Stickers Making-Of - Scanning & Editing Watercolor Drawings

If you've ever scanned in a watercolor drawing (or any image with soft hues and delicate color transitions) you probably know the horror of seeing your digital image looking VERY different from the original.

Where black-and-white images or strong colors are quite easy to edit, techniques like watercolor and colored pencil require more care. Especially if you prefer leaving parts of your paper white, but don't want the paper structure to show up in eventual prints or digital presentations. 

So while I'm still new to color images and maybe not the best choice for advice, I'll show how I usually edit my watercolor drawings in Photoshop.

Photoshop can be purchased on a monthly basis, which is a bit of a curse and a blessing in one. While I hate paying every month instead of just 'getting it over with' once, I'm glad that this takes care of eventual program updates, and it makes the initial expenses a lot more manageable. While I've used a lot of different graphic programs, from freeware like GIMP to Paint Pro SAI, Corel Painter and Clip, I do come back to Photoshop for image editing all the time. It isn't the most intuitive program for actual 'painting' (that's where Corel Painter wins...) but since I prefer painting traditionally anyway, that doesn't bother me. 

But these tips should be applicable to a lot of programs since I'm not using anything fancy. The basics are, well, basic enough to work nearly anywhere. 

My other materials can be found on my 'Resources' page - from watercolors to scanner and graphic tablet, I've listed them all there. But as with Photoshop: The materials really don't matter all that much, as long as you know what you're doing. ;)

Let's go!

First, you'll need something to scan, of course. 

Select the highest resolution that works for your laptop/PC. I work with 600 dpi since that allows me to zoom in while correcting the image - anything beyond 600 dpi is just a pain in the ... backside of my laptop. 

Once you've got your scanned image open in Photoshop (or graphic program of your choice), crop it and duplicate that layer! Having a layer, set to invisible and pushed to the very bottom, is the perfect backup and comparison material for when you mess up along the way. 

For a long time, I then went directly into color adjustments to get the image as bright and natural looking as possible. But I've changed my approach a few months back:

I apply a selection mask to my objects first.

It's a lot of work, yes, but I've found that trying to get the background white by color selection/adjustment layers only, I always use more color nuances than necessary in my drawings. Especially for my sticker motives I like to keep the 'hand-painted' feel and the editing to a minimum, so this gives the closest results. 

Step by step: 

Background Color Selection

Go to 'Select' and choose 'color selection', then click on the white color of the paper to give the program a color reference. This will select all white or white-ish spaces on the drawing, with more or less leeway depending on the percentage you enter. Play around a bit - this really depends on your paper, the intensity of your watercolors etc.

But really, don't fret too much if the selection isn't all that accurate. Because next, we'll expand that selection (by clicking on 'Select', then 'Options') by 1 pixel, thus swallowing some of the pesky dots that refused to be selected. 

Then, inverse the selection (again under 'Select') so that instead of your white space, you have only the colored objects selected. 

Create a vector mask by clicking on the tiny symbol at the bottom of your 'layers' window. This makes everything that isn't part of your selection transparent. 

Working with Layer Masks

Now for the incredibly dull part: Take out your graphic tablet and refine that mask. This means both correcting the borders of objects and the interior of objects where you'd left white space or only very light colors in your drawing.

Really, my only advice for this is: Reduce the size of your Photoshop window and re-watch your favorite episodes on Netflix on the same screen. For reference: Correcting the mask for my Bonsai trees took two episodes of Parcs & Rec. Yay. Good times.

Yes, it's possible to get good, clean results without masking. But especially if you want to 'cut out' individual parts of the drawing (like individual trees) to make stickers, re-arrange the layout, or plan on printing anything: You'll be glad you did this later on. Our eyes see details like gray smudges or dots much better on paper than on screens, so while your picture might look clean on the monitor, you might be in for a surprise after printing. 

Bonus Tip: Personally, I find working on a transparent background or white background incredibly hard on my eyes. That's why I created an extra layer in a dark color. Much easier to spot stray smudges this way!

