clean, graphic, and infinitely scalable. I still do use Photoshop quite lot depending on what sort of look I'm going for and what I want my work printed on. But I really love Illustrator so I wanted to find a way to bring traditional work into it without totally sacrificing the integrity of the original painting. I also find that I just don't really enjoy drawing directly in Illustrator because everything is so clean and smooth and so are the drawing tools, for the most part. Even with the blob brush tool, I really don't get the same results. Plus I'm also a fan of the happy accidents that you can get with traditional work, which is a lot harder to do in Illustrator and is a lot less intuitive honestly. This method forces me to be less of a perfectionist as well. Like I said, I purposely try not to make my initial elements super perfect because I know that later when I vectorize them, all the tiny details and textures won't translate perfectly to vector objects. So because I don't want to be to super attached to every single detail, it frees me up to experiment and be a little bit messier and create shapes that I might not have made otherwise. Which is really not what my instinct is. I am very detail oriented by nature, and I tend to edit as I go, which really makes for a slow process and sometimes causes me to waste a lot of time. This is my way of making myself work a little bit faster and a little bit freer. It's also really fun and relaxing to not feel pressured to make perfect little painted elements. The next step is to draw the details. I like to draw them on a piece of tracing paper. It's important to keep these elements separate because of how Illustrator reads and translates information to vector objects. So I have a couple of different pen nibs. I don't know how well you can see this, but this one spreads out with pressure. In this nib I have doesn't widen nearly as much as the other one. It has a little bit of a spread, but it takes way more pressure. This one I used for a really fine line work and this one I use if I want more variance in line thickness and if I'm going for a more messy look. I've got my ink, really you can use any pen that you want for this step. Fineliners, brush pens, fountain pens, whatever you want to use. I just like to use pen nibs because they're fun and you can get really cool results with them. You just dip it in and then gently wiped the other side off on the edge. I'm looking at photo reference of flowers for inspiration on how to draw some of the petals and such. If you weren't using a notebook, you could use a light board and another piece of paper over the top. But this works great for notebooks. Plus I found that I really like how pens right on tracing paper anyway. This is just a really easy way to add your elements on top and they'll match perfectly with your paintings. You want to be careful about making sure the ink has dried. I wasn't very smart about where I was drawing. I probably should have inked from left to right so that I wouldn't have to worry about my hands moving any of the wet ink, but alas. [laughs] 4. Scanning Your Work: I currently have a Mac, so unfortunately I can only demonstrate how this works on a Mac. But I do know that scanning on a PC isn't too dissimilar. But anyway, so I've opened up my scanner and I have my sketch book on the scanner bed already. It's automatically doing an overview scan. I'm fine with it being at 300 DPI for this, it's set to black and white, so I'm just changing that to color. Then click the Use Custom Size option so that you can adjust the scanning box to your liking. Because the sketchbook isn't sitting as flat as I want it to, I'm pushing down gently on the scanning lid and then hitting overview again and that's much better. As you can see, there's not nearly as much shadow where I don't want shadow. Then from here, instead of having it scan to your desktop, you can scroll down and click "Other" and choose a specific folder for it to scan to. I'm just making a new folder for this project and then click "Choose" and then underneath that, you can also name your scan. You can also scan individual pieces by just drawing a box around each element. Now I've replaced my sketchbook with the tracing paper. You can click Use Custom Size again to take away all the small boxes you don't need. I switched it to black and white. If your scanner isn't white on the underside of the scanner lid, mine is, it has a smooth white surface that lays on top of whatever you're scanning, but if yours doesn't have that, you'll want to put a piece of white paper on top of your tracing paper in the scanning bed so that it has a white background. When I open up the folder I scanned them too, you can see that it's separated out each element. Obviously for this project, I think it'll be easier for me, and take less time, to not vectorize them individually. I'll most likely bring this into Illustrator and just vectorize them all at once. But if you're scanning fewer motifs than I am, you might want that bit of extra control. Also it's scanned upside down just based on how I had to put it in the scanner. In preview, I'm just flipping the Canvas to the correct spot. Something else you may want to do but is not absolutely necessary, is to bring your scans into Photoshop and up the contrast. What you want to do is use the Levels adjustment. You can access it in the adjustments panel on the right next to Properties, and it's the second symbol over. This turns it into its own layer so you're not permanently affecting the scan layer, or you can hit "Command L" to bring the levels Control Panel up. But this applies it directly to the scan layer, which is fine in this case, but that's just a good thing to know. From here, click the white eyedropper tool and click around on the white part of the canvas until you find a brightness that you're happy with. Then click the black eye dropper tool and click on one of the colored elements, or use the slider scale to adjust the contrast. Then you'll want to be sure to save your edited JPEG. I'll just do the