Q&A: About Digitizing Watercolor

Have you ever wondered how my watercolors make their way onto printed products?  If so, this post is for you! This is the next installment of bonus content I’m putting together with her as part of our Stationery 101 series. This piece is written more for the client looking to understand my painting than the artist or calligrapher getting started with digitizing, so if you fall into that camp and have specific questions please feel free to email me!

Why digitize?

The answer to this one is very simple: I digitize so that my work can be reproduced on many pieces – something I would not be willing (or able) to do for a detailed suite of 100 invitations, for example. It also allows me to bring handmade art to my clients at a reasonable price.

Jenn Heller Design Co | How I digitize my artwork

Pros and Cons of Digitizing Watercolors

Even with years of practice tweaking my paintings once they have been scanned, there are still some differences between the original and the digital print.  Sometimes that works in my favor, and sometimes a few adjustments and some tricks of the trade are necessary to achieve the look I want.

Pro: I have flexibility to adjust some colors/tones after seeing the finished piece.  With a little Photoshop I can tweak a fair number of tones independently of each other if something is out of balance or to adjust for the final printed settings.

Jenn Heller Design Co | How I digitize my watercolor artwork

Jenn Heller Design Co | How I digitize my watercolor artwork

An example of colors adjusted from the original | photo by Emily Alyssa Photography

Con: Scanning washes out my paintings/reduces contrast – this is especially true with white background and lighter washes. It takes some work to bring back the original depth without blowing out the highlights completely.

Pro: I can erase mistakes/ pencil lines/ blobs of paint my cat knocks onto a painting (seriously, my kitten is a jerk.) or even move elements around to get the perfect finished layout.

Con: The scanned texture of the paper can be difficult to eliminate in areas where I don’t want it. It just takes time, and patience, and triple checking!

How I tweak my paintings for reproduction

Knowing the pros and cons above (through lengthy trial and error) means that I can plan for them, and adjust as I paint accordingly.

One of the first things I do is saturate my colors a bit, especially those in the pink family.  This is both a fix for the scanner input and the printer output, as magenta is one of the harder tones to represent in printer ink.

I also try and paint things in chunks that give me the most flexibility once they’ve been scanned – discreet pieces or words that can be moved around, or breaking into parts things that would be most tricky to paint as one giant piece.

Another technique I use to improve my results are to enlarge my originals, so they can be reduced for printing with maximum detail.  However, you have to do this consistently if you allow any paper grain to show in your work, or the different scales will make it more obvious the artwork has been manipulated.

Lastly, I use digitizing as a way to help my clients make final decisions – when my process is more flexible, I can show them a mostly-finished draft sooner, and help us nail down the perfect look without spending my time creating detailed art that will ultimately not be used.

Tools for digitizing

I use the Epson Perfection V600 scanner, an upgrade last year that has been giving me terrific results.  I highly recommend! I also use Photoshop to edit and adjust my painting as needed.

That’s it for today! If you haven’t already, be sure to head over to Emily’s blog today where I am talking all about paper and printing choices!  You can also see more of my stationery advice here.


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