Join Von Glitschka for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating a water color design, part of Drawing Vector Graphics Laboratory.
- [Tutor] Welcome to Drawing Vector Graphics Laboratory. It's exciting discovering new ways to work and to create and when you do a lot of experimentation, not client based work, this is just spending time trying new tricks, trying new tactics and new methodology. You're always going to discover a new way to work. And that's a whole lot of fun. I've stumbled upon in a previous DVG Lab, the use of watercolor textures.
The previous design motif I worked on had to do with vegetables and I was trying to get a watercolor look. And I discovered by using the shapes, the vector shapes to mask watercolor textures, that the results came out really nice. And so I decided to push this even further and that's what I want to go over in this movie. And it all started with creating my own watercolor texture set. So, you see five of those textures here, and I created a whole set and I've provided information about that set in the exercise files for this movie, along with the textures used within the design I'm going to walk you through here.
So you can take those and you can give 'em a try on your own. But I just painted these out using watercolor, just black watercolor paint on watercolor paper. And I did all kinds of shapes and all kinds of applications, just to get a nice arrangement of textures that I could utilize in designs moving forward. Now the way you can use these texture images inside Illustrator is they're all bitmap TIFF images, gray scale bitmap TIFF images.
And they're scanned in, I created 'em at extremely high resolution, 1,200ppi. And that means they're far more flexible to use. So if I zoom in on this, you can see how authentic this texture really looks and when you're using it in Illustrator, for this motif, we're keeping our color palette very, very simplified. Almost a sepia tone type of color palette, we're just going to focus on this brown color here. So if you select the TIFF image, to color a gray scale TIFF like this, you would just select the image and click the color to apply the color.
And then once that color's applied, you can go to transparency and you can adjust the value, how much you ever want. And you can apply blend modes to it, if you want to see how that affects your underlining design. So that's how you would fundamentally use textures, so if you move forward after watching this and you want to try something yourself. That's how you control color and apply it to a texture image. Once it's applied to the texture image, then you can apply other characteristics to the shape via blend modes and transparency, of course.
So, how did I start this design? Well, it all started with drawing. So this just shows you my thumbnail sketch right here, I'm going to work on a western thing. And this western theme utilizes a longhorn bull. And so I wanted that to be one of those kind of cow skulls you see with the cool horns on it. So that's what I'm inking out here. And essentially what I'm creating is all my base art that I wanted it hand drawn because I didn't want perfect vector shapes, I wanted to image trace these, so I can create a nice kind of host mask to mask my textures within 'em.
Therefore, the edge of those masks would be less precise and more hand done and more organic in nature. And that's what I accomplished by referencing good reference, but taking the liberty to not just merely trace this but take an artistic view. If you look back at my thumbnail sketch, I wanted these horns to be long to kind of underline the name longhorn. So I referenced a real skull to understand the context of what those look like.
But then I took a little artistic liberty in terms of how I interpret it. So in this case, my skull ended up with longer horns. Now if I select this, you can see how I've image traced this and it's now a vector shape that I can use as a mask. Now I also wanted typography, so I did some research, found a good font that had a western feel but to be completely honest with these letter forms. I felt they were a little wonky, kind of sloppy, I didn't like the serifs, it was more gothic than it was western.
But I like the proportions of the letter forms themselves, and so all I did is I took this layout of this type you see here, printed it out and then on top of that print out, using another sheet of paper and a light table. I just drew out the letter forms how I wanted 'em to be and once again, I matched kind of the wobbliness of the edge, I don't know if that's the right way to say that. But the way I drew out the skull, I drew out these letter forms in the exact same manner.
Just so they were imperfect but distinctly western. You can see I crossed out the letter G, I didn't like how that one came out the first time I tried it. So, I just wrote out all the letters until I got everything looking the way I wanted. Then I scanned it in and placed that TIFF within Illustrator. So what we're going to do now is we're going to image trace this. And I just want to show you how to go about image tracing a high res TIFF like this, that you can then turn around and use as the mask for your own designs and your own layouts if you're going to do that.