same thing for the line work. 5. Vectorizing Your Work: I'm using Illustrator CC or Creative Cloud. If you have an older version and there's a tool that I use that you don't have, I'm sorry. I don't think there's anything except for maybe the Puppet Warp tool might not be in older versions of Illustrator. I'm not sure. But for the most part, I believe everything I demonstrate can be done in older versions of Illustrator. Anyway, I'll just click "Create New" and I'm going to go ahead and keep the 11 x 8.5" settings as is because I can always change my artboard or add artboard's later. I like to work with a white background in Illustrator and if you don't know how to set your workspace up like that, go to Illustrator > Preferences > User Interface, and then by Canvas Color you just select White and Okay. To hide your artboard, you hit "Shift Command H" and "Shift Command H" again to bring it back. Or go to View > Show Artboards and then View > Hide Artboards. I'm a surface pattern designer, so I created a custom workspace called Surface Pattern Design that has all of the different tools that I use most often, setup in my workspace for me to access quickly. I also have a few different custom keyboard shortcuts that I've created, so if I tell you a shortcut and then it doesn't work for you, it might be that I have just forgotten that I've made a custom shortcut. If that's the case, just let me know in the class Discussion section. I've been using this setup for a while so I can't remember everything that I changed and customized for myself but I'm pretty sure that one of them is the Puppet Warp tool. I gave it a keyboard shortcut because I use it so often. To create keyboard shortcuts, go to Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts and then you can choose Tools or Menu Commands and you can search the specific tool that you're looking for. I'll type in Puppet...and there's the Puppet Warp Tool. Puppet Warp doesn't have a keyboard shortcut normally and U is set up for the mesh tool regularly, apparently. But I use that tool rarely, so I don't mind changing it. You can try typing in a bunch of different things to see if there's anything that's not in use or just do what I did and ignore the warning and overwrite it. First it's asking me if I want to save the keyset file which you do, so just give it a name. I'm calling mine custom and then click "Okay". Then in menu commands, I also have a Convert to Artboards custom shortcut that I use a ton. I use Command 9, or Control if you're on PC, and I'm pretty sure that that wasn't used by anything. Yeah, it wasn't, so you can just type that in. Then it asks you if you want to over write the custom keyboard set that you made? You can click "Okay" because it will keep the previous shortcut you made along with this new one. Now that we've got that all set up, there's a couple of different ways you can bring your scans into Illustrator. You can drag and drop them from your folder like so or you can hit "Shift Command P" to place your artwork. You select them hit "Place" and then you can drag and drop to the size that you want. Once that's done, we're going to use Image Trace to vectorize them. If you don't have Image Trace set up, just go to Window > Image Trace and it will show up outside like this, and then you can just drag it over and slide it in like so. If something's not showing up in your Illustrator, nine times out of ten, you can find it under either View or Window. Select the scan and then in Image Trace, there's a Presets drop down menu. For this, I'm going to try Six Colors. Okay, so because the background isn't perfectly white, it's including it as one of the colors, so it's showing up as this cream color. If you click "Advanced," it brings up the option to Ignore White. It actually worked for me for this. Most of the time when the background isn't a cleaner white, clicking Ignore White won't work. This looks good to me though, so I'm ready to hit "Expand." Expand turns your traced scan into a vector object, or more accurately in this case, grouped vector objects if you're working with multiple colors. You want to keep it grouped but you may need to get rid of excess pieces. To do that, you can double-click to enter into isolation mode, which means that you can select the separate objects to delete like so. But you can't select anything else other than the shape that you double-clicked to enter into that mode for. Then once you click out of isolation mode, the colors are still grouped. For line work and hand lettering, I like to use the Black and White Logo preset. I like to adjust the Threshold or thickness as well as Paths and Corners. The higher the Paths percentage, the more detail it's picking up and the rougher your line work will look. If you lower the Corners percentage, it becomes smoother. In this case though, I think this looks fine, so I'm not going to adjust paths and corners. I also like to make sure ignore white is selected and then I also like to try clicking Snap Curves to Lines. I'm not entirely sure what that does but sometimes I prefer how it looks with it selected, so I always try it out. Then once again hit "Expand," double-click to enter into isolation mode, and delete the excess shapes. I'm just dragging this up here. I want it on top of the color, so to bring it to the front you can hit Shift Command ]. It's Shift Command [ to send it to the back and Shift Command ] to bring to the front. Or you can right-click, go to Arrange and select send to back or bring to front. Even though I have this selected, when I click on image trace, it's not allowing me to use it. I don't know why Illustrator does this sometimes but it can just be finicky. The fastest way I've found to fix that is to just double-click your scan to enter isolation mode and then Image Trace works every time for me at least. Once again, I'll select Black and White Logo and it will take longer depending on the size and complexity of the scan that you're tracing. Okay, so I'm just going to hit "Command Z" to undo that and then I'll redo it. So you can see that