Create Your Simple Watercolor Calendar | Amarilys Henderson | Skillshare

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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

    • 1.

      Intro to Creating Your Simple Watercolor Calendar


    • 2.



    • 3.

      Write It Intro


    • 4.

      Write It Demo


    • 5.

      Paint It Intro


    • 6.

      Paint It Demo


    • 7.

      Lay It Out Intro


    • 8.

      Cleaning Up Art & Handlettering


    • 9.

      Lay It Out In Photoshop


    • 10.

      Lay It Out In Indesign


    • 11.

      Closing Thoughts


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About This Class


Set the tone for the year with beautifully simple watercolor! Create a calendar that is all your own in a short amount of time. We will paint watercolor pieces for each month, handletter our months, and lay it out easily. This is a fun class to kick off the new year while dabbling with the creative trends of the moment—watercolor and handlettering!

In this class you'll learn:

  • how to paint elegant linework with watercolor
  • keys to creating a cohesive calendar that's engaging
  • basic brush marker techniques
  • tips for handlettering
  • how to use a design program--you may choose either Indesign and Photoshop, both shown--to create a skeleton design for all of the pages
  • Amarilys' two favorite watercolor brands

This 30-minute class is perfect for beginners, doodlers, and those who like to tackle a fresh project while the enthusiasm is hot.