So we're going to go to window, we're going to go down to image trace, and we'll open up that window. We'll bring it up over here. And right now we want to click on advanced because I want to turn on ignore white, that's really important. And right now, I want this to be as tight as possible. So we're going to move our paths all the way up to 100. And then the noise we're going to bring it all the way down to the left. Everything else I'm going to leave as default. And we'll click trace.
And then once we've done that, we have to expand it. And so we're going to go up here and click expand in the top menu bar. And now we have our expanded type, our image traced type, and we can turn off the image trace palette now. And you can see we have one little artifact here, so we'll have to select that and delete it. But it has image traced our typography. So if we go ahead and zoom in on this, you can see how we got just a lot of anchor points.
And one plugin I like to use by Astute Graphics is called VectorScribe. And if we open up this panel, it'll actually tell us how many anchor points. And right now we have 5,625, that's really way too many anchor points. Actually, I see a stray one over here too, so we'll go ahead and select that and delete it. So I'm going to select this and if we go to the appearance panel, you can see it's a group, and I want this to be a compound path, it has to be a compound path to create a mask.
So with this selected, we're going to go to object and we're going to go down to compound and we're going to make, notice I have F7, so I usually never go to the menu like this, I just want to show you where it's at. I just hit F7 with the shape selected, but we'll click this. And now if you look at the appearance, it's now a compound path, so that's what we wanted. And the next thing we're going to do now is this has too many anchor points, I want to simplify it but I don't want to ruin the letter form. So let's go ahead and zoom in, just so you can see what this is going to do next.
We'll move this over here, and I'll go to object, I'll go to path, I'll go to simplify. We'll bring up this window and right now it's 50. And if I show you what it looks like when I have it set at 50. Yeah, that's not what we want. So, we'll revert. I'm going to only do it very barely, we'll do 98, we'll try 98%, see what that looks like. And I'll click preview. And that's better. So it's gone from 5,617 anchor points to only 795, that's acceptable.
It hasn't destroyed our art, it still has that nice organic loose feel, so we'll click OK and we're okay with that. So once again, it's important to know that if you're going to create a mask, it has to be a compound shape in order to utilize it as a mask. So that's how I'm going to create all the various elements that I'm going to use to compose this design. Now there's other aspects about my design that I use the same kind of approach and methodology. So, on the little elements, these are secondary elements in the design such as the star, the word ranch, and this little kind of design device down here.
This was derived from a really low grade image, low resolution image that is, and I just captured the essence of that shape. And used the type just to plug in how I wanted the type to be arched and the styling of the star. And then I printed this out, and then I just hand drew these to match the aesthetic I want, in this case, I wanted more of a serif kind of western looking font. And then I drew out this design motif. So once again, these are going to serve as the purpose of masking textures.
And when it was all said and done, I had all of the elements that I was going to use now to mask my textures. And one thing that's important is all these elements are separate. I don't have any of them compounded with other shapes because each of these are going to contain textures that are masked within it to get the exact kind of authentic aesthetic that I'm after for. Now, the color scheme for this design is kind of like a sepia tone. It's just mainly this brown color right here that you can see on the swatches palette.
And then all of these color swatches I have under here in this tonal family are derived from this one swatch. So if I click on color here, you can see this is the same color as my base swatch, it's just set to 70% tint, it's a tint of the brown. If I slide this up, it's exact same color brown. So what we're going to do is we're going to use this range of tints based off of this brown within the context of this design. So, that's the color nature of this design.
So, how do you start utilizing these textures and masking 'em to kind of get that nice real-life flavor of watercolor? Well, that's the fun part here. So we're going to go ahead and start doing that, and you can see I have one texture already right here in place. And once again, all we're going to do is we're going to colorize it. So we'll go to swatches, we'll colorize it brown, like this. We're going to go to transparency, to blend mode, and we're going to click on multiply, like that.
And that looks pretty good. Now all we're going to do is we're going to go ahead and copy this, so copy it out and then I'm going to Command + B, paste it behind this text. And then we're going to select this text and we're going to mask it. Now once again, on masking and other routine behaviors that I'm using all the time. I try to avoid going to the pull down menu, so I have a keyboard shortcut set up for mask. But in this case I'll show you where you go if you don't have keyboard shortcuts set up.