here it didn't trace the entire line. You can adjust the Threshold to see if you can mitigate that, but honestly, I'm okay with it here because I like how the rest of it looks, and I'm going for a sketchy-ish quality anyway. to use at first, because you really want it to perform better than it can. Image Trace isn't a perfect tool, and you'll probably find that it's a little but frustrating This is the main reason why I try not to get too attached to my original painting and line work, and why I try not to spend a ton of time on it in the traditional at phase. Because I know that later on when Illustrator doesn't trace it as perfectly as I want it to, I won't feel like I've wasted a bunch of time. Here's one of the scans I've brightened up significantly. I'm choosing 16 Colors this time because I want to make sure there's a lot of variation and texture, and the more colors you have, the more likely you'll get some cool textures. So I'll hit Ignore White...Expand And because this is grouped, you may want to right-click > Ungroup But then each shape is separate, so what you want to do is hit Q for the Lasso tool, or it's in the Direct Selection tool drop down menu, and then trace around the motif you want grouped. And then hit Command G or right-click > Group You'll have to do that for every little shape that you want separate when you scan a whole page of motifs. 6. Selection, Direct Selection, Duplicate, Scale, Rotate, & Reflect: Before I move on to coloring and assembling, I wanted to go over some of the most commonly used tools in Illustrator. The first tool is the Selection tool. The keyboard shortcut for it is V and you can remember that because Vs create an arrow shape. The Selection tool is pretty self explanatory. You just click to select or click and drag to select single objects or grouped objects. The next tool is the Direct Selection tool or A on your keyboard and once again an A forms an arrow. With the Direct Selection tool, you can select objects within a group. Here I'm selecting just one of the colors in this grouped flower. I can zoom in by holding down Command Shift and clicking and dragging the area that I want to zoom in to. If that's not working for you and instead this is happening, that's because you have animated zoom checked. To fix that, go to Illustrator > Preferences > Performance and then uncheck Animated Zoom. If I zoom in with the Direct Selection tool, you can select the individual anchor points in a shape or line. The Selection tool cannot do this, so if you need to edit your shapes and your Pen tool lines or whatever, you need to use the Direct Selection tool to do that. One really useful thing to know about the selection tools is, say you're making a color palette. Really quickly I've created some rectangles. If I hit I for the eye dropper tool, I can then click on another color, and then instead of hitting V to switch back to the selection tool, if you hold down Command, it will turn your current tool into the last selection tool that you used. You can select the next rectangle, take your finger off Command and it will automatically go back to the last tool you were using. In this case, it automatically went back to the Eye Dropper tool. I just find that this makes things go a lot faster and is less laborious than clicking between I and V over and over again. Next is Duplicate. I've selected the rectangle tool or M on your keyboard. If you click and drag while holding down Shift, it makes a perfect square. Then once again you've clicked on it and started to move it then hold down Shift to make sure that it stays aligned with the original square and Alt or Option to duplicate it. Then I hit Command D to duplicate that action. Clicking and dragging an object while holding down Alt or Option duplicates that object, while Command D duplicates the last action you took. If I just hit Command D over and over, I can make a line of perfectly aligned squares. Then I could also select them all. Click and drag down hold Shift to keep it aligned and Option to duplicate and Command D once again to duplicate that action. Next is the Scale tool or S on your keyboard. You can hold down Shift to keep it proportional and then drag up in a diagonal to change the size. A lot of the time I just like to use the bounding box and hold down Shift to keep it proportional because, I feel like I have better control that way, honestly. But you can also right-click and scroll down to Transform and then Scale. Then you can more precisely change the scale. If you hover over the percentage and scroll with your mouse, it will scroll the percentage. Otherwise, you just have to type it in. Next is Rotate or R on your keyboard. Here, I'm just using the bounding box again and the little rotate symbol shows up when you click by a corner. If you hold down Shift, it will snap into position 90 degrees or 180 degrees, etc., which can be really useful, or you can find Rotate, Scale, and Reflect over here under the Text tool. Click Rotate or hit R and you can do the exact same thing, holding down Shift, if you want to snap it into place. One thing you can do with the Rotate tool, that you can't do with just the bounding box, is you can move the anchor point or crosshairs so that it will rotate from wherever that point is, instead of just the middle. Reflect is O on your keyboard and you can remember that because an O is a perfect reflection of itself. You can reflect it vertically by clicking and dragging up to down, or horizontally by clicking and dragging from left to right or right to left. Once again, holding down Shift while doing so will snap it into place, perfectly reflected. If you move the crosshairs by clicking somewhere to the side, you can click and drag it over to reflect it on the other side of the points. If you hold Shift, it will align perfectly and if you hold down Option or Alt, it will duplicate. 