galaxies & starscapes in ink and watercolor | Erin Kate Archer | Skillshare

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galaxies & starscapes in ink and watercolor

teacher avatar Erin Kate Archer, art & illustration

Watch this class and thousands more

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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.



    • 2.



    • 3.

      star studies


    • 4.

      simple galaxy


    • 5.

      simple starscape


    • 6.

      intermediate galaxy


    • 7.



    • 8.

      outro & project


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About This Class

this class is creating galaxies & starscapes in ink and watercolor. we'll learn how to create the effect of deep space, multiple different ways of creating stars, and a few more tricks to creating beautiful & magical starry illustrations. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Erin Kate Archer

art & illustration


erin kate archer is a new york-based artist & illustrator with an ethereal, magical style. her work aims to calm, comfort, and transport. from immersive fairytale landscapes and glowing high-key celestial pieces, to charming flora & fauna and children’s book illustrations – erin makes what was once a static image a tranquil visual journey. 


erin has illustrated children's picture books; was selected for the sing for hope NYC piano painting project; is a skillshare top teacher, and has created work for a number of consumer brands. 


follow along with her on instagram, check out her portfolio for some finished projects, and visit her etsy shop to purchase prints... See full profile

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1. intro: Hi there, I'm Arun K. Hector. I'm a watercolor illustrator. This class is creating galaxies and starscaping ink and watercolor. In this class, we're going to start out with the basics of how to create the backdrops, any effects of stars and starlight, as well as creating your own galaxy illustrations from the more simple version, and then moving on as we gain new techniques, to more complex versions. If this sounds like something that's interesting to you, make sure you enroll now. Thank you. 2. supplies: First things first, let's go over supplies. It's very similar to the supplies I've recommended in my intro to ink and watercolor illustrations class. So if you haven't seen that already, make sure to check it out. But as always, we'll need brushes, I have here a tendon at three brush and then masking tape and tissue paper to mask out the edges and mop up any excess color. Then we'll need watercolor paper, I recommend using a high pound paper. This is 140 pound and anything less, you will struggle with a little bit of buckling in your paper as this is a very wet technique. Then we'll need a watercolor palette. Again, I recommend using a cheaper watercolor palette for this project because you use lot of paint when you're illustrating galaxies and it's just more economical this way. Then as far as special supplies, we need masking fluid, this is really helpful tool for watercolor illustration you can draw over any part of the paper you like and then you can paint over it. and when you peel it off after it dries, wherever you painted remains white underneath, It's really helpful for this thing. Then I have white ink and black ink, helpful for darkening up the skies and sputtering little stars. 3. star studies: Now we're going to look at different ways for creating our own galaxy backdrop as well as studying different ways to create our stars and starscapes. To start off, traditionally you don't use your black or your black ink in watercolors but generally when it dries, it dries lighter than you expect so here I like to use blues and blacks and purple. I mix the blue and the black together, this creates a nice deep space color. You want to keep it really messy and add a lot of water. You'll see that the way it moves creates a really convincing effect. I'm using purple here as well. Basically there's no science behind this, you just have to plop it on there and let the paint spread out how it wants to. I also like to go in with a tissue and gently dab it with it being messily folded up, this creates a good wavy effect. I'll let this dry a little bit and maybe add another layer, but you can tell that even the black is not a very deep color so if I'm looking for deeper color I'll go in another layer or go back in with my calligraphy ink. If you'd like to create a softer effect you can also make the effect of clouds by leaving some white space. Here I'm using the blues and purples again, but I'm going to leave some more spaces open to create the effect of clouds. I've got my darkest spots here and some purple too. Now I'm going to take just water and my paintbrushes and feather it out. Again you want to use a lot of water for this to create the most natural effect. I'm going to go ahead and do that for the other two squares and we'll come back when it's a little bit drier and do our stars. Now our backdrop is dried and you can see how the water has created a really nice effect here. Before we go on to the fun part of creating the stars I'm going to go in these two blank spaces and create masking fluid stars. This is one technique that you can use before you do your