So you go down to clipping mask, and you go make, but as you can see, I have F1 set up to make a clipping mask. And I have F2 set up to undo a clipping mask. So, knowing that, I can select both, hit F1, and it will give you a warning. Now, Illustrator, it kind of frustrates me you can't override this and just say by default never show me this. You know, I know what I'm doing, you don't have to be a nanny with my creative process. But you can't, it's basically saying, "Hey, there's a lot of anchor points in this type, "there might be problems." So it allows you to do it but it also warns you that you might not want to do it.
In this case, I've never ran into any problems with this. So, just go fine, that's okay. And then it'll mask it into the shape. Now the beauty of masking a watercolor texture like this within the letter forms that are hand drawn is with watercolor in general, you have that natural look and feel of watercolor when you're painting it out where it kind of goes in and out in terms of being applied to the paper. It'll fade out in areas, be more dense in pigment in other areas, and that's kind of the beauty that you can get when you mask 'em like this because if you were painting this, you're never going to get a prefect flat color with watercolor, especially if you're using a paper stock that is toothy and has a lot of texture to it.
So that's kind of the aesthetic we're going for. The next one, I want to do here is, we'll slide this over. I want to take this texture and just move it over into place. And on this texture here, I'm just simply going to apply brown to it again. Once again, the value is too dark, I want this to be faint. Almost as if it's a light wash of color on the paper stock that I actually painted down first before I painted any of the other elements. So, with that in place now and color brown, we're going to adjust the value.
And the value on this one, I want pretty faint, hardly visible actually. So we're going to go 15%. And we'll do that. And so it definitely pushes it back in terms of the visual hierarchy. That's kind of the look and feel that I was after. So we'll just keep moving forward, we're going to grab this texture here. And I'm going to move this texture over and the nice thing about working with these is you can just compose. And that's kind of how I'm using Illustrator right now, as a staging ground for my design.
This isn't vector work I'm doing here, this is compositional work. And so I'm using Illustrator as a staging ground for it and composing my elements to get the look and feel I want. Once again, I'm going to colorize this one brown. I don't want the white obviously, that's where I'll have to go to blend mode under transparency, hit multiply, and now I'll adjust my value because I don't want it this dark in this case. We'll try 40, and I think that looks good.
And now the next texture we want to do, and this really shows you how forgiving textures are. Textures of any kind for that matter, watercolor or whatever. Is we're going to bring this texture in now, and this one is going to be masked within the shape of the skull. But if I select the skull, you can see the skull is actually a little bigger than the actual texture shape. Well, especially with these textures, since these are 1,200dpi, it's very forgiving on a raster based image.
Normally you never want to scale up a raster based image from its 100% placement size because you will lose the integrity and clarity of the visual image. But because this is textures, by their very nature, they're degraded. So it's very forgiving, you can scale this up and it's not going to be any problem whatsoever. And so that's all we're going to do here is I'm just going to scale this one up like this. And in this case, we'll go ahead and color this brown.
And I'm going to cut this one, paste behind the skull. And then I'm going to clipping mask this, once again, object, clipping mask, or in my case, I can hit F1. And we'll mask that into shape. Now, notice I didn't adjust the opacity or the blend mode on the TIFF itself, the texture TIFF itself. You can decide to do that if you want or after you mask it, you can apply those effects to the object that is the mask that contains that texture.
And that's what we're going to do here. So with the shape, you can see it's still showing some white and it's not interacting with the colors behind it. So we'll select this entire shape, we'll go to blend mode under transparency, we'll go to multiply. And now on this one, it will now interact correctly with the background images. So if I zoom in on this, you can see how you can slightly see through this. On this one, I think even maybe adjusting the opacity here, we'll try 80.
And that looks good, you can start seeing the other watercolor run through it. And that's kind of the characteristics we're trying to pull up. So this is the methodology, this is the approach that I will take these kind of textures, mask 'em within these shapes, control the transparency, control the blend mode settings in order to compose that look and feel to try to make it authentically watercolor in this case. So when it's all said and done, you end up with a really nice authentic looking watercolor design.
