Transform Watercolor Illustrations into Intricate Patterns | Sandra Mejia | Skillshare

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Transform Watercolor Illustrations into Intricate Patterns

teacher avatar Sandra Mejia, Illustrator + Pattern Designer

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.

      Class Project


    • 3.



    • 4.

      Creating the Tile


    • 5.

      Testing the Pattern


    • 6.



    • 7.

      Finishing Touches


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About This Class

Creating repeating patterns is one of the most exciting things to do with your illustrations and, once you learn how to do it, you can´t stop!  

In this class you´ll learn how to use your watercolor illustrations to make seamless repeating patterns by using a simple technique in Adobe® Photoshop® software.  You will also learn how to clean up your scans, create the pattern tile, test your pattern repeat and create alternate colorways. 

This class is geared towards anyone that is curious about pattern design. You need a basic knowledge of Adobe® Photoshop® software to follow along. 

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Meet Your Teacher

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Sandra Mejia

Illustrator + Pattern Designer

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Hello! I'm a Freelance Illustrator and Pattern Designer. I was born in Medellin, Colombia (puedes escribirme en Espanol!). 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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Level: Beginner

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1. TRAILER: Transform watercolor illustrations into intricate patterns. Hi, I'm Sandra Bowers and I'm a freelance illustrator and surface pattern designer. Join me in this class and learn how to take your watercolor illustrations to make intricate repeating patterns in Adobe Photoshop software in a very simple way. You'll learn how to clean up your watercolor icons, how to assemble them as a repeating pattern, and how to create additional colorways. So join me and let's create some patterns. 2. Class Project: Now comes the exciting part, the class project. This is where you'll share your patterns with the rest of the class and I'll get to see what you create. The assignment is to show us your initial icons or illustrations along with your scan, then give your pattern a name and create it as a symbolized repeating pattern. You can also create additional colorways. For guidance, you can look at the sample project I created in the Project Gallery and download the project PDF available in the class documents. 3. Set-up: The first thing we need is to have our icons ready to make our pattern. So bring your water color painting into the scanner. Scan in color at 1200 ppi and save as JPG. It can be any scanner. Just make sure it scans at a resolution of 1200 ppi, at least. Open the file in Adobe Photoshop software. It doesn't matter if there are areas that are not perfect in your scan. We're going to cut out that icon so it doesn't matter. Double-click on the background layer so you can make it editable. Now go to Image, Adjustments, Levels, and start moving the sliders until you get the look you want. I'm going to explain you one way of cutting out icons, but there are many ways to do it. Select the background layer, create a layer underneath with a dark color field so you can see what you're doing. Now let's zoom in so we can see what we're doing. Let's cut out this fox here. Select the Pen tool, and start placing points around the fox. There are many tutorials online that will teach you how to use the Pen tool. You will get the hang of it pretty soon. Just start going around your icon. This is a time where you can fix things and cut out off pieces that you don't want to be there. Make sure to touch your first point and then right-click and select, Make Selection. Then hit Edit, Paste Special, Paste in Place. Your fox will appear in a new layer. If you turn off this layer, you'll see that it's cut out perfectly. Now cut out this little part between his legs. Press "Delete" so it is erased from the layer. Now you have your icon perfectly cut out and ready for the pattern. Keep doing this to all of your icons until you have them all ready to start your pattern. Now that we have all our icons ready, we will create a new file for our pattern. I like to make it 24 inches wide at least so I have a big file to work with later, and I like to make it a square also. Set the resolution to 300 pixels per inch so it can be printed later and then hit "Okay." 4. Creating the Tile: Double-click on the background layer to unlock it, and fill it with the color you want. I like to lock this layers so I am not moving it by mistake later. Pull the file that contains the icons and put it on the side so we can start dragging them into our pattern file. I like to start with the main elements, so let's pull this fox. Every time you bring a new element into the file, you should make it a Smart Object. So right-click on the layer's name and convert to Smart Object. Smart Objects are great. I'll show you why. Say you have three of these foxes in your file, and you want to make them another color, if they're a Smart Object, you just have to double-click on one of the mask's thumbnails, and a new document will open. If you go to Adjustments, Hue/Saturation, you can change it to this variable, save it, and go back to the pattern file. They are a little changed. This will save you a lot of time later when you want to recolor. Let's undo those changes and keep building our pattern. Let's bring another icon and convert it to a Smart Object. Now we will resize it. You can also bring several at a time. Remember to convert them all to Smart Objects. Start rotating and resizing them to your taste. I like to fill in at least two of each so that it's not so easy to spot the repeat. Arrange them in a way that you feel is organic and leave similar spaces between them. Distribute the elements organically in the pattern so you don't have clusters of colors that are going to stand out when you apply the pattern later. If something doesn't look right, you can recolor it to match your other icons. This is my favorite part, playing around with the icons to find the right balance. Zoom in from time to time to make sure things are exactly how you want them to. Now that the middle is almost full, we're going to start building the sides of our pattern. Go to Image, Image Size, and change your width to pixels. Now write that number down, 7,200 by 7,200, and hit "Okay". A pattern repeats seamlessly when the icons that overlap on the top overlap on the bottom in the same way, and the ones on the left, overlap on the right. Since we have our center almost full, I'd like to build the edges now and fill those gaps later. So select all the icons and move them upward and to the left, just a bit so they overlap more to those sides. Now make a selection from the outside of the artwork to the border, overlapping the border by a bit. Now you'll see that some layers are selected. Press "Alt" and drag them upwards to duplicate them, and then go to Edit, Free Transform or Command T, and go to the top menu where you'll find X and Y coordinates. Since we are going move the overlapping icons on this side to the right side, we have to modify the value in X. Add 162.50 pixels