backdrop. First I'm just going to go ahead and do a regular large star light. It's basically just a cross, then you want to dip again in your masking fluid and create an X through the middle of the cross. Just note I'm using masking fluid alone, it basically can ruin your brush really easily. I was using this one earlier, and then I dipped in the masking fluid and didn't rinse it out immediately and now it's a permanent masking fluid brush so just make sure you don't use your most expensive brush when you're doing this. You can also do the same type of technique on its side. If you go ahead and look at some space photos of stars you'll notice that they're not always perpendicular like you see in pictures. This creates a little bit of realism. I'm also going to go ahead and do a few dots, and so once I paint the backdrop over this one, anywhere I put the masking fluid will remain white. That's good. Next in this one we're going to do a little galaxy spiral. You want to start out with just oblong circle in the middle. It's like oval I guess. Then we're going to take the masking fluid and do spirals like this. We're going to go from a corner and create a spiral. Don't worry if it's perfect because we're going to go over it with ink in the end as well. Spiral this way and spiral this way. If you make a mistake you can rub away the masking fluid before it dries but if you waited even a few seconds it will start to solidify, so you need to do that quick. There's two spirals and we'll just continue with this pattern. It's get a little bit looser once you get to the outside edges so you want to make them flare out. Again, there's lots of reference features for this thing if you just look through the NASA photo day. It looks pretty good I'm going to go ahead and add a few more dots hear, just to the further out. Now that we have these, we'll let them dry and we'll work on the different types of creating stars. First we're going to create basically these stars the big ones. I like to use ink for this so am using here a white waterproof ink. This is Higgins brand but there are a lot of different good ones, and just a small paint brush and we're going to create the same cross type stars. I'm going to go on with a small brush and create a tiny cross. Then the x over it. I'm going to do a few more like that. If you have trouble controlling a paintbrush to do this type of work you can also try using a white pen, but I prefer how bold the white ink looks. Really personal preference though. But we're not going to stop there. We're going to go ahead and rinse off our brush, and I'm going to dip into the pale yellow color and mix a tiny bit in with my white ink. This will make really opaque, pale yellow, and I'm going to use this just a little bit on my brush and use it to soften up the edges to create that kind of starlight effect. You can also use pale blue like that effect as well. It really depends on what you prefer. It's like a warm light or cool light. You can see how that kind of fades out. Show you a few with the blue as well. Make sure you don't mix them though because of the green light. It doesn't look good. Okay. We've got that pale blue. Just going to feather it out. This one's kind of bled out, so we're going to go back in. Okay, next up we're going to do the most fun, which is the splatter. We'll need an old toothbrush. Ideally, it's a new one, actually. Just a clean one. You don't want to have toothpaste or anything on it. We're going to dip into our ink and just splatter. You want to make sure your brush is perpendicular, and you splatter onto the page, and this creates really nice like soft, faraway stars, and you want to make sure that it's perpendicular because if you move it to the side, they look like they're going off in a certain direction, which is fine if you have just like a couple of big spots, but when they're all going that way, it just doesn't look like stars anymore. I can add more ink. You can see too how this creates a bunch of different sizes of dots. There's not only just the blight sprays, but there's also a slightly bigger ones, and this effect is really convincing. I like it, of course a combination of these together. Then next we're going to do the small dots. This is literally where we're going to use our paint brush. We're going to use our paint brush and ink, and again with the pale blue and the pale yellow and just two tiny dots. This creates a really great effect when you use in combination with these three. You have your small and your medium and your large. You might not be able to tell on camera, but the combination of the pale yellow and the pale blue along with the white makes a really big difference when you're looking at it in person. You can also vary the size of brush you use, but I would mostly recommend that you use the same combination with other techniques so, it's up to you. Hear we go, all right, for our last painted one we're going to do a constellation effect. This isn't really a realistic one, but it's one that looks really pretty and is a great technique if you're doing a star scape. I'm going to go ahead and do a combination of these. The last two that we've just done. Just some splatters, and then I'm going to draw some bigger spots, and we're going to make some constellation lines so we're just going