Now one aspect about working in this style is that it's about mimicking some of those key characteristics of watercolor, and one of those key characteristics, if we zoom in on this actual watercolor here, you can see how on the edge of this watercolor texture, the pigment because this is a wet surface when painted and the paper stock is dry. Where those two areas meet up, that's where the watercolor pigment will pool. And it creates almost like an inner glow effect where the edge has this slight darker shade of where the pigment is more dense.
So we want to kind of pick up on that characteristic in our design to improve our design, make it a little more believable in terms of watercolor. And so we're going to do that by using an inner glow effect. So I'm going to turn on these shapes, and this is just the same exact shapes as these elements in this design. And once again, I have made these compound shapes, so I've selected all three of these shapes, so now they're acting as one unified shape. And what I'm going to do now is I'm going to create my inner glow.
So with this shape selected, I'm going to go up to effect, I'm going to pull down to stylize, and I'm going to go to inner glow. This will bring up this window, and we're going to pick some things here, we'll go multiply. I want to select the color, so we're going to go to color swatches and once again we're going to go to brown, go OK. And now we'll make a few more decisions. I like to not set my controls for opacity within this window.
I like doing it outside this window, it gives you more control. So instead of controlling opacity here, we're just going to make sure that it's 100%. You want to make sure to have edge on. And we're going to try, let's try seven and we'll preview it. And that's a little too big, so we're going to go down, maybe five was good. And that looks really good. So that's going to work, so we're going to click OK on this. And it applies the inner glow, like that.
But we obviously don't want the white, so we're going to go to transparency, blend mode, multiply. And it's going to apply this inner glow effect to the outside of these shapes. But once again, I don't want it to be super dark, I want to control the value a little bit. So, we're going to go ahead and set this to like 40%. So it's a little more subtle. And now if I zoom in on these letters and these shapes, you can see how that glow applies.
So if I turn off this glow, this is how it was. And with the glow. It really, really does improve the, not only the readability, but also the believability of this style. So it works really well to pull this kind of style off. If we look at smaller elements, I do the exact same approach but I just handle the graphic in a smaller fashion, so it doesn't eat away at the design too much. So you can see that here. So we're almost done with this design and the last two elements I want to add are of course surface textures, you know how much I like using textures.
And when I use textures in Illustrator, I try to use real world captured surface textures, and this is one of them. This specific surface texture, a friend of mine captured some photographs in an old photography studio of emulsion plates. And he took photographs of them and sent them to me knowing that I like textures, and that's what I created these textures from. Or this specific texture from, was that. And if I zoom in on this, you can see what this texture looks like.
It's just little artifacting and areas of that emulsion surface that we're eaten away. So it's a really fun texture and once again we're going to apply brown to it. And then on this texture, I don't want this texture super dense, it's calling too much attention, I want it to look like a dirty surface almost. So we'll go ahead and select multiply, so it interacts with everything underneath. And I'm going to select a value and make that 20%.
And now you can see how that looks in terms of the little artifacts it adds throughout the design. So that's working really well. We're going to add one more. And when I was painting out all these watercolors, I took an old toothbrush with some of the black pigment and just kind of flick my thumb over the bristles on the brush to create this splatter texture. Now when you paint watercolor, if you have flakes of water that shoot out and fall on pigment, it'll actually eat through the pigment and reveal the lighter color of the paper underneath.
And that's kind of the effect we're trying to go for here. So I'm going to select this, color it white. And now I don't want to leave it stark white because this looks like snow or dandruff, whatever you want to read into it. And we don't want that, so we want this value to be a lot lighter. So we're going to cut this down by over half and go 45%. And that adds a really nice aesthetic to the final design. Really authentic looking watercolor motif using these watercolor textures.
Once again, make sure you check the exercises files, and you can use all the watercolor textures that are provided there. And I give you more information on where you can get the full set from and check that out as well. So, the level of authenticity you can achieve with textures like these is pretty remarkable. And I plan on reapproaching this process again with a whole new theme and method for coloring. I encourage you to take the textures in the exercise files and give 'em a try on your own artwork and see what you can create with 'em.
To learn more about capturing and using your own texture creations, make sure to check out my Creating and Using Textures for Design course. Thank you for watching DVG Lab. And until next time, never stop drawing.
Skill Level Intermediate
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