Paper to Digital: Watercolor Brush Lettering | Jenny Lee | Skillshare

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Paper to Digital: Watercolor Brush Lettering

teacher avatar Jenny Lee, Hello Brio Studio

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.

      Let's Draw


    • 2.

      Digitize and Vectorize


    • 3.

      Share Your Work


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About This Class

Follow along with designer and illustrator Jenn Coyle of Hello Brio as she vectorizes watercolor brush calligraphy. Knowing how to vectorize your watercolor art is a crucial skill so your work can be scaled to any size imaginable without becoming pixelated or losing quality.

Check out the Class Project tab for more info!

Meet Your Teacher

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Jenny Lee

Hello Brio Studio


I'm Jenny, a Philadelphia-based artist and writer. Wife, mom of 2. Energetic INTJ.

I'm a hand lettering artist who loves iPad stuff. When I'm not working, you can find me reading or journaling. I'm indoorsy.

Let's connect! Get lettering inspiration on Instagram, subscribe to my YouTube videos, follow along with posts about minimalism, or take my Skillshare classes.

Fun facts: I have a bachelor's degree in Interior Design; I never used it. I'm mildly allergic to peanuts, but I eat peanut butter all the time. Fueled by burritos. Things that rock my socks: brunch, running, embroidery, biohacking, and atmospheric indie music.