Meet Your Teacher

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Amarilys Henderson

Watercolor Illustrator, Design Thinker

Top Teacher

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. Intro to Creating Your Simple Watercolor Calendar: I'm Emelis Henderson, I thought it would be fun to create a calendar together. The thing about a calendar is you have to keep it all unified and make sure that all the images are stellar and go together nicely. We're really going to be duly with paint and making it look great. If you're anything like me, you enjoy the idea of a new project, gets super excited and you just want to get to work. I've tried to keep it as simple as possible so that it will get done and you'll have your calendar with automatic done and laid out in 30 minutes. So I hope you join me. 2. Supplies: The supplies you're going to need are watercolors. This is just some tube watercolor, they've been squirted into a palette. You're going to need brushes. The two techniques that I'll show will be with round watercolor sable brush. The sizes I use in this calendar are the size number 8 and 16. Something that I recommend people who are new to watercolor is to work larger. Common knowledge might make you think that working smaller would be better. You're wasting less supplies, and if you fail, it's not a big loss. But actually having a larger piece of paper is better. It gives you more flexibility. You are not as constrained, you're not as worried. If this doesn't work out, feel free to use the other side of that paper, be it on the back or on the other side of it because we're going to scan it, and we're going to lay it out in the computer. The wonderful thing of working from traditional mediums to working on the computer is that you can do that. You can fill a whole sheet of paper with different motifs, and use those snippets after you scan them for different pages on your calendar. Another thing that you're going to use is a brush marker. Be sure when you buy your brush maker that you check it, and open it up, and you see that tip. Make sure you get that. I recommend it gray or black. It doesn't need to be a certain color. Of course, you'll need paper as much as you need. I use Canson brand, a watercolor paper, it's 140 pound cold press. You will need to scan your pieces, get them on your computer, and I'll show you how to lay them out in both Photoshop and InDesign, and it will be up to you whichever you prefer. 3. Write It Intro: I've always been a fan of ink. It wasn't until about a year and a half ago that I got into brush marker, and when I discovered it, Instagrammed, "Where have you been all my life?" I was then approached to do seven spreads in a workbook that was all about exercising some of these brush marker techniques, and I even did manga spread, which is not in my real house. It's those kinds of opportunities that come up in the world of illustration that get to push me in different directions, and it was a really fun project to be a part of. The reason why I'm recommending the brush marker to handwrite your calendar months with is because it's consistent in that it doesn't vary in width very much, but it'll give it a hand done look within a short amount of time. 4. Write It Demo: Here's my brush marker. It is double tipped. So on this side, that is the brush marker side and that's what we'll start playing around with. I want you to just play around with the feel that it has. It is different from a brush. It is different from a marker. It's altogether its own thing. It has a bit of a mind of its own and I don't know if you're noticing here as I just practice these repetitive Js that the nib does a little crick at the beginning, depending on how much pressure you put on it. When you go down, you put a lot of pressure on it, going up a lot less pressure on it, which is very similar to calligraphy. Notice as I'm going sideways, I lighten up and as I'm going down, I pushed down. When you're applying this pressure as you write as you go down, and lightening up as you go up, that pressure is going straight into the middle of the brush marker. The difference is that the fabric or the material that they make that tip with is different from the bristles of the brush. The pressure doesn't go all the way to the tip. Something that's really fun to do with this brush marker and I'm speeding this up. I'm not getting this proficient with writing is the flyers that you can do with it. Even if you do simple lines, if you do these kind of dashes where I'm applying that pressure and letting go, just play around with different motifs and you'll see that there is definitely a partnership between your hand and what the brush marker does on its own. I'll often switch between the brush side and the fine tip side because it reminds me what my handwriting actually looks like. I enjoy just being able to flow quickly with it and it's also great for brainstorming different approaches. If you're not into the script that the brush marker can have gives, you're welcome to use this side and play around with different line treatments, different text treatments to make each month. Great. The important thing here is to be consistent with the way that you write the months. For those of you who are really new to hand lettering or really don't care for your handwriting. Here is some ideas. I often start out with a skeleton of a letter and then I'll build muscle onto it. That would be the easiest way, I think, to build up your own hand type. If I'm doing the letter J, again, I did it very grade schoolish and then I add the serifs and it's looking a bit like a bow tie. Then I fill in with a little more muscle. I keep adding body and details to the letter until it looks great since we're going to do opaque letters that are filled in. Then you can cheat a bit and start with the skeleton, fill in a bit more and serifs where you like, add flair where you like. Another idea is to use your same handwriting and layer it over and over again to have more of a rugged, sketchy you look, it might look pretty funky this way, but once we put it into the calendar and do it several times for the different months, it can have a pretty cool effect. Another way to write letters similar to the first and giving it body is to try to not pick up your marker very much. You continue to fill in the letters as you go and make them thicker. The hardest thing for some people is to make the contours of these lines from memory to make the outline of that letter a and so to fill it in, it helps a lot to understand the body of the letter and to keep going until it looks right. Try out these simple little exercises to help you develop your own look for hand lettering. 