to do some irregular shapes, triangles and straight lines to create our constellations. Again, you might found it easier to control this with a brush, but won't be as opaque. Would also be really fun to use this with real constellation, so if you can draw them out and do that sort of thing, that would look really pretty. Bigger stars. We're going to flush this one out so it looks like it's bigger. Go back into this one, now let's dry it a little bit. Okay. All right. Now we're back to our masking fluid versions. All we have to do is go back in with our large round brush, and go in with the blacks and the blues and purples like we did before, and just paint right over it. Then once this is dry, we can just take an eraser or use your finger depending on what you prefer, and peel off the masking fluid bits. Make sure it's completely dried out because if you don't, you'll smudge the paint and it will just completely ruin the effect. I know it's really hard to wait. I usually have to do a test square because I think it's dry earlier than it is. Again, just keep it really wet. Make sure you have a good amount of color that's leading into everything and add texture where you want, with a crumpled paper towel or tissue. For this one, the spiral galaxy, we're going to go ahead and do our background, but then we're going to take our tissue paper and block it out where the spirals would go. I'm going to take my tissue and twist it up so it's a little mib and then I'm just going to go and gently blot it out where the spirals go. This will create that effect where the masking fluid will be pure white, and then where I'm dabbing away will bee just like bit of the paler version of the background so then it will look more like it's lit up. Okay. If it's gotten too light for me, I'll go back in with a little bit of the galaxy colors. Of course you don't have to stick with just blues and purples. I feel like those are the most realistic ones, but if you look at reference pictures, you'll see that there's dark reds and bright pinks and even some greens and oranges and everything in between so, you can really let your imagination run wild, but I'm just going to focus on these for now. I might dab in a little bit of yellow once we peel off the masking tape to create that light but so far so good. Okay. All right. I'm going to let these dry and then I'll come back so that we can peel off the masking tape. I've gone ahead and removed this part of the masking fluid, and just a note about this, if you have a hair dryer that can really speed up the process. You can see how nice and bright white it is, and if you'd like, you can go back and with the pale yellows and blues to fuzz out the edges and make them a little bit brighter. Now we are going to dip this one. If I remove the masking tape, look at those nice clean edges, and taken off the masking fluid from these two portions so you can see how nice and bright white they are. Ideally use a combination of all of these techniques, and so you can see how with a little bit of a medium bright star and a really bright star and tiny speckles and medium-sized dots that you can get a really nice effect. Now that we have the basics down, we're going to go into doing some actual illustrations so keep on watching. 4. simple galaxy: Now that we know how to create stars, we're going to go in our first galaxy starscape. I'd really recommend you to check out NASA's photo of the day. You'll be amazed at how many reference pictures you can find from there that are real and exactly how they look through the lens of the camera and it's really a great resource. I'll make sure to link that in the class information. But our first round of doing galaxy illustration, we're going to do just a basic, very simple, it's going to be dark on top and then fade out into a little bit more of a texture. I've already gone ahead and masked out the edges and I'll walk through that now. So now we're going to start very similarly as we did with the star studies going on with really wet paper and dark blues and dark purples and even some blacks were necessary. Then I'm adding in some new purple colors and red and dabbing away were necessary. We're also going back in with the black ink because I want this piece to be really dark and the black ink doesn't dry lighter than when you paint it like watercolors do. So it's really about adding and taking away where necessary, not really science to it. Now we're going to let this dry and you can see in this fast motion video how the paints lighten and merge together as it dries. Okay, now it's time for stars, I'm going in with the spotter effects and going to use my toothbrush and my white ink. You can see how beautiful of an effect that is. Then going in with my paintbrush to create the medium stars and fuzzing out the edges like we learned in the star studies. That's it, you've done your first illustration. 