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1. Let's Draw: Hey guys. It's Jen Coyle from [inaudible]. In this class I'm going to be showing you how to take your watercolor brush lettering from paper to digital, in Photoshop and Illustrator. So let's get started. So the first thing we need to do is get our quote on the paper. I'm just using carts stuck, a Pentel water brush and some Winsor Newton watercolors and my palette, and I've gone ahead and pulled some colors off to the side. You can choose to do any quote that you want, whether you want to do a longer quote or song lyrics or something like that. I'm just going to do draw more so it's quick and easy to show you how to vectorize in Illustrator. But feel free to do whatever you want or use draw more if you're stuck for an idea. For more information on brush lettering, you can check out my eBook, Getting Started With Brush Lettering, and I'll also leave links in the class description for more information on how to use a Pentel water brush for watercolor brush lettering. Go ahead and take a picture of your hand letter quote and upload it to your class project on SkillShare. Now, I'm just going to go ahead and scan my quote in that 300 DPI. We're using my Canon scanner, and then I'll bring it into Photoshop. 2. Digitize and Vectorize: After your watercolor brushed lettering is finished drying, go ahead and scan it into your computer at 300 DPI. This is on my desktop, so I'm just going to go ahead and drag it into Photoshop. The first thing we need to do is zoom in here so we can see everything, and then with the Eraser Tool, I'm just going to create a Swatch on this paper so that I can see where the widest needs to be because I need for this background to be completely white. I'm going to hit "E" on my keyboard for Eraser, increase the size by hitting the right bracket and just draw a swatch here. If for whatever reason this comes up as a different color, you just need to make sure your swatches over here, is white on the background. If it isn't, you can just hit "D" on your keyboard for default and that'll automatically make it white. You can see here that even though the paper looks white before I need for the paper to be this white. This is a good sample swatch. Now, I need to bring up my levels palette, go ahead and hit "Command or Control L" on your keyboard. This is going to bring up the Levels Panel, and you can see with this right most slider, I'm going to slide it left until the paper starts to match that swatch that I created. Just click and drag slowly until it disappears. You don't want to go too far because you don't want to desaturate your watercolor, but you just want to make sure that you have a nice clean white background. That looks pretty good, when you're happy with that, go ahead and click "OK". While you're in here, you can go ahead and clean up some marks on your paper or your scanner. You can change the size of Eraser by using the left and right bracket. I'm just going to clean up some of these swatches here, where I know my scanners dirty, and once you're happy with that, you can just go ahead and hit "V" on your keyboard or go ahead and click the "Move Tool". Hit "Command or Control A" to select All, Command or Control C to Copy. Then we're going to go into Illustrator. I'm going to hit command N for New Document, it doesn't really matter what size your artboard is but it does matter in the Advanced section, so if you can't see this, go ahead and click the drop-down menu here. For a digital application, you want the Color Mode to be RGB and the Raster Effects to be Screen or 72 PPI. Otherwise, if you want this to be print, you can change this to CMYK and then change the Raster Effects to 300 PPI. Go ahead and click "OK", and now you have your document. I'm going to hit "Command V" to paste in my artwork here. Now, you may be asking, why do I need to digitize my artwork even further from cleaning it up in Photoshop? Well, the great news about vector artwork is it can be scaled up to any size possible. If you wanted to go ahead and print a banner or something much larger than your eight and a half pile of piece of paper, that is a great reason to vectorize your work. While we're in Illustrator, I'm going to go ahead and zoom in by hitting Z on my keyboard and drawing a box. You need to have a few panels up, namely the Image Trace Panel, so if you don't already have it up, go to Window, Image Trace, and there are a couple of presets that you can take a look at. Most of the time when I'm vectorizing my watercolor, I use High Fidelity Photo because it'll capture the most accurate portrayal of the watercolor, texture and everything like that. But you can also use things like Low Fidelity Photo, 16 Colors, et cetera. I'll show you the difference. First let's try 16 Colors. This is going to take a little bit to calculate all the pixels, so I'm going to go ahead and skip forward in the video. This is with 16 colors, I'm going to zoom in here so you can see the detail. Now, you can see that there are various blobs of color being created in Illustrator, so this may or may not be enough detail for you. If it isn't, we can try another filter. I'll actually paste in another copy of my artwork so you can see these all side-by-side. Now with this one, I'm going to do 16 Colors and then I'm going to increase the threshold to 30 Colors, so I'll show you what that looks like in a second. Again, this is with 16 Colors and if you change the color threshold, you can go all the way up to 30 here, and that'll make it a little bit more detailed. Make sure you have the Preview box checked so you can see the preview as it's happening. Now, we have two images, one is at 16 Colors and one is at 30 colors, so if we zoom in here, you can see this is at 16 over here, and you can see this is 30 Colors over here. There is a little bit of a difference, there is a lot more detail over here, but I'm going to now show you what it looks like at High Fidelity Photo. I'm going to just paste in another copy of my drawing, zoom in here, and then trace this at High Fidelity Photo. This is a scan with the High Fidelity Photo tracing, you can see how many more blobs of color there are and how much more detail there is compared to 30 Colors and again at 16 Colors. Now, with this High Fidelity Photo setting selected, you can even increase or decrease the number of colors here. But you just want to make sure your file size isn't going to be too huge, because right now there's 419 colors, but maybe if I increase it to be about 2,000 colors, your computer might not like with all the processing it has to do. Just to go ahead and choose what looks good to you and what your computer can handle, and then when you're done, I'll show you how to expand it and clean it up. I'm going to go ahead and increase this a bit. You can see when I increase the Color Accuracy to 100, the colors jumped from 400 and some colors to 2,000 colors, but I actually really like how this turned out, and because there are only a couple colors in my original watercolor drawing, that isn't too bad. I'm going to zoom out on everything by hitting Command 0 on my keyboard, and I wanted to delete these other guys here because I don't need them. Move is towards the center. Once you're happy with your image traced drawing, go ahead and click "Expand" at the top, and this will convert everything to Paths. This is what happens after I expanded everything. I'm going to go ahead and zoom in here so we can see everything. Now, if we click on various blobs of the drawing, you can see that there are a ton of different areas of the drawing that are vectorized, including the background. What we need to do is click on everything here with the Select Tool, which is V on your keyboard, and then Ungroup everything by hitting Shift, Command G twice. Now, you can see that if I select various parts of the drawing, there are going to select different areas. Once you have everything ungrouped, go ahead and select to various parts of the background of your image and hit "Delete" on your keyboard. This is going to allow you to clean up a lot of this white background. You can also click and drag boxes to delete major parts of your background here. We actually need to draw a dark background behind our lettering so that we can make sure we're cleaning this up properly. I'm going to go ahead and click on the Rectangle Tool and then choose a dark color here, and draw a rectangle around everything, and send it to the back by hitting Command Shift, Left Bracket. You can also do that by clicking and dragging your layer to the very bottom of your Layers Panel. Even though we've gone ahead and cleaned up a lot of the background, there's still a lot of clean up to do. I'm going to make this easier on myself by locking this background layer and zooming in on my Artboard here so I can start to select parts of the background, then clean up. Now, this may take forever if you think about clicking every single part of your background, but what can speed up the process is using Select, Same, Fill Color, and I've gone ahead and created a shortcut for Command R for this. In order to set that up, go to Edit, Keyboard shortcuts, go to Menu Commands, and then you want to do Select, Same, Fill Color and go ahead and change the shortcut to whatever shortcut you want to use. I've used command R because whatever was in there before wasn't very important to me, and then once you're done, go ahead and click "OK", and that way it'll just make it a whole lot faster. I'm going to go ahead and speed up this video and select parts of my drawing and use Command R to delete the background. When you think you're mostly done, go ahead and zoom in really closely on your artwork and make sure there's nothing that sticks out. I will say that the higher your Image Trace is, the more complex it will be to delete the background, so go ahead and make sure you think about that when you're using Image Trace. Scrolling through here you can see how nice and accurate this is pretty much to your original watercolor, and if I highlight or click on here, you can see how this is just made out of a whole bunch of little color blobs to reflect the watercolor texture. Good. Once you're happy with everything, you can go ahead and unlock and delete the dark layer that you have. Once you're happy with everything, we just need to group the similar words together so you can rearrange them if necessary. In order to do that and hit "Q" on your keyboard for the Lasso Tool, which is also available here, and then you're just going to carefully draw any amorphous shape around each word in order to group them together. When you get close to your ending point, release your mouse and then hit "Command G" to group it. You can see how now when I select on word, it selects a little thing, but if I were to select this word, it just selects parts of the drawing. That's why you want to make sure to group your words together. Now, that these words are grouped together, I can easily move them around, rearranging if I need to, and we're all done. Now, we have completely vectorized watercolor hand lettering. 3. Share Your Work: Once you're done vectorizing your lettering go ahead and save your work. Also make sure to export an image and upload it to your Skillshare project. In order to do this, the quickest way is to adjust your artboard and then export it. So hit "Shift O" on your keyboard, which will allow you to adjust your artboard and drag your box around where you want it to be. Once you're happy hit, "V" on the keyboard and go ahead and hit "Command 0" again, and then go to "File", "Export". Go ahead and save it to your desktop as a PNG or JPEG. I'm going to do JPEG. So "Use Artboards" and then hit "Export". You can do this as "RGB", the "Resolution" can be 72 because it's just going to be uploaded to Skillshare online, and you want to do "Anti-aliasing" to "Art Optimized" and hit "Okay". Once you're done you can minimize Illustrator and you can see your preview image here. You can also do something fun and upload it to Skillshare if you want. I've gone ahead and created a fun little doodle and imported it into Photoshop and I'm going to hit "Command V" on my keyboard, "Paste As" a "Smart Object" so it can be enlarged if needed. I'm just going to play around here and hit "Enter" and then "Save" this as a JPEG and upload it to my class project as well. Thanks again for taking my class, I hope you enjoyed it and that you learned a lot. For more information on Brush Lettering make sure to check out my eBook, "Getting Started with Brush Lettering". I'll talk to you guys in the next class. Bye.