Skillshare Class+Project Complete: Paper to Digital Waterbrush Lettering – life+running

Skillshare Class+Project Complete: Paper to Digital Waterbrush Lettering

Four classes down, one more to go!

As part of my April Creative Challenge, I completed Paper to Digital Waterbrush Lettering on SkillShare.

My Project

The class assignment was to vectorize waterbrush text. 

I went through my paper drawer (why yes, I do have a drawer dedicated to paper) and noticed I had a bunch of scraps leftover from my thesis project and our wedding. I decided to create mini greeting cards from these instead of one card from larger paper. This allowed me to more quickly practice the techniques from class on many cards.

Materials Used

My Vectorized Lettering Process

For those who aren’t familiar with vectorization, a quick definition: a vector is composed of points rather than pixels and can be resized to whatever you need. You know how JPGs get all funky when you enlarge them? Vectors don’t. That’s why it’d be nice to vectorize lettering—so you can resize it and print it where you want.


I scanned the original bookmark at 300 DPI and opened the original bookmark (yellow) in Photoshop. I then messed with the levels until the yellow disappeared.

Vectorized Waterbrush Lettering Class: Don't panic

Once I got rid of the yellow, I darkened the black lettering until I got something that I liked.

Vectorized Waterbrush Lettering Class: Don't panic


After I finished in Photoshop, I saved the file and pulled it into Illustrator. Then, as instructed, used the autotrace function.

My autotrace rant…

I *hate* the autotrace function. It creates crappy looking vectors no matter what setting you choose. I never have luck making it work—especially for lettering, which is why I took this class on Skillshare. I was hoping to find another way to vectorize lettering.

Vectorized Waterbrush Lettering Class: Don't panic

It seems like there’s two options: make crappy looking vectors using autotrace OR spend hours on end with the pen tool and end up with something that’s still not great. There has to be a better way!

Here’s what I’m talking about:

why I don't use the auto trace function in illustrator


Autotrace is great for most people—if you want to blow something up and you don’t really see a difference between the original and vectorized version, then you’re probably OK. If you’re using it for something around the house, a gift for a friend, etc., it’s probably fine.

But if your career is in graphic design, I strongly advise against using it because even if YOU don’t see the difference, other designers can tell when you’ve used it and it makes your work look bad. I just had this discussion with our student designer at my job last week. If you think you need autotrace, dig for original art where possible, trace the art with the pen tool, or design another solution.

That concludes my autotrace rant.

My Finished Project

I finished the tutorial for this class because I’d already come this far. I brought my vectorized lettering back into Photoshop and dropped it on a much bigger piece of art.

Vectorized Waterbrush Lettering Class: Don't panic

I cropped it and saved it as a desktop wallpaper. Click the image below to get the full-sized desktop wallpaper.

Vectorized Waterbrush Lettering Class: Don't panic


If you took a class on SkillShare, what would you want to take?

Love on ya, chimes

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