Remove Backgrounds from Watercolor Illustrations | Sandra Mejia | Skillshare

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Remove Backgrounds from Watercolor Illustrations

teacher avatar Sandra Mejia, Illustrator + Pattern Designer

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

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.



    • 2.

      Class Project


    • 3.



    • 4.

      Lasso Tool


    • 5.

      Pen Tool


    • 6.

      Eraser Tool


    • 7.

      Brush Tool


    • 8.

      Special Selection for Tiny Details


    • 9.

      Tiny Details - the Simple Way


    • 10.

      Multiple Tools


    • 11.

      Finishing Touhes


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About This Class

In this class I´ll show you how I use different tools in ADOBE® PHOTOSHOP® software to remove the background of my watercolor illustrations. Painting in watercolors is great, but it´s even better when you can isolate your watercolor illustrations to create different compositions, change your background color and edit each element separately. I´ll demonstrate how I use the lasso tool, the eraser, the pen tool, the brush with layer masks and the way I work with tiny, hard to edit details.

For this class you need a basic knowledge of ADOBE® PHOTOSHOP®, but if you don´t know how to use it yet, here on Skillshare you´ll find great classes on it.

Meet Your Teacher

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Sandra Mejia

Illustrator + Pattern Designer

Top Teacher

Hello! I'm a Freelance Illustrator and Pattern Designer. I was born in Medellín, Colombia (puedes escribirme en Español!). I create detailed, stylized, playful illustrations, patterns and characters from my studio in Ottawa, Canada.

I have very big eyes and I love animals. Most of my inspiration comes from nature and animals.

My art has been licensed by companies around the world for use in: Fabrics, Stationery, Kids, Editorial, Greeting Cards, Fashion, Puzzles, Gift and Home Decor.

