Digital Art & Watercolour

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Whilst I have been painting and drawing for many years, I am reasonably new to digital art.

There is quite a lot to learn, but I am a strong believer in determination rules the day and if the desire is strong enough you will succeed!

Digital Art For Beginners

Having digital art to create illustrations for books, fabric and products gives an artist many more opportunities to explore different styles and methods.

With the development of affordable apps and software, artists of all levels from beginners to advanced can explore different ways of working.

But even though some artists choose or prefer a digital medium for illustrating, many artists still create illustrations using traditional art mediums.

Whilst I am enjoying the process of creating work using digital methods, I still love to create most of my work using traditional painting techniques in watercolour, inks or acrylics.

So I needed to find a balance between the two.

I explored how I could use the traditional methods that I love and combine with digital methods to produce a final piece of work.

I soon established that I needed to brush up on my Photoshop skills, and spent several weeks learning from a lot of mistakes!

But I learnt that once digitised you can use the files to explore and create patterns, different colour combinations and layouts without spoiling your original piece.

Watercolour Painting For Beginners – Illustrating

When illustrating using watercolour, the materials and painting methods are no different to those used for fine art pieces.

Composition, colour palettes and tones still need to be planned for, especially when using a non-forgiving medium like watercolour.

Also, as the work is scanned at a high-resolution, so errors are easy to spot!

The use of quality materials affects the result, and in watercolour painting the most important is the paper choice and then the paints.

The main difference that you need to consider at the outset is what the intended use the painting is for.

For example, if you create a fine art piece with the intention of producing open or limited edition prints, then you only need to have a high-resolution JPEG for your printing company.

If however, you create to use on fabric or a product then individual elements need designing at the start and then worked on in digital media to create the image or patterns you require in a format that can be used for the different printing methods.


I prefer to use a rag-based watercolour paper. My preferred brand is Saunders Waterford made by St. Cuthbert’s Mill.

Made using 100% cotton, this is a superior quality watercolour paper produced to high archival standards.

Depending on the illustration, I use either Not or Hot Pressed paper, the latter being used when incorporating pen work as the paper is very smooth and perfect for this method.

Watercolour Paints

Over the years I have collected various brands and colours of watercolour paints, but most of the time end up gravitating to my Winsor & Newton Artists watercolour selection.

Whichever brand I use, I prefer artist quality for the level of pigment and vibrancy of the paint.


I love dropping strong colour into an existing watercolour wash and watching the paint do its magic.

Judging the wetness of the paper is important.

For illustrating I prefer to paint colour in one swift application, dropping in paint wet into wet so the work looks fresh and not overworked.

These are the exact methods I used for the surface patterns I created for my kitchen textile collection, which this basic video for my most recent design illustrates:

Digital Capture

When creating large paintings intended as final pieces of wall art, or pieces that have been created with pastels, I will use a DSLR camera and photograph the piece an a RAW format in good light and process the artwork in Photoshop for my fine art prints.

For smaller pieces of work and illustrations, I use a high-resolution scanner and scan the piece at 1200 dpi.

I then process the file in Photoshop using a large canvas size which allows me to uplift the files for larger surface patterns on fabrics.

File Format

The format of the export files depend on the use of the image.

For fabric or products that need the image without a background I save the image as a high-resolution PNG.

For art prints the image needs to be a high-resolution JPEG which will allow multiple size options including larger frame sizes,


So far, my experience exploring combining traditional mediums with digital work has been enjoyable.

But I have had to invest a lot of time to learn processes that I have never been formally trained for.

If you are interested in learning these types of methods, then Skillshare is a fabulous resource.

You can follow likeminded people sharing their skills and experiences to get you started.

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