How to digitize watercolor paintings

watercolor-triangles photo-digital

One of the skillsets that I acquired in my career as an architect includes knowing my way around a bunch of software programs, including the Adobe Creative Suite.  So when it came to digitizing watercolor paintings for my free monthly wallpapers, figuring out a process was pretty straightforward.  I got a few questions on instagram about how I digitize watercolor paintings.  For those people that are just figuring this out and are less familiar with the software programs - I hope this is helpful!

This blog post will cover the process for how I digitize a simple watercolor painting.  Please note that the following instructions assume you know the basics of getting around in Adobe Photoshop (like the essential tools and user interface).  Alright, let’s get started!


First things first:  Guess what? No scanner required!

I think most people (myself included) assume that you need a scanner to digitize your watercolor.  I have a document scanner (one of those that takes one sheet at a time) and did some research on the best scanner for artwork - thinking I MIGHT need to get one.  But then I ran across people suggesting just using a camera (digital SLR is best).  In fact, when I was going down the rabbit hole of researching this topic, I came across a common problem that scanners pick up a lot of the watercolor paper texture - which might be undesirable.  Meanwhile, taking a hi-res photo actually helps minimize this texture.


Tools/Software You’ll Need

  • Your art
  • Cameraa digital camera that takes high-resolution raw files is best, but an iphone would work too.  Just keep in mind that starting with a raw file will give you more control over the photo/image quality
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Lightroom (only required if using RAW files)

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Navy and Blush Wedding Invitations

Navy and Blush Floral Wedding Invitations

Towards the end of 2016, I started working with Jamie and Will on paper goods, signage and other design details for their upcoming wedding.  It’s been fun working with Jamie since she is a DIYer and planned to stay involved in creating details for her wedding.  I wanted to share the process of these invitations because it is a blend of bride DIY and custom digital work.

Custom Digital + Bride DIY Invitations

Jamie knew that she wanted to print and assemble the invitation suite herself, so I designed this custom invitation (in English and Chinese), a matching envelope liner, and delivered it digitally.  Jamie was then able to DIY the whole wedding suite at home.

Design Tools:

DIY Invite Supplies: (purchased and assembled by Jamie)

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Free Monthly Wallpaper: May 2017

May 2017 Monthly Wallpaper-Phone-nocal
May 2017 Free Monthly Wallpaper

And just like that, it’s May.  Which means the free monthly wallpaper is available!  I have got to stop being amazed at how fast time goes, because it never slows down.  But honestly, I feel like I blinked and April was almost over! If you’ve been following along on instagram, you probably know I started this 100 day project in April where I create a watercolor piece everyday for 100 days.  If that’s the case, you’ll recognize this abstract floral. It looked very May-ish to me, so I digitized it for this month’s desktop and phone wallpaper.

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Learning Calligraphy: 3 Things I Used to Start + 3 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started

Wedding Envelope Calligraphy

I finally had a good reason to learn calligraphy after we got engaged in January 2015. That way I could address our invitation envelopes and letter some small paper goods for our wedding day. I had some notes I had taken from a friend with suggestions on how to learn on my own so I dug them out and that’s where I started. After completing all the calligraphy for our wedding day (which looking back at it now was definitely NOT great - see photo above!) I didn’t pick up the pointed pen again until the start of 2016.

After stepping away for more than 6 months, it was almost like I was starting over again. Except this time, I started a new instagram account just for calligraphy and discovered so many resources! I thought it would be helpful to share what resources I used when I first started learning compared to what I wish I knew when I started. Now, this doesn’t mean that the tools I used when I started were bad, I just think there are BETTER resources for someone that is just starting out.

I hope that you find the following information helpful! Of course, everything comes down to personal preference at the end of the day and what works for me may not work for you. In any case, learning new things should be fun. So however you get started, just starting is the most important thing!