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1. Trailer: Hello, I'm Sandra Bowers. I'm an illustrator and surface pattern designer. Join me in this class where I will show you the methods that work best for me for cutting out the backgrounds of your hand painted illustrations in Adobe Photoshop software. Isolating the elements will allow you to create better compositions, change the background colors, and edit your items separately. I'll be demonstrating how I use the lasso tool, the pen tool, the eraser, the brush with layer masks, and how to work with tiny hard to isolate details. So let's start cutting things out. 2. Class Project: For our class project, you will select an icon you have painted and cut it out by using at least three different tools so you can compare and see which one works best for you. This is a very useful exercise because you will not only learn which is a tool you like best and you're better at, but you will also know which one works quicker for you. Be sure to apply your icon to a dark background so we can see how it's cut out. It is optional but it's really fun to create a composition for a greeting card with your icons. 3. Set-up: First let's open Adobe Photoshop software and create a new file. Make it 20 by 20 inches, 300 pixels for each. Go to File, Place Embedded or just place and select your scan file. I scan at 1200 PPI and save as JPEG. Change the size and position so it feels the document. I can make it larger because I scanned at a larger resolution. Now select the lasso tool, and select around your icons to get rid of the areas we don't need. Press Command J in Mac or Control J in Windows, and it will create a new layer with our selection. Turn off the original layer and let's move it again so it looks straight. Go to Image, Adjustments Levels or Control L and move the sliders around until they image seem smoother, but not to dark or too light. Then hit Okay. Now we'll create a separate layer for each icon. So grab the lasso tool and go around each icon, then hit Edit Copy, Edit Paste in Place, or I have a shortcut for this in my keyboard that is Control C, and then Control F. You can look online for keyboard shortcuts or you can define your own by going into there Preferences menu. 4. Lasso Tool: We will use the Lasso tool to cut this cloud out. Simply click on it to start and drag around the shape. When you're done, hit select Inverse. Go to the cloud layer and press delete. That was very easy but not very accurate. So go back in and erase the areas you didn't like. Contract click on the thumbnail of the layer, go to select Modify smooth. Let's try four pixels. Now, go to select Modify contract, and try four pixels again, and hit delete. That would smooth it out a bit, but I still think this method is not too precise, as you can see when you really zoom in. 5. Pen Tool: We're going to use a pen tool on this cloud. This is a super useful tool, I'm very precise, but it takes some time to get used o it. Again, explaining how to use it will take up the whole class. So I'll just show you the basics. You have to practice a lot with these tool. First, I hated it, but now I love it. Place a point anywhere to begin, then place another point, and without releasing drag to make the curve, and then release. Touch the last point you drew by holding down Alt in Windows or Option Mac and then try your next point. These will make a corner point and you will be able to direct the next curve wherever you want. When you're done going around it, touch the first point to close the shape and hit right-click. Click, make selection and "Okay." Now go to select, inverse and delete. 6. Eraser Tool: Using the eraser is very simple. You just select the eraser tool and then go over on the shape. This is easier and more accurate if you use a drawing tablet, but you can also use a mouse. If your lines are too wobbly, try zooming in a lot to erase. After you've erased around your icon with a small eraser, go around again with a bigger eraser. So it's easier to use the lasso tool to go around the erased area and go to Select, Inverse. Now hit "Delete." I'm going to compare this to the one cut out with the pen tool. So you can see that the pen is more precise. You can choose a tool you want according to your taste and the desired outcome. 7. Brush Tool: The brush tool is my favorite tool along with the pen tool. If you have a graphics tablet, using the brush to isolate icons is great because you can use a brush that varies sizes with pressure. If you're using a regular mouse, using the brush is just like using the eraser. Select the brush tool and select the brush that changes sizes according to pressure. To make this brush open your brushes panel, make sure the spacing is set to 1 percent and the hardness to 100 percent. Then click Shape Dynamics, and in Size Jitter, select Pen Pressure. Make sure that smoothing and protect texture are selected and click on the new brush icon. Name your brush and hit "Okay". I already have mine so I hit "Cancel". Now click on the layer mask button and click on the mask icon. In a mask, if you paint with black, it hides that area. Here you can see my brush changing sizes. So mean and start painting around the object. We're using pressure, press lighter in the areas where you need a lighter brush. If you're using a mouse, just keep making your brush smaller to make the details. If you've painted over an area that you don't want to hide, just change your brush color to white and paint over it and it will appear again. This is a good thing about layer masks. You don't change your icon permanently. Now let me show you what I do with these antennas or any other super thin detail. You can either try to drive around it or you can cover it completely, erasing off so that it's easy to go around with the lesser tool. Once you've selected the whole image, go to Select Inverse and graph that field to appeal the outside with black to hide it. Sometimes you need to click several times before all the white disappears. Now deselect it. Let's see this antenna. I don't like how it looks, so I'll select a similar color and create a new layer and redraw it with the brush tool. It looks so much better now. Since it's so thin, you won't notice it doesn't have that water color texture. Now make sure you select the layer mask and use a brush with black to paint over the other antenna to erase it. 8. Special Selection for Tiny Details: These type of icons are the most complicated to isolate. You should plan ahead and try not to paint a lot of icons like these, if you are going to edit them digitally. Or we prefer to spend a long time editing. First, duplicate the icon's layer and hide the original one. Go to Image, Adjustments, Desaturate. Now go to Image, Adjust, levels or "Command L," and then move the sliders to the middle, so that the painted areas get darker and the whites get whiter. Hit "Okay." Go to Image, Adjustments, Curves and move will the line around to make the darks as black as possible, and hit "Okay." Now go to Select, Color Range. Touch the white area in your image and make sure fuzziness is set to 200, and hit "Okay." Now let's zoom in. Hide this layer and make the regional visible. Go to Select, Modify, Smooth, two pixels and hit "Okay." Now go to Select, Inverse, and make sure you're on the right layer. Then hit "Command J," and you'll have the selection on a new layer. Turn up the original layer again. Now let's erase this white that slipped. This is what in our view we are going to use it on a website or something really small. But not if you zoom in to see it bigger. We have to edit it some more. Choose the eraser and erase white areas or parts that you don't like. Now, select the same brush we created before and start choosing the color with the color picker tool, or hit "Alt" and click on the color you want. Start painting the edges and missing gaps. If you really zoom in, you'll see the difference between the pixels of the areas you haven't painted on yet. Now start using the Clone Stamp tool to fix the yellow circles. We don't use a brush tool here to paint them, because it will be very obvious because they would lose the water color texture. Here you can see the difference between the different stages of the process. The left one is so much better, even if it means more work. 9. Tiny Details - the Simple Way: There is a way that you can make the process faster and even look better sometimes, but you have to plan for it when you're painting. Here I made gels, the golden circles, so I'm going to erase their background with the eraser very quickly. Then I'll use a brush to paint the stems or lines in a layer underneath them. This way the editing is quicker and it looks so much better. 10. Multiple Tools: Sometimes it's better to use multiple tools to edit your icons. This depends on what you're going to cut out. Let's study this one using multiple tools. I'll use the Pen tool for areas that have straight lines and angles, and then I'll use the brush. Now I'll use the Clone Stamp tool to fix some details. I will use a mask and a brush to erase the rest. 11. Finishing Touhes: Everything is cut out now so we can arrange our elements as we want. Just move them around. I'm going to use them to create a Valentine's day card. I'm going to crop the document so there's not so much empty space on the sides, and so that they're like a five by seven card. Then I'll add some text here with the brush tool on a new layer. This text is too big, so select it with the lasso tool and use Command T or transform to make it smaller and move it. I'm going to turn on the background layer so you can see that now it works on any color. Hit Command U or go to layer adjustments, hue, saturation to change the colors. Select the one you like best, and then hit "Okay", and here we have it. Now you can use your hand painter icons to create compensations, patterns, or whatever you want and change the background colors. I hope you enjoyed this class and that you'll post your icons in the project gallery. If you want to see how I paint my icons, you can go to my other class, Watercolors For Illustrators. If you want to use these icons you just cut out for a pattern, you can checked out my other class, Transform Watercolor Icons Into Intricate Patterns. Bye-bye.