plus 7,200 in your calculator, and type in the results in the X value. Hit "Enter". If you're moving something from top to bottom or from left to right, you add 7,200. But if it's the other way around, you subtract 7,200. Now we'll do the same for the icons overlapping on the top. Since we'll be moving them vertically, we modify the Y value. Now we have to check and see if the icons are looking how we want them to. We will specifically check for icons covering other icons. For example, here, I don't want that bunny to be under those pods, so I move the bunny layer up. When you're done organizing, bring in some more icons to fill in the gaps. You can fill as much as you want. I like my patterns very busy, so I'll fill in most of the gaps. If you place an icon and it goes over the border, make sure to repeat it on the opposite side by duplicating the layer and adding the 7,200 pixels to the appropriate coordinate, X for horizontal movements and Y for vertical movements. If you want to move something that's already repeated on both sides, make sure to select them both and move them together so the pattern remains seamless. If you want to erase a part of an icon, you can use a layer mask. Press this button and now you can modify just that icon by painting on the mask with a flat brush. If you want to discard the changes just turn off or delete the mask. Remember, black hides things and white brings them back. Now we're going to define our pattern. Go to Edit, Define Pattern, and name it. That's it. Now we have our seamless repeating pattern ready to test. 5. Testing the Pattern: Most of the patterns aren't ready the first time, so you have to test the pattern. We're going to apply our pattern to see if we need to make any changes. So go to File, New and create a new document. You can make it letter size. Go to Layer, New Fill layer, Pattern, and hit Okay. Now we have our pattern here. It always shows the last pattern created. You can see them all by pressing here. I always test my patterns by reducing the scale to 11 percent, because that way you can easily spot problems with your repeats. For example, this line here is creating a problem because it sounds out too much and it makes the repeat very obvious. Let's return to our pattern document. Now it becomes obvious that all the foxes and bunnies are on the left side and there are none on the top right area. So we're going to raise this flower and move this bunny over. Now there's a new flower overlapping. So let's duplicate it and move it. Since we're moving it from right to left, we have to subtract 7,200 and not add it. Keep moving things around until you're happy. Remember, you will keep getting better at this and it'll be easier and easier to spot what things are not working with a pattern. Let's define the pattern again untested. Go back to the letter size document and double-click on the layer thumbnail. Click on the little arrow and select the last pattern, change the scale. I can see there's still a problem here. Let's go back and change the orange flowers and move things around a bit more. Let's add some water color texture to the background so it looks more appealing. Go to your background layer, create a new layer on top and select the texture brush. Set to multiply. Press ones on the canvas. With this textures, it's the same as with the icons. Whatever overlaps on one side has to overlap on the other side. I used the brush I made by painting some watercolor dobbs, scanning them in and defining them as a brush. You can also buy one online or make your own. Change sets I so it fills most of that tile, duplicated layer and move it so it overlaps in the bottom. Then select those two layers, duplicate them, and move them so they overlap on the right. Now this is our final tile. So let's define the pattern for the last time. 6. Recoloring: Sometimes you need to recolor your pattern because the client requires it in a different colorway, or you just want to change the mode of the pattern. I'm going to show you how to easily change either the whole pattern or edit individual elements in it, so you can end up with something like this. Go to the top layer and press the New Fill or Adjustments layer button at the bottom of the layers panel. Choose Hue Saturation, and start moving the Hue slider around until you find one that you like. Now click on this again and choose selected color. Let's change the reds. This about experimenting, so just play around with the different colors and sliders until you get what you're looking for. These changes aren't permanent, so you can turn them off to return to the original pattern anytime you want. Now we're going to change the color of an individual icon. Go to the Layer and double-click on the layer thumbnail. Go to Hue Saturation and change it to the color you want. I want to make it lighter so I adjust the lightness, hit Okay, and save and return to the pattern file. Now it looks better. I'll change this one too, just do it again. Since it's a smart object, this affects all of these orange flowers in the file, so you don't have to do it one by one. Let's turn this on again. Now to complete our recolor, let's change the background color. Go to your background layer, unlock it, and go to the Saturation to change the color. I like these brownish orange soil, I'll choose it, and I'll change the texture layers too, so they're not as obvious. Merge them into one layer, set to multiply again, and change Hue Saturation. Go back and check your adjustment layers. I think we need more changes, so I'll just add another one. I really like the sub look of the mouth, so I'll come back to that one. Now I create the fourth adjustment layers for that sub one, and make it my third alternate color way. Let's save this file as the Alternate color ways and that's it. Now we can define the brown one as a pattern, you just hit Define as the Pattern and name that one brown. Then I create a group for the brown adjustment layers, then I'll define the mouth or purple one and rename that layer. 7. Finishing Touches: This is it, now you know how to create a repeating pattern. These are some things that are very important to have in mind so that your pattern is successful. When moving icons that overlap to the sides, remember, the value you add or subtract to X coordinates is the number of pixels of the width of your document. In our case, 7200 pixels wide. The value you add or subtract to Y coordinates is the number of pixels of the height of your document. In our case, it's 7200 pixels high. You add the value if you're moving icons from the left to right, top to bottom. You subtract that value if you're moving icons from right to left or bottom to top. X is for moving things horizontally. Y is for moving things vertically. The success of your pattern is determined by making sure that every element that goes over the borders is repeated on the opposite side, and placing your icons in an organic way that doesn't make the repeat too obvious. Now comes the fun part where you get to create your own pattern. It'll be great to see your projects and maybe you will even bring your patterns to life by printing them and creating products with them. If you have any questions or comments, please pose them to the class and we can get a conversation going, and share our knowledge and experiences so we can all learn from each other. Thanks for watching, and I hope to see you soon.