I'm Nikki, a creative old soul who loves tea time, tip-toeing through gardens, mounds of books, swaying to records, watercolors, sunset walks with our three yorkies, and star-gazing with Paul. This blog carries snippets of my life with just us two (five with Rusty, Lucy, & Ethel) - I hope it brings you happiness as you snuggle in with something warm and delicious and begin reading. Enjoy, friends!

the blog!

If I had to choose:

Turning Your Watercolor Art Into Digital Prints

Hi friends!

I’m in a super chipper mood right now – the first thing on my agenda for today was to book our next vacation!! And I did!! I’ve been dying to visit the Carolinas ever since I watched The Notebook in 9th grade (call me a hopeless romantic, what can I say?) and finally we’re visiting Charleston, SC and staying on the ocean at one of the nearby beaches (love that Airbnb)!! So right now I’m bouncing around the house as a big ball of energy and excitement. :) If you’ve ever visited that area or live in that area, let me know if there’s any must-sees/to-do’s we should experience! :)

Onto the actual topic of today’s blog post:

I read and listened to what you all wanted in future blog posts and so today I’m going to show you how I turn my watercolor art into actual prints. Music while we read? Yes, let’s. Might as well go with a beach theme, right? :)

Before I began really diving into creating prints, I truly thought that everyone just created their art on one sheet of watercolor paper, sold it, and that’s it. But as I did more research and made many errors in my trials I learned that that’s not the only way to do it. You can also create art digitally, by piecing bits and pieces of your art together to create one whole art print! I admire the people who can create an art print/pattern on one piece of paper without needing to use their computer. I’ve tried to make one complete art scene or page and I just can’t; I change my mind where I want things to go and it just doesn’t end up looking nice and put together. I need more control.

It’s like film photographers vs. digital photographers – there’s no one way to do it, both types of people are photographers, they just get their end result in different ways. (When I first began photography I actually thought I wasn’t a true photographer because I wasn’t doing it the original, darkroom, film way…)

So, let’s begin, shall we? (I’ll put a list form at the very end, but for now I’ll explain the process in detail.)

The first thing I do is create my art. I use these supplies and paint whatever I’m painting at the moment with any spare sheet of watercolor paper. Digital Art Tutorial | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Digital Art Tutorial | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.comOnce I’ve painted everything (sometimes I have to cut art into separate pieces of paper to make it fit on the scanner) I scan it into my computer and save it to my external hard drive. I use this scanner and for the most part, it works pretty well. I find that it helps create a crisper scan if I lay a heavy book on top of the art print that I’m scanning.

Digital Art Tutorial | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Once it’s scanned, I open it in Photoshop. Before I do anything else, I select only the art and copy and paste it into a new document. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool and drag it so it’s covering the whole art piece, then hit copy (Control+c), open a new document (Control+n) and change the Background Contents to Transparent, and paste your art into it (Control+v).

Digital Art Tutorial | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Next, I delete the white space in the background using the Magic Wand Tool. I do this because, for example, when I’m designing a calendar page, the background of that calendar page is already white. If I were to place a scanned watercolor piece with the white paper still included in the photo, it may not be the same color white and you could tell the difference. By deleting the white space and only keeping the art in Photoshop, I can place the art on any color background without the white paper present. Does that make sense?

To do this, click the Magic Wand Tool, change your tolerance number to something appropriate to your art print (if you have high contrast between your art and the white space, use a higher number like 25-30. If your art fades into the white space like the ocean below, use a smaller number like 5-10) and then click on the white space. Once the white space has been selected (it’ll look like the photo below), click Delete on your keyboard.

Digital Art Tutorial | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Once the background has been deleted, I clean up the rest of the print by erasing the scanned book that was holding it down, and other white specks that made it past the Magic Wand Tool.

Digital Art Tutorial | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Because scanning doesn’t always capture the color and deepness of hues as much as I’d like it to, I often will tweak the painting in Photoshop to enhance it. I generally just bump up the contrast and saturation a bit. I save it as a PNG file instead of a JPEG file (if you save as a JPEG it will have a white background again – saving it as a PNG saves just the art, not the background).

Digital Art Tutorial | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Then I open InDesign to actually design. In the photo below, the calendar page is already put together, but if it were a blank white page, just go to File, Place, and then find your PNG file of whatever art you choose, and place it wherever you want on your design. Notice the ship, the Bon Voyage, and the map all started on the same piece of watercolor paper (photo at the top) but were imported separately so I could edit/design them how I choose. Like I said, I need to be in control.

Digital Art Tutorial | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

So there you have it friends! Every illustration you see on my calendar pages have all been individually painted, scanned, edited, and designed using Photoshop and InDesign. I couldn’t imagine painting/designing this on one try and one piece of watercolor paper, so I’m thankful for technology. :)

There’s definitely more to the process of designing digital art, so I’m thinking I’ll create another blog post to go further in depth. Deal? If you have any questions, click the Contact link at the top or comment below!!

My coffee is drained, Rusty is sleeping under the windowsill, and it’s time for me to continue painting for the 2020 children’s calendar. I LOVE this new project. Just wait until you see it, friends. :)

If you’d like to purchase one of my NEW 2019 wall calendars (the full March page is below!), just click on the link below! You can pre-order it now (my printing vendor says they’re already finished and will be shipped soon, so hopefully in the next week or so?!) or you can wait to purchase when they officially arrive. :) I hear they make great Christmas gifts…..:) xoxo friends! Have a wonderful, wonderful weekend! And I hope this was helpful to those who want to start creating your own digital art. :)


Digital Art Tutorial | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.comDigital Art Tutorial | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Turning Your Art Into Digital Prints

1. Create your art using whichever medium you use. (I’ve only done these steps for watercolor, so it may be different with other forms.)

2. Scan your art and save to your computer or external hard drive.

3. Open your art in Photoshop. Outline your art using the Rectangular Marquee Tool, copy it, open a new document with a transparent background, and paste your art into the new document.

4. Delete the white space from your art using the Magic Wand Tool. Make sure your tolerance is set to an appropriate number. (High contrast between white space and your art, use higher number. If white space fades into your art print, use a lower number.)

5. Clean up any leftover marks using the eraser tool.

6. Enhance your art by bumping the saturation and contrast a bit.

7. Save file as a .PNG.

8. Using InDesign, Photoshop, or Illustrator, begin designing your art by placing separate art pieces onto a new document. Adjust sizes, transparency, even duplicate your art to create patterns!