In my endless pursuit of the perfect “look” that is versatile, flexible and to my liking, I have been exploring combinations of mixing digital and analog media. What’s so great about this is it can open up many doors and many new possibilities, which can also be a little overwhelming. The illustration you see below took me around 12 tries to get to this point. I tried every combination from full watercolour to full digital and mixing in every way I could think of.
What finally struck me was to think about which elements I think look nicer painted and which look better digital. Here’s a shortlist of the preferred “look” I like for certain elements:
solid objects like metal, a bicycle for example
skin tones (gives a smooth & clean look, also much easier to make edits which I think is important for drawing figures and people, trying to paint tiny hands is very hard!)
Lashes, lips, hair
sketching - my oh my is it nice to sketch on an iPad where pencil marks don’t remain and the undo button is your best friend
botanicals (I do like to add a subtle digital outline on my iPad afterwards though, it adds a bit more dimension and a cleaner look)
animals (also like to touch up on the iPad)
flowy fabrics, shading in fabrics
jewelry and accessories (also touch up on the iPad for a cleaner look … with objects you don’t want to have a fuzzy outline)
Shoes - I have a soft spot for sketchy watercolour shoe illustrations
architecture and sceneries
In the illustration you see below, I first sketched everything out on my iPad and filled out her skin as well as the parrot with some shading effects that look slightly painted. Then I removed the skin layer to leave only the sketch, which I reduced the opacity by quite a lot, only leaving about 5-6%. I do this because then I can print the sketch onto my watercolour paper and use it as a guideline. It’s helpful to create the sketch in a pale soft colour like coral or blue, so the ink doesn’t blend into your painting as much.
Then once the sketch was printed onto the watercolour paper I painted in the botanicals using a mixture of gouache and watercolour paints. I also painted her clothing by only adding some “tan” coloured shadowing to show more of a linen type fabric and a white outfit.
Once the painting was dry, I scanned it using my Epson Perfection scanner and imported it into Photoshop, where I adjusted the colour balance and curves to add a bit more depth to the painting. I then inserted the image into my Procreate App where I created the sketch and simply opened up the skin & bird layer overtop o the painting. I added some final minor details like shadowing in the leaves and sketches to unify both digital and painted elements and voila! The perfect combination.
It might sound like a lot of work but it’s very pleasant actually, figuring out how to make it all fit together is like solving a puzzle. I also much prefer the textured outcome to a fully digital illustration. Let me know what you think below!