7. Pencil Tool, Pen Tool, Blob Brush Tool, Smooth Tool, Shape Builder Tool, Scissor Tool, & Puppet Warp: The first drawing tool I want to go over is the Pencil tool. You can find it over here on the toolbar where the Paintbrush tool is, or it's N on your keyboard. The Pencil tool creates lines rather than shapes. Right now, it's set to no stroke, so you can give it one by making sure that Stroke is in front of Fill, which means that it's selected, and then selecting a color in your swatches panel. You can toggle between selecting Stroke and Fill by hitting X, or just click on them. So now, Fill is selected and if I give it a fill...it's kind of awkward. You definitely want to focus on Stroke with the Pencil tool. I'm just going to give it no fill and click on the Stroke to bring it forward. Then you can come up to the control panel and change the size of the stroke. If I draw close enough to the stroke before it, it will automatically connect. If you don't want that to happen, you can double-click the Pencil tool and it will bring up Options. Every tool will have some sort of Options panel that you can experiment with. In the Pencil tool option panel, there's Fidelity, which controls the accuracy and smoothness of your strokes. If I set it all the way over to Accurate and draw something, you can see that it's a lot more accurate. If I set it all the way over to Smooth and draw a similar line, it's super smooth and inaccurate and didn't pick up on the line work that I was doing there. I like to keep it in the middle usually. I also like to uncheck "Keep selected," and "Edit selected paths" because I feel like it helps with accuracy. You can choose to uncheck "Close paths when ends are within" a certain amount of pixels as well. Another really cool thing that you can do with the Pencil tool is you can use it to clean up your illustrations or your lettering. I wrote this on a piece of paper and scanned it in, then traced it in Illustrator with Image Trace using the black and white logo custom setting, but I don't quite like how it traced it. I'm not a big fan of these weird points that Illustrator makes a lot. What I can do to really easily and really quickly fix that, instead of coming in with the Direct Selection tool and editing it this way, which can be really time-consuming if you have a lot of these, you can take the Pencil tool instead, or hit N on your keyboard, and then if you just draw along the path, you can fix it that way. This is a time-saver like nothing else. As soon as I learned this trick, oh my gosh, the amount of time I've saved is just astronomical. [laughs] One thing you do you have to be sure of is that you start out on the path and then end on the path. If I started here or even just right off the path, I will just make a new pencil path. It's actually really precise. It's really just so awesome. [laughs] I can't believe it took me years to discover this. I am not doing this very well because I'm using a mouse, and I'm not very good at the mouse, but you get the idea. See there, I didn't quite meet the path, so I'll just undo that. Then from here, I can also use the Smooth tool and smooth things out of it, but I'll go over that tool a little bit later. Next is the Pen tool. It takes a lot of practice to get comfortable with the Pen tool. There are entire classes on Skillshare that are dedicated to just the Pen tool, but I just wanted to briefly go over it for the sake of demonstration, and just in case you may need it for this project. You can create lines and shapes with the Pen tool. You just click, and then click again where you want it to connect, and so on and so forth. To end the line, just click on another tool or hit V for select. If you click and drag with the Pen tool it creates handlebars off of the anchor points so that you can use it to create curves. I'll just really quickly make a weird shape so I can show you how to close it. If you hover the Pen tool over the first point, a little circle shows up next to the Pen tool symbol. Then you can click, and that closes the shape. From here, you can give it a fill color and no stroke. If you want to switch between a curved line and a straight line, before you place your next point, hover over the last point until a little arrow shows up, then click. Then from there, your line will be straight. Once again, this takes practice and getting used to, so try not to get too frustrated if you're having trouble with it at first. Next is the Blob Brush tool. I'm changing the size of the brush by hitting the left and right bracket [ ] keys. Then I'm just going to select a better color here. The Blob Brush tool is definitely my favorite drawing tool in Illustrator. You actually draw with it like you do with the Pencil tool, but instead of making a line, it makes a shape. If you're drawing with the same color, it will automatically connect the strokes that you make. You can see when I click on it, it's a shape with anchor points, and these lines are connected. If you double-click to bring up the options panel, you can change the fidelity with the Blob Brush tool as well, and with this tool, I like to set it closer to accurate. Next is the Smooth tool. I have it set to Shift S, but otherwise, it's here underneath the Paintbrush tool. Make sure the object you want to smooth is selected, and then just slide it along the edge like so. If you zoom out and use the Smooth tool, the effect is a lot more drastic. The closer you are, the more precise you can get with the tool. Here, I'm using the Blob Brush tool to draw some details. With this specific shape selected, I can hit Shift E for the Eraser tool, and it will erase only the selected shape. Then I can use the Smooth tool to smooth it to my liking. You can select the Star tool, and as you click and drag, you can hit the up and down arrow keys to create more or less points. If I hold down Shift, I can keep it locked in place. From here, you can use the Shape Builder tool or Shift M on your keyboard to do a bunch of different things. First, make sure you've selected both shapes, hit Shift M, and then drag along both shapes to merge them together. Normally, it doesn't have this checkerboard pattern. For whatever reason, my screencast didn't film the Shape Builder tool quite right, but