Let me teach you how to easily create a Watercolor Illustration using simple blending effects. One of the best things about this tutorial is that it doesn’t require you to buy watercolor paper, paints, or use water. It’s just a matter of simple shapes and effects, and you will have a nice watercolor illustration.

STEP ONE:

What image or drawing would you like to convert into a Watercolor Illustration?
I am going to transform this tiger picture into a Watercolor Illustration:
Step One

STEP TWO:

Open a New Illustrator Document File > New, name it “Watercolor Illustration”, and give it a size of 612px by 792px (letter size).

Now, go to File > Open and look for the image you decided to transform into a Watercolor Illustration. When you click Open the image will be placed on your art-board; fix its size accordingly.

STEP THREE:

Go to the LAYERS panel Window > Layers (F7), double-click “Layer 1”, rename it as “image”, and check Template.
Step Three
 

STEP FOUR:

To begin with our illustration, let’s create a New Layer. Name it: “drawing”.
Step Four

STEP FIVE:

Select the Brush Tool (B), from the BRUSHES Panel – Window > Brushes (F5), open the 6D ART PEN BRUSHES set, and choose 6d Art pen Brush: Light 17pt.
Step Five
Change its Stroke Weight to 0.25 points and start tracing the most predominant lines of your image. Feel free to change the Stroke Weight Size or Brush.
Note: We don’t need to close our paths.

STEP SIX:

This is what I have so far:
Step Six A
Now, Select All the strokes by pressing: Control + A and change the Stroke color to (C= 100%, M= 100%, Y= 0%, K= 20%). This color will give to our strokes a more Black-Watercolor, realistic look.
Step Six B
( I hid the “image” layer by pressing the Eye icon).

STEP SEVEN:

It is time to create our watercolor layer. Lock the “drawing” layer by pressing the Lock icon. Then, create a New Layer, name it: “watercolor”, and drag it under the “drawing” layer.
Step Seven

STEP EIGHT:

First, we are going to color the Illustration’s background. Let’s begin this by double-clicking the Pencil Tool (N) to open the Pencil Tool Options dialog box.
Change the following settings:
Step Eight

STEP NINE:

Now, let’s draw a path around the illustration (in my case the tiger). Create ragged edges and close the path.
Fill this shape with White (no Stroke).
Step Nine

STEP TEN:

With the Pencil Tool draw another path around our first path. Remember to create ragged edges and close the path.
Fill this shape with (C= 16%, M= 0%, Y= 20%, K= 0%), or the color of your choice (preferably a pastel color), and go to Object > Arrange > Send to Back.
You should have something similar to this:
Step Ten

STEP ELEVEN:

Let’s create a blending effect. On the “watercolor” layer Select All (Control + A) and go to Object > Blend > Make.
Step Eleven
After adding the Blending effect, lock this layer.

STEP TWELVE:

Let’s create Watercolor Textures. Create a New Layer, name it: “textures”, and drag it under the “drawing” layer.
Step Twelve A
Select the Ellipse Tool (L), draw a circle and fill it with a light color. I am going to fill mine with (C= 0%, M= 0%, Y= 9%, K= 16%).
Like before, use the Pencil Tool (N) to draw a ragged edge around the circle. Fill the shape with white and send it to the back of the circle. Then, select both shapes and go to Object > Blend > Make. At the TRANSPARENCY panel (Window > Transparency) change its Blending Mode to Multiply and give it an Opacity of 50%.

Place this shape on the illustration’s background. Repeat this step to create more dots.
Note: Try this effect with different shapes, colors, opacities, and blending modes.
This is what I got:
Step Twelve C

STEP THIRTEEN:

Time to paint our illustration!
Create a New Layer under the “drawing” layer and name it: “main color”.
Step Thirteen A
Create different shapes to fill up our illustration areas. Apply the same method we used to create our circular textures (a ragged white edge, blending effect, blend mode, opacity, and transparency).
Here is an example of my work in progress:
Step Thirteen B

STEP FOURTEEN:

The black strokes of our “drawing” layer pop out too much. To create a realistic watercolor stroke impression go back to the “drawing” layer, Select All the strokes (Control + A), and change their Opacity to 70%.

Final result:
Step Fourteen - Final Result

Congratulation, now you know how to create an authentic watercolor effect! Go ahead and use your creativity and knowledge to apply this effect on other illustrations, or why not typography!
As Mary Lou Cook said, “[c]reativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.”

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