5. Paint It Intro: Okay, let's talk about what we're going to paint. Now, the key to this class is doing something that you feel comfortable with, and so we're going to keep it simple as much as possible. I'm just doing line drawings in watercolor of things that I like. One of the things that I learned from looking at illustrators and artists that I liked their work, I started to really look at things and wonder, why is it that I love that, what's so great about it? I noticed that it was always down to these details or very simple shapes that they just would repeat or orchestrate, lay out, in just the right colors or in the right layout and the right composition, the right line quality. They added their style to very simple things and made them look wonderful. So what should we do or think about, holidays, the seasons, the things that are in season, maybe food, maybe hobbies, and doodle to your strengths? 6. Paint It Demo: I'm going to start off with a quick demo using these concentrated watercolors from Dr. Ph. Martin's. I wanted to do some snowflakes. I recently did it for a greeting card and they were super simple and came out very fun. I take out a drop of the concentrated watercolors. You really don't need very much, that's why they're in such a small bottle. With my brush that is wet, I get to work. The fun thing about snowflakes is they can be stylized in so many different ways and this is a very simple application. It's basically an asterisk with dots at the end and at the center. I'll continue with these patterned, simple motifs, try different things as I go and make my snowflakes. Now, I'm going to use my go-to watercolor. I use Tubes. The brand is Mission Gold and another go-to of mine is like I said, asterisks. Something that I've learned along the way in illustration is, never underestimate the power of simple shapes. They can make a huge difference in your design and they are so fun. When you look at illustrators that you like, you might find that they have a unique way that they use, circles or dots or triangles. It seems pretty mundane, but when it's all put together, it arranges itself into this beautiful illustration. Part of the trick to making this calendar look great is just that taking simple shapes, arranging them together, and finding that very simple applications can make beautiful results. I'm switching now to a brush that's twice the size the one I used before. This one is a 16-round sable brush. I want to show you the importance of line quality. When we are doing the simple line drawings, it's so important that you explore the pressure with which you use your brush. I'm using a brush that is way larger than what I need, just so that I get a wide range of that width of the brushstroke. The more I press down, the wider the line goes, and the more I lead up, the thinner it goes. This gives me great flexibility to make these line drawings much more interesting and it can render more that width. You have a sense of depth and flow in your painting that is going to captivate the viewer. For these pumpkins, I am combining those two techniques. So as you see, I'm using that large brush. I'm weighing down where I want the width of those pumpkins to be nice and plump and bringing it in at the top. Yet, I'm going to use the tip of my brush to do details. Just like I did with the snowflakes, this time I have to have more control with my brush as I'm using a bigger one. Here's a little line quality hack. I love to use just the shape of the brush to make the shapes of the things I am creating. I'm just creating some very abstract foliage just by dabbing my brush up and down. Another exercise to do, if you're having a hard time coming up with a doodles, is again, to pick up that really big brush and to doodle with just the tip of it, it's going to create some really irregular lines that look pretty lovely. To top it off, try using continuous lines. Try to not pick up your brush very much at all and the shapes you'll create will be whatever kind, all of their own and it's a very intuitive free exercise. 7. Lay It Out Intro: Last principle that I want to chat about is simplicity. That is another core thing that we want to bring into our calendar, besides variety and unity. We're designing with a very clean layout based on a square and using very simple motifs to make it very fresh and clean. Let's talk layout. We have our paintings, we have our hand-lettered months, and now we're going to lay it out on the computer. You will only need to watch the tutorial for either Photoshop or InDesign. I think it would be beneficial to listen to both and see which one you feel more comfortable using. If you are a designer and you're used to laying things out, you can just listen to me while you work on things just to make sure that you don't miss a beat. But if this is new to you, you might feel more comfortable with using just Photoshop. The layout for this calendar is going to be very simple. It's a square at the top. We are going to allow some space here for the clipboard, if you're going to hang it up that way, and then on the bottom, it's a simple two-thirds, and one-third layout. Two-thirds of it, roughly about two-thirds. It's maybe a little more than half on this one, is the name of the month, and then about a third will be the month itself. If you want to stick strictly to the one-third, two-thirds rule, you could make this smaller. I like my numbers to be big, even though really the point is this up here. That layout will be very simple for us to just drop in. Once you get the rhythm of the first or second page, it'll be very easy to continue on with that and make the rest of the pages. 