The 3 Things I Used to Start Learning Calligraphy

  1. Skillshare Class: Molly Jacques (no longer available)  |  This was the class that was recommended to me. I enrolled in Skillshare and completed Molly’s class during the free trial period. Molly’s lettering style is beautiful and she is very talented. The class covered all the necessary basics: supplies, basic strokes and all the letters. Not a bad overview of calligraphy for beginners.
  2. Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy - Eleanor Winters  |  I can’t even remember why or when I bought this book, but I had this when I started learning but only referenced it for basic strokes since this was teaching a different script (Copperplate script). I had taken Molly’s class (Modern script) and wanted to letter in that style for our wedding. I did return to this and reference it when I learned Copperplate later and found it helpful.
  3. Basic Supplies  |  I bought basic supplies that Molly recommended in her Skillshare class. However, I would replace all of these with a "better" basic supply list that is only marginally more expensive (my list below + a helpful graphic). Starting with the right tools is very important and plays a huge part in whether or not learning calligraphy is enjoyable!

Total Cost: Approx $22

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Keep Going

Keep Going - Phone Screen
Keep Going | April 2017 Mobile Phone Screen

It’s been years since I first heard Ira Glass talk about creativity in his interview on the art of storytelling and for some reason it’s been on my mind lately and I wanted to share it here. Perhaps it’s also because I just finished listening to S-Town (for which Ira Glass is the Editorial Advisor so I kept hearing his name on the episode credits).

Nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish somebody had told this to me — is that all of us who do creative work … we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there’s a gap, that for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good, OK? It’s not that great. It’s really not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good. But your taste — the thing that got you into the game — your taste is still killer, and your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you, you know what I mean?

A lot of people never get past that phase. A lot of people at that point, they quit. And the thing I would just like say to you with all my heart is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be — they knew it fell short, it didn’t have the special thing that we wanted it to have.

And the thing I would say to you is everybody goes through that. And for you to go through it, if you’re going through it right now, if you’re just getting out of that phase — you gotta know it’s totally normal.

And the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work — do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week, or every month, you know you’re going to finish one story. Because it’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you are actually going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions. It takes a while, it’s gonna take you a while — it’s normal to take a while. And you just have to fight your way through that, okay?

-Ira Glass

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Summer Preview: Cancun Vacation

Cancun Morning Ocean

Last month my husband and I got a nice preview of summer on our 4 day, 3 night trip to the Hyatt Ziva in Cancun. Our typical travel style is less R&R and more walking around and sightseeing. Neither of us had ever been to an all-inclusive resort and since I’ve been struggling with health issues the past few months, this trip was the perfect type of holiday.

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Free Monthly Desktop + Phone Wallpaper: April

Monthly Desktop Wallpaper - Sage
Monthly Desktop Wallpaper - Sage

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, then you’ll recognize these watercolor sage leaves I painted a little while back! I finally digitized them and turned them into desktop and mobile wallpapers for you to download and use this month. 

Changing my desktop wallpaper every month forces me clean up all those stray icons and files that tend to accumulate over time. It’s nice to start the new month with a clean desktop, isn’t it? I also have this thing with calendars. Sometimes they are helpful, but other times I just don’t want all those extra numbers in my face. So, I made a version without a calendar that’s just a background for anytime you want some sage leaves in your life.

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Oh, hello there.

Do you remember when Xanga was around? I think it started in 1999 and was my first memory of "blogging". I didn’t have a Xanga because I’ve never been much of a writer, but I did start a blog in 2004 - because by that time it involved more design, branding and photo sharing. Sharing images and designing was MUCH more fun than just writing.

Do you want to know what I called my blog? It was called Sugarcubicle. I worked in a cube and I was excited about my first job in architecture. Don’t ask - I still don’t know what I was thinking. I designed a logo and I think I posted once, maybe twice, before I felt embarrassed / too exposed / not good enough and I took it down.

Since 2004 I can count at least three more times that I’ve started blogs and subsequently took them down within months of publishing them. Each time it was because I felt like someone would judge me for my opinion or that someone at work would find it. And well, that would be embarrassing, wouldn’t it?

Perhaps what they say about growing older is true - that you are more confident in who you are or just less apologetic. In any case, I’m going to try this again. Hopefully I will stick with it, because I don’t want to be left wondering “What if?” another 12 years from now.

So in the words of Brené Brown (because she’s awesome):

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”


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