it's similar enough that you can still get the right idea. If I undo that, hover over the shapes, and click one of them, that separates the shapes from each other. If you hold down Option (or Alt on PC), a minus symbol comes up, which makes it so that when you click on the shape, it deletes it. This comes in really handy with more complex shapes as well. I've selected the flower petals and the lines, and now, if I hit Shift M for the Shape Builder tool, hover over the edges, and hold down Option so the minus symbol comes up, I can then click to delete them. Here's another example. That's just a really easy, fun way to create some fun highlights onto shapes that already exist. The next tool is the Scissor tool. It's under Reflect on the toolbar. I don't use this as often as I use the others, but it still does come in handy. All you do is click one point and then click another, and it has cut the shape in half. You can do it with any shape, it doesn't have to be a simple shape. Finally, we've come to the Puppet Warp tool, which for me is one of the most useful tools for sure. I use it all the time. [laughs] It can be found under the Shape Builder tool on the toolbar. Once you click it, it usually generates a few pins itself. I don't want this many, so I'm just clicking them and deleting them, and then clicking again to create new pins. From there, you can move the pins to move the shape. The other pins will act as pins, pinning down the shape until you click on them to manipulate them. You can also hover over the circle that shows up around selected pins until there's a rotate symbol, and then click to rotate it. Like I said, I use this a lot, and I use it a lot with stems and for arranging things more precisely in a complex composition. It's truly the best tool ever. [laughs] 8. Artboards, Align, & Pathfinder: I have Artboard over here on the right. If you don't have it you can find it in Window and make sure that Artboard is checked. You can hit Shift Command H to hide your Artboard, and Shift Command H again to bring it back, or go to View > Show Artboards. You can create more Artboards by turning an object into one. If you click and drag holding down Shift to make a square, you can make your shape that way, or if you want to be more precise you can double-click and input the exact size you want. I'm just going to move this out of the way. I want to align this square to the Artboard. To do that, select it and head over to your Align Panel. Once again, if you don't have it you can find it under Window. You want to make sure that in the Align To menu, in the bottom right corner, you have Align to Artboard selected. Then you can hit Horizontal Align Center and Vertical Align Center to perfectly center it on the Artboard. You can also use Horizontal Align Left and Right, and Vertical Aligned Top and Bottom. If you switch it from Align to Artboard to Align to Selection, and then select both objects you can then align them to each other. If you wanted to keep one of the objects static, you select both objects and then hold down Option and select the object you want to keep static. Then when you click Horizontal Align Center, and Vertical Aligned Center, you're only moving the one object. Now, I'm going to demonstrate how to turn an object into an Artboard. I want this square to be an Artboard. What you do is you hit Command C to copy and Command B to paste in back, you can also hit Command F to paste in front, it doesn't really matter if the square you're going to transform into an Artboard is in front or in back, but this way it paste it directly behind or in front of your original square. As you can see there are two squares now. With one of them selected you go to Object > Artboards > Convert to Artboards. Then I have it set to Command 9 on my keyboard. Now there are two Artboards. If you go to the Artboard panel and double-click on any of the Artboards, it will zoom into that Artboard. Then you can also drag and drop it or just click the trash can symbol to delete it. Now, I just have the square Artboard. Another thing that's useful in Align is Distribute Spacing. I'll just hit Command 2 to lock my square background or you can make sure that this little symbol in the Layers Panel is clicked, and you can click it on and off, or you can go to Object > Unlock All, and then Object > Lock All. Anyway, what I can do is select all four flowers and click Horizontal Distribute Spacing, and it perfectly spaces them based on where the outside two flowers are. This is because I have it set to Align to Object. If it was set to Align to Artboard it would space out perfectly along the Artboard. You can do the same thing with Vertical Distribute spacing or you can align it to a key object by selecting all four flowers, holding down Option, clicking one and then select Vertical Distribute spacing and it will align like so. You can also adjust the spacing manually in this little box here. Just remember that if it's not distributing how you want it to chances are it's because you have it on the wrong setting. To demonstrate, when I switch it to Align to Artboard, I can then use the Distribute Objects and Distribute Spacing Commands to align it to the Artboard. Obviously, you can end up with some funky arrangements. Just know that it takes a little bit of getting used to. It all makes sense and can be super useful, it's just that you have to remember certain little steps or it can be frustrating when it's not spacing how you want it to. Finally, we have Pathfinder. This does a lot of the same things that the Shape Builder tool does. I have two objects here, a triangle and a rectangle, and if I hit Unite, it turns them into one shape. I'll just undo that with Command Z. Minus Front deletes the object that's on top as well as what it intersects. Intersect deletes everything but the intersection. Exclude deletes just the intersection. Divide breaks up all of the shapes, so now there's three shapes... and so on and so forth. I tend to use the Shape Builder Tool instead because I just find it easier and a little bit more intuitive to use, but I do use Unite a lot and it's a good thing to know about. Okay, that does it for the Illustrator Tools section of the class. Next up, I'll go over choosing and applying color. 