8. Cleaning Up Art & Handlettering: Something we all need to do is to clean up our artworks. So this is a scan. I did talk a little bit more at length in a tutorial I did about how to clean up your scanned work and I'll put a link in the notes section. As I showed you, this has a transparent background. So you see my top layer with all the wording in black. That bottom white is not part of the art. So when I select with the Lasso tool and push down while I'm selecting around January, I copy that and paste it. All I have there is the word January in black text. Again, all I have is the black text, it's not on the white. I'm going to save that as a Photoshop file because I want to keep that wording January isolated. If I make it a JPEG or anything else that flattens the artwork, I'll have black and white. I'm going to go back and do the same thing with the rest of the months. Now as a quick example, I'm going to clean up and play with the layout of the snowflakes. So this is my raw scan. I am going to copy the whole art board and create a new file. I'm going to make it a little bigger than seven by seven, which is our image size just to make sure it looks great. So I'm making it 8 by 8 and pasting that same art, there it is. So obviously, my art was actually bigger than 8 by 8. Then going to work on cleaning up that background and taking it completely off so that all I have is my line work. Again, I'm doing all the same steps that I did in that tutorial that I mentioned before. That's also available here on Skillshare. So I'm just erasing everything that's not snowflakes and now, I'm going to just cut out a few of them so that I can move them around a little better. Just cutting it in half. Cut and then paste and I'll create a new layer for me right away and with my cursor tool, I'm just going to rotate it by hitting the corners, shift, rotating, free transforming. Some people call it, you go up to Edit and hit "Free Transform". I'm just playing around with it, whipping it around to play with those snowflakes to make the composition of this better. A quick and easy idea for composition with your pieces is to make your motifs huddled around a corner or around the top, or to make one central object in the middle. Those are just some simple ideas. As you can see, I took some time and I divided each little snowflake into its own layer so that I could have complete control over where they went or how light I wanted them to be and that background, I'm going to leave it clear. 9. Lay It Out In Photoshop: This is hopefully the easiest way to lay it out. Some of you are very familiar with Photoshop. I wanted to include this. I'm creating a new document. It's going to be letter size because I am American. Whatever page size works best for you and your clipboard, go with that. I'm opening up the snowflakes image, so we're going to start with that one. As you can see, the background is knocked out. It is clean. First, I'm going to draw out some guides to help me. The center guide is always super useful, so I'm starting with that. From the top, I'm going to pull a guide from the ruler at about one inch. If your ruler is not out, hit Command R to make them appear. I'm also creating a margin so that each one of my pages has the same clean format, and I'm bringing them in an inch. Now while hitting the Shift button in the marque, I'm dragging out a perfect square. That's going to be where my art is going to land in. I'm going to go back and select my art. Now the way I'm going to do this because everything is in a separate layer is to group all these layers. Each snowflake is a layer, but I want them all to be together now. I'm going to group it, and then duplicate the group. Both of those are in that top right corner. Now I'm going to merge them. I have my single layer with all of my snowflakes. I'm going to select All, Edit, Copy. Now I'm going to show you a different way to paste. I wanted to be within that square, so I'm going to Paste Special, and then Paste Into. It's going to Paste Into that square and create a mask for me right there. I have my art, and I have my vector mask. As you can see, my art is a little bigger than that square. I'm going to bring it in, I want to show more of my snowflakes. Again, Free Transform, hitting that Shift button while I drag it to resize it. Then hitting the check mark when I'm happy with how it looks. There it is. Now I'm going to use that same square by hitting command while hitting that black and white area, that layer mask. I'm going to create a new layer. What I did was select that very same square, the same size as my art. I'm using my ink dropper to select a color, and I'm filling it with that color. For now, I'm going to keep it at normal or a 100 percent hit foreground color to make sure you select that color blue that we eye dropped. It's looking pretty garish, so I am going to deselect my square, and then play with the opacity, bring it down a notch. I'm bringing it down to eight percent. It's a very faint blue in the background that's going to make it look very unified. Now I have my art, it's within square, it looks great. Now I'm going to bring in those other two elements. First step, I'm opening that January that we had made before that is nice and knocked out just that black January. See, I'm on that layer, I select All. I'm just going to copy and paste again. I'll paste it into my larger piece. Now I'm going to paste it into my art since it's going to take up the bottom two-thirds of my calendar, I'm going to create one more guide at five inches. Again, this is going to help me remain consistent in how each one of these pages looks to promote unity in my calendar. I think it looks great, pretty clean. Now I'm going to grab those numbers that go with the month. Now in Illustrator file, you're going to open it up in Photoshop, and it's going to look pretty funky. But it's still very usable, no problem. We'll keep it at 300 resolution. We want it at full res. Make sure your numbers look like this, and it looks pretty bizarre. It has a clear background and it's a long, long line of these months and numbers. I'm going to use my marquee tool and select that first month. Again, I'm just copying and pasting. Bring it over to my piece again, paste it in, and it's going to be on that bottom right-hand third. I'm going to make it flush to the right-hand side of the art just as January will be flushed to the right-hand side of the art. I'm selecting both of these and doing a middle align, so that they are aligned with each other. Now the last thing that I'm going to do is change the color of these, and make it match my calendar art. I'm going to go to that layer, double-click on it. As I opened a Layer Style palette, I'm going to go to Color Overlay. It's always this garish red, I'm not sure why. We're going to drop in a darker blue for January, so it all matches. A quick shortcut, so the same thing happens to the other one is I'm going to right-click, copy the Layer Style, right-click again on the other layer, and Paste Layer style. Now there'll be that identical color. I didn't align this to the right. It will look so much better when it's flush to the right with my art, and the art is what's unifying everything together. There's my calendar page. Obviously I'm going to do the same thing for the other ones. Now that I have my guides, I just worked on top of this one, so it all stays unified. 