5. simple starscape: We're going to start out with a simple starscape. This is going to use all of the different methods of creating stars that we discussed earlier. I'm going to start out by adding the masking fluid versions, and I'm going to focus on doing the top part of the paper because I'm going to use this as a hand lettering background. I want to leave a little bit of negative space, just making little crosses and some sideways crosses. These will remain completely after I paint all of them. There's going to be a lot of watching paint dry literally for the next part of this illustration. I'm going to go ahead and speed up. Now we have the wash for our sky completed. You can see I've use blues and purples to create a little bit of dimension or even left some of the paper shining through to create a cloud effect for our starscapes. Next we're going to move towards taking off the masking fluid up the papers dry for the brightest parts of the stars. The paper has to be completely dry when you do this or else it'll start to peel off itself, which is difficult to do but necessary. You can see how nice and bright those little spots are. Now we're going to take our toothbrush and do the splattering stars effect. Again, make sure to do a perpendicular from the papers so that they don't look like they're flying off the page, work to look like they were more far away, okay. This is just some delicate step sky scape in this case, so we don't have too many stars. It's easy to overdo it, such a fun technique, all right. Then finally, going to take my paintbrush and go in with the white ink and go around any of the spots that look like they could use a little bit more detail. I'm going to go on as well with some of the white ink mixed with a little bit of the yellow watercolors and the blue watercolors for a little bit more depth. Going into the blue [inaudible]. There we go. Our first simple star scheme. This makes a really good base for hand lettering. Or even if you wanted to go in with your black ink and do a bit of a forest scene here, it makes a really good background for anything like that. 6. intermediate galaxy: So for this one, we're going to combine our spiral galaxies with our abstracted constellation images. So I'm going to start out doing the spiral with my masking fluid, and after I've done that, just the same way that we did in the star cities, I'm going to start going over with our deep space colors, the dark blues and purples. As I'm going along, I'm dabbing away around the edges of the spiral so that that part remains the lightest. You can do this at the very end, but I find that it's more effective if you do it as you go along and with each layer. So I'm going in and darkening where I can and around the spiral as we did in the star cities. So I sped that up real quick so you could see how the drying time affected the color, and now I'm taking away the masking fluid of the stars that I did and the spiral. I'm going in with darker colors to just deepen up where I can. Then it's time for the spattering. I'm going in with the ink and just doing little dots around the outside of the galaxy to make it look like it's flaring out. Adding in, next, the abstract constellations, just dabbing in should make little stars and then connecting them with straight lines. 7. advanced: Now we're going to go in with a little bit of a different method this time a little bit more detailed. This time I'm starting out with light pinks in my lighter colors, I'm adding in some yellow as well. We're going for a little bit more depth with this piece, or rather than going over everything with the dark colors, I'm going to focus it on the outside and work my way from lightest to darkest. I've started out with the blues and purples and then I moved my way up to black. Again, as always dabbing way where needed to create a little bit of texture. Keeping a paper really wet so that when I splotch my brush onto the paper that a creates that effective bleeding out and makes it look more realistic. You can see how when the paint dries it gets so much lighter, so I'm trying to combat that by doing a few layers. To create the depth like there is galaxy behind galaxies behind galaxies, I'm going in with the dark, black and doing that over a squiggly lines like it's breaking through. Now I'm going to let this dry and then do another layer to make it a little bit darker, going in with the black ink now. Start off by outlining the little crack in the galaxy area and then I'm going to farther that out to make it look more natural in adding a lot of water. It's going to take awhile to dry but it'll be worth it. I'm using dark watercolor paints, the dark purples and blues to feather it out. I think some final swatches of colors, a bright color here and they're really looks great. It's time to let out this dry and then going in with the splatter effect. There, now I have got a sky full of stars, and I go in with my paintbrush and create some medium-sized ones. There we go, it's finished. Let's take the masking tape off this guy. So nice. 8. outro & project : At this point in the class, you've learned all the techniques you need to create your own galaxy or starscape illustration, so we're going to move on to the class project. The assignment is to go to the photo day website and pick a reference photo for your own illustration. Be sure to post it in this class and if you posted it on the Internet, make sure you tag me at e.k.archer and I'll be in the comments if you have any questions. If you would like to see some of my work, my website is and I'm around the Internet at e.k.archer. Thank you so much for taking my class and let me know if you have any suggestions or ideas for future lessons. Thank you.