9. Choosing Color: If you don't like the colors that you use to paint your elements, there's a few different ways to go about choosing colors. First, I'm going to make some squares. Once again, if I hold down the Shift key, it'll make a perfect square, click and drag while holding the shift key to keep it in place and the option key to duplicate, and then you hit Command D to duplicate that action. Hold option and drag to duplicate the shape or object and Command D to duplicate the last action that you did. Then you can just take your eyedropper tool, which is I on the keyboard, and come over to the color panel and select colors this way, or you can select colors from a photograph. I'm still using the eyedropper tool and this is one of the times when it's useful to hold down command to bring up the selection tool so that you can quickly switch between squares and switch between the selection and the eyedropper tool. If you still feel unhappy with your color palette, try looking to other artists for color inspiration. I personally really like doing this and I find it super helpful. But I know that some people like to create before they consume, if you will, which I understand because you want to avoid comparing yourself to others. But if you're feeling stuck, it might be a good idea to try anyway. I also like to look to Pinterest for color palettes because people make a ton of really nice palettes, so that's an option as well. I have a bunch of color options here. I went overboard on this to be honest. But essentially, the colors on the top over the flower petal colors and the colors on the bottom will be the leaf and stem colors. Once you've chosen your colors, there's a nifty tool called the blend tool that you can use to create more gradient colors. When you're coloring something like a flower that has multiple colors in it, it's useful to have a gradient of colors. I'm selecting these three oranges and then select Object > Blend > Blend Options. Then you want to select Specified Steps. You can choose the number of steps between each color block and I want three, which will give me six new colors and nine colors altogether. Select Okay, and then come back up to Object > Blend > and Make. If I hit Command H to hide my edges, you can see that now I have a bunch of really lovely in-between colors that I can choose from. It makes a gradient from the lightest color to the middle color and from the middle color to the darkest color. Something you have to do to separate the squares is make sure you select them and then go to Object > Expand > and click Okay. Then right-click and Ungroup, and then you can select each individual square. Chances are you won't need all nine colors for each element, especially if you're trying to keep the amount of colors down for print, so you may want to delete a few. Once you're happy, you want to bring your colors over into Swatches panel. Select a group, then click the little folder down here and you can name it if you want to, but I never really bother, and click Okay, and so on and so forth. I actually learned this Blend tool trick from Bonnie Christine, who, if you don't know, is one of the best teachers on the entire Internet. She has a bunch of classes here on Skillshare that you should definitely check out. 10. Applying Color: Now that we have all of our colors chosen, we need to apply them. It's easier to color your motifs if you haven't assembled the line work and the color together already. Don't be like me and assemble them before recoloring it. But if you did do that, something you can do to make your life easier is select the Magic Wand Tool, or Y on your keyboard, and click on your line work. The Magic Wand will select all of the objects that have the same exact fill color, so all the line work is automatically selected. Then you can hide it by hitting Command 2. When you want to bring it back, go to Object > Show All. Now you're free to edit all of your colors without touching the line work. Generally, when I do this, I don't have quite so many motifs, but I got a little carried away in this instance, so coloring all of these is probably going to take me a while. If I were to make a pattern out of this, I probably wouldn't use all of these flowers and I definitely wouldn't use as many colors because I'd want to make an alternate color way and recoloring it would take a lot longer than I would want it to. But this is going to be a placement print rather than a repeating pattern, so I'm not too concerned with that. I've selected this orange flower and to hide my edges I hit Command H. Up here on the top is what is called the Control panel. If you don't have this, go to Window and then make sure that Control is checked. You want to bring up the Recolor Artwork tool, which is this little round symbol with a gradient on it. This is one of my favorite tools in illustrator's arsenal. If you don't know how to use this tool that can be intimidating, but once you do it's truly the best thing in the world. [laughs] This is why you don't want to have your line work assembled over the colors already, it's showing up here even though it's hidden. You can click here where the arrow is to turn it into a straight line, which means that it's locked and can't be changed. But I'm going to have to remember to do that for every flower that I color, which is somewhat irksome. [laughs] Alas, anyway from here, choose one of the color groups that you've created. Then because the flower only has three colors and the color group has six, you can come down here to the left and click New Row as many times as you need to get all the colors in there. Then I like to manually slide around the different colors until I'm happy. Sometimes, depending on how it scans, you want to try to match the gradient that's showing up in your original color group. That can help you decide where you want your colors. But for