10. Lay It Out In Indesign: Let's start laying this thing out in InDesign, because InDesign is my fav. So we're going to create our new document. I'm going to do it letter size since I'm here in the US and that is the size that will fit our clipboard. Obviously, I'm going to do 12 pages, pretty easy. But instead of starting on page 1, I'm going to give you a little trick of starting with master pages. Master pages are basically a template that can be applied to the rest of your pages. Whatever you do on this page will go on all of your pages. Whatever we do right now is going to be transparent. I chose my rectangle and I'm going to make this square where I'm going to drop in the images that we made with watercolor. So I made it seven inches by seven inches, but I'm going to drop it down just a little bit so that that clipboard buckle won't interfere with my art. There it is. There's my seven by seven. I'm going to put a guide right in the middle of the page so that I always see that in the rest of my pages and a guide that's a little to the right. Since I said we were going to do two-thirds of it, the hand lettering on the bottom and one-third of the calendar numbers on the bottom. Just to be sure that we're consistent, I'm going to make another rectangle where those calendar numbers are going to go. Now these are all blank rectangles and this is how it looks on the other pages, you see that the letter A for master is on all of these. Now we're going to place our art. Now these boxes that are there, they're pretend you can't really use them, they're just guides. So I had to create another box and go into Place, find my art in my files that I want to put for January and there it is. But my art is actually bigger than seven inches by seven inches. I hover over that square with the hand so that I can actually see the art within the box. So the box is really a window, and there it is. I'm going to hop now onto Illustrator. The reason I'm going to do that is, I'm going to open these calendar numbers and I'm just going to do a simple copy and paste. Hiding all the other layers just to be sure that I grabbed the right month to make sure that it's just January, I selected it by dragging my cursor. Well, I'm clicking on it and just hit "Copy". When I'm in InDesign, I just hit "Paste" and it drops right in as a vector. Put it in that box. I will make it fit just right. I want the right to be flushed with the right of the calendar image art, and now all that's missing is the month. So I have my clean January image here. It's a JPG right now and all I'm now going to do is hit "Image trace". Since it's so high contrast, it's going to do it right away for me, super-easy. I hit "Expand". So right now I'm going to go to Edit, Ungroup, and now I see all my white and little pieces. I click on something that's white. Go to Select, Same, Fill color. It's going to select all the white pieces. I hit "Delete", and now all that's left are all the black pieces, which is my January. Then go back and group those. Now I have my clump of the word January in my hand lettering and I can do so much with it now. If you've taken my first class, design a watercolor for alphabet, you know how excited I am about making vectors from your work. Now that it's a vector, I can make it any color. I'm going keep it on black. All I'm going to do for now is to click on it one more time, hit "Copy", and I'm ready to go back into InDesign. I am back in InDesign and I'm ready to paste again. So here's my January hand lettering vector. I'm going to place it right on the left-hand side here, I'm hitting the "Shift key" so that it's always proportionate as I drag and resize it. So I'm getting myself just a little bit of a margin between the name of the month and the numbers of the days. Put it on preview for just a second and I realized that my January's not aligned with this top art, it's aligned to the gutter that InDesign gives you there. That looks better. Now as you notice, the colors I have here are just from what has been pasted into this piece. But I want to go more specific. Then I take a shortcut in using the dropper tool to select a color and then creating a new color by hitting that icon there. I always change my colors to CMYK so that they print well. Now I'm going to select what I want to be that light blue so it matches my snowflakes perfectly. This is totally my personal design choice, but I'm going to make the background of this image, this very light blue, a lighter version of this color by playing with the tint of it. It's a Photoshop file with the transparent background. So it's going to pick up whatever color I want. Now it seems like the writing got a little washed out. So I am using the dropper tool once again to select another color that's darker but still within my snowflakes, and I will make the writing all that darker color. One more thing on aligning, I find that it looks best to align the month with the numbers right through the middle. So just to review; I've got my square image, it's seven by seven. I chose for it to have an eight percent tint in the background. I aligned the numbers of the months to right align with the image. I aligned the word of the month to left align with the image and, center aligned with the numbers. So here is my final calendar. I actually opted to have the snowflakes on December. Those are all the colors that I used within it. Switch in a presentation modes so you can see all the pages just for fun. So I'm showing that variety in each piece has a different motif, different color scheme, but they're all united by this background color, just a light tint that comes from each one of the pieces then a darker color from the same artwork that goes on the lettering and the calendar numbers, and I kept it unified in that way. It's really simple to diversify your art and keep it simple, you just need to create a skeleton, a design language to flow throughout the calendar. 11. Closing Thoughts: I hope you're so excited with your calendar. I'm sure they look great. Make sure you show me. I want to see it. I'm really looking forward to the different takes you have on it. Thanks for joining me. If you have any questions, I am happy to respond. If you've taken any of my other classes, you know that I like to engage with students and if you haven't, check them out, I think you'll enjoy them too. Happy New Year. I'm going to get an even cooler clipboards to put mine on, one that has like a really big buckle up here, kind of thing, big clamp, I think that'll be cool. That'll look good anywhere.