these, I wasn't really paying attention to where the dark was and where the light was. I'm just picking what I think looks best. You can change colors by clicking and dragging one color over the top of another. Then click Okay and it will ask if you want to save the changes to the color group and you want to click No. Once again, you want to lock the dark line work color if it's there and select a color group. In this case, it actually has one more color than the color group has, so to reduce colors, click Cancel to exit out of that. Bring up the Recolor Artwork tool again. And you can drag one of the colors from the left side over the top of another color, which turns it into that color instead of switching the colors, which is what you do when you drag and drop on the right side. Click Okay and bring it back up. Now there's only six of the pink colors. That's how you reduce them. If I choose the yellow color group again, it now has the correct amount of colors. You can also try the randomly arranged color button to find an arrangement that you like. Then of course, you can always double-click to enter isolation mode and edit the colors manually. But I think using the recolor artwork tool just makes things a little bit easier sometimes. If there are too many colors, you can just select a color group and it will automatically reduce them for you. Although, later when you go back into the Recolor Artwork tooL, you might have like a ton of colors. I'm not sure why it does that. If you are really concerned about keeping your colors reduced, then you just want to make sure that the amount of colors in the group of colors that you're editing matches whatever color group you're applying to it. Say you want to try changing just one color and you want to choose from your swatches. Open up the Recolor Artwork tool, and then I'm going to change the color of the lettering and linework. I'll scroll to that color, select it, and double-click here on the swatch, and then choose Color Swatches. It will bring up all the colors that you have in your Swatches panel. Then you can select a different color and click Okay. If you want to change it back, you can just quickly drag it from left to right. That's a really useful thing to know. Before we move on, I wanted to quickly demonstrate what this process looks like with a different type of motif. People have asked me how I get the textures that I get, and I feel like I didn't quite demonstrate it well enough with the flowers. I'm selecting the 16 Colors preset for this. When I click Ignore White, because I haven't adjusted the contrast in the scan, It's not picking up on the entire background. So I'm just going to undo that and hit Expand. Then within isolation mode, I can select the Magic Wand tool and click on the background color, and it will only select that color, and every other color that's close enough to that color. Then I can hit Delete and go from there. I want to reduce the amount of colors here significantly. I have three colors already chosen in my color swatches panel. Once again, I'll go through the process of dragging and dropping one color from left to right over the colors that are similar. We'll see if that reduced it enough. Yeah. I did it enough times that there's only three colors. Sometimes it's hard to tell because the colors are so similar. But that's exactly what I wanted. Now I can click my color group to apply those colors and hit Okay. I don't like how all of the colors have applied, so I'm double-clicking into isolation mode and manually coloring the different shapes so that you can see more of the textures that were created with Image Trace. This may seem like a bit of a waste of time -- Selecting the 16 colors preset instead of just selecting 3 when you're initially going to trace the scan -- but if I hadn't chosen a larger number, Image Trace wouldn't have come up with so many interesting shapes, and it wouldn't have as interesting of a texture. I think it's worth spending a little bit more time in order to achieve this textured effect. One more thing, I'd like to have a clean swatches panel. To do that, just select all the colors you don't want and drag them to the trash can to delete them. 11. Assembling the Elements: Now I have all my motifs colored and ready to assemble. I created the lettering for this pretty much the same way that I created the line work, with the black and white logo preset in Image Trace. You may want to assemble the stems, flowers, and leaves before you start your composition. But I prefer to do so as I go, especially for a composition like this, where I know I want to build the flowers all the way around the lettering, which can get a little bit tricky. I've sped most of this up, so if you'd like to skip ahead to where I slow down again and demonstrate something, I have a note set up about three minutes on that indicates where you can skip ahead to. Just like with the Rotate tool, you can move the Scale tool's anchor point and scale it up from the point rather than from the middle. Then you can just hit R, and it turns into the rotate tool automatically with the point in the same exact position. Here I've drawn the stem with the Blob Brush tool, and then to send it all the way to the back, I hit Shift Command [ If I scroll way down here, you can see that it's at the very bottom. It's a lot faster to then hit Command ] which brings it up one level at a time. Hit it as many times as you need to bring it up above the background square. That's a lot faster than hitting Command [ to bring it down one level at a time because there are so many shapes you'd need to travel down. Another nifty trick is to use the effect Roughen to make your shapes less smooth. Go to Effect > Distort and Transform > Roughen. You'll want to click Preview so that you can see your changes. Then Smooth, and then play around with the detail and size. Ah, there we go. Clicking Absolute makes a big difference, apparently. Click Okay when you're happy with it. When you apply an effect, it's applied to the original shape as an effect, which is not the same thing as editing the shape itself. I'm not quite sure how to explain that, but as you can see here, you can't edit the individual curves. To make it fully applied to the shape, you have to expand it. Go to Object > Expand Appearance, and then once again, Object > Expand. Don't forget to fully expand it. And as you can see... it is now applied as the vector shape and not just an effect applied to a vector shape. Now I have this really nice messier stem. I don't like how thin the line work looks here. A way to fix that is to use Offset Path. You could just give the shape a stroke to thicken it, but I prefer this method because it gives me better results and better control, I think. Go to Object > Path > Offset Path, then you want to click Preview. I have the whole thing selected and they don't want that, so I'm just going to cancel that and make sure that I've selected just the lines. Go back to Object > Path > Offset Path. You can change it to round and edit the offset amount. Click On and Off preview to see the difference. I think I'm going to change that back to Miter. Yeah, I like that better. Just click Okay. It's essentially created a second shape underneath, that's a little bit wider. You can edit it if you need to. Then you'll want to merge the two shapes. Make sure both are selected, head over to Pathfinder and select Unite, and there you go. I find this useful if I resize something, then the linework doesn't match up with the rest of the line work. If I just am not thinking, and I'm using different stroke sizes. So yeah, that can be really helpful. 12. Final Steps + Saving Your Work: Once you have everything assembled, you may want to make a clipping mask to hide everything that comes off the edge of your Artboard. You want to make sure that everything is unlocked. Go to Object > Unlock All. Then select your background and hit 'Command C' to copy and Command F to paste in front. We want to bring it all the way to the front. Hit Shift Command ] to do that. The reason we want it in the front is that this square acts as the bounding box for the clipping mask. The way that you indicate to Illustrator which object or shape you want to be the clipping mask is by putting it on top of everything else selected. Select everything and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make, or it's Command 7 on your keyboard. I've double-clicked to enter the clip group. If I zoom in and select this leaf, you can see that the clipping mask didn't trim it and instead is just acting as a mask, so this shape is still editable in its full form. If I select it and click Trim over in Pathfinder, it will completely trim the edges and ungroups everything which is annoying. But the main thing to know is that it turns every piece of the composition into its own unique shape like this. I don't like to use that for complex compositions like this, because I like to work as non-destructively as possible. Which basically means that I like to keep things as editable as possible. But Trim can be useful in simpler applications. Like for example, if you drew a lined pattern over another shape and you wanted to trim the edges to that shape, that would be a good time to use Trim. I'm undoing that. If you need to undo the clipping mask at any time, go to Object > Clipping Mask > Release. When it comes to saving your artwork as a JPEG or PNG, there's a couple of different ways you can do that. One way is to go to File > Export > Save for Web. Save As is where you save it as an Illustrator file or a PDF. Going back to Export, Save for Web, you can save it as a JPEG, PNG, or GIF. Dithering essentially reduces the color range of an image. If you're saving it as a PNG, you'll want to choose PNG-24. Save for Web always saves your work at 72 dpi. So even if you adjust the percentage over here, it will still save at 72 dpi. It also always only saves what's on the Artboard. So you really don't have to do a clipping mask. Then just hit ''Save'' and figure out what folder you want to save it to. Boom. If you want to save your artwork at higher than 72 dpi, go to File > Export > Export As. I'm going to save it as a JPEG this time. If I hadn't applied a clipping mask, I would want to check Use Artboards, which tells Illustrator to only render what's on the Artboard. I don't need it because I only have one Artboard. But you can also save multiple Artboards by using range and then telling it which ones you want it to save. Then click Export. Then I'm switching it to RGB, which is the best color mode for web. Illustrator is largely a print program, so it automatically is set to CMYK, which is the best color mode for print. But I want to share this on the internet, so I'm choosing RGB. Then you want to switch the resolution to 300 dpi. Switch it to Art Optimized, then you can also adjust the quality. But I never really notice much of a difference, honestly, so I just keep it in the middle. Sometimes when your Artboard is huge and you try to export it at 300 dpi, Illustrator can't save it at that high of a resolution. This can be pretty frustrating. What I do is either I bring it into Photoshop and then save it there at a higher resolution, or I try making my art and Artboard smaller and seeing if that works. I have my folder open already. Here's my high-quality JPEG and 72 dpi PNG. I'll just open them....and voila! 13. Thank You!: And that's that! Now it's time to create your own gouache influenced vector illustration and post it in the class projects. Thank you so, so much for joining me. If you're feeling intimidated by Illustrator still, believe me, I totally get it. But I promise you that with practice and actual practical application, Illustrator can become just as fun as painting traditionally is. If you enjoyed this class, please leave me a review. If you want to stay up to date with what I'm posting here, don't forget to hit the "Follow" button. You can also follow me @melissaleedesign on Instagram or sign up for my quarterly newsletter on my website. Thank you for watching, and as always, I can't wait to see what you create!