Upper right part of the tree is 'cleaned up', the lower left leaves much to do. 

Upper right part of the tree is 'cleaned up', the lower left leaves much to do. 

Adjust Layer Mask with Brush Tool in Black and White

I tend to leave a slight border around my drawings, especially if I have used a pen instead of just watercolors. It's easier to keep the drawing's borders looking natural and hand-drawn instead of overly digital. But every image requires a different approach. 

You can also see that now that my masks are in place and the clean-up well-advanced, I've started playing around with adjustment layers to see how my final pieces will look. I mostly adjusted brightness levels and cranked up vibrance, saturation and shifted the hue slightly down. 

Color Balance comes in handy especially when working with colored pens to draw the outlines, like the sepia I'd used for these. Sometimes, they can look too bright or not match the colors in the aftermath. I toned down the yellow in those lines via Color Balance. 

Apply Layer Mask

Once every tree is corrected, a right-click on the vector mask (the small black and white thumbnail in the layers window) and selection of 'apply layer mask' will make the mask permanent, leaving you with individual images on a transparent background: No paper textures except in the drawings themselves, no smudges, no dust grains from the scanner. 

Then, I can select individual trees with the lasso selection tool, copy-paste them into new files and save them individually for future use - like arranging them on A4 paper for printable files, or smaller formats for sticker sheets. Here's where the initial 600 dpi decision comes in handy: I only need 300 dpi for my prints, which makes the trees large enough to work on A4 paper despite the original drawings being slightly smaller. 

Is this the most time-effective way of getting a white background? Nope. But it is the way that keeps my original drawings looking as close to reality as possible, with me being able to adjust the background and the drawings separately.

I'm not sure if this 'tutorial' is helpful - I do hope so, but I think you'll need to know some Photoshop/graphic program basic knowledge, like how to work with masks and adjustment layers, to follow along.

So do tell me where I should expand or add additional steps. I'm thinking of doing a breakdown of how I create coloring pages, too.

The finished drawings can be found on my Etsy both as printable files and sticker sheets

Korean Wedding Guest Dress Code & Etiquette - Illustration

Despite having gotten married in Korea, I'd never been a guest at a wedding myself. On top of that, my own wedding was a traditional Korean one, so both me, my husband and pretty much all the female guests came wearing Hanbok.

So when the wedding of a close friend came around I wasn't too sure of what would be appropriate when it came to wardrobe. Especially since I knew the event would take place in on of the most luxurious wedding halls of Seoul - I was expecting evening dresses and lots of colors. A bit of research quickly showed how wrong I was...

In general, Korean weddings are over quickly and aren't - to my European sensitivities - very festive. The dress code for guests could best be described as business or business-casual, partly stemming from the fact that a large part of the guests is comprised of co-workers.  

More Korea...

Since I love drawing outfits and makeup illustrations, this was the perfect occasion to document some of the fashion choices I saw on other female guests. Of course, there are differences depending on the size of the event, the general level of luxury of the location, and the season. For example, I didn't even get to remove my coat! Luckily I'd gone with a dark charcoal one instead of my cream colored jacket which would have looked too much like white in pictures. 

General outfit tips: 

  • Subdued colors. The wedding is all about having the bride shine brightest! 
  • Choose an outfit you could wear to a business meeting or formal event during the day. A lot of Korean weddings don't take place late in the evening, so evening gowns or festive dresses aren't usual.
  • Men basically wear suits or a nice jacket, though ties are definitely optional. Like mentioned, business-casual is the order of the day. I've seen my fair share of jeans-wearing guests, too. 
  • Keep in mind that there will probably be no place to put down bags, jackets or coats and you'll have to carry/wear them all the time.

A "Korean Wedding" How To: 

1. Arrive early  

... so you can take a picture with the bride. She'll be sitting in a room exclusively for that purpose, so especially if you're a guest from the bride's friend circle, that's probably your best chance to see her up close and give her your best wishes (but fast, other people are waiting in line!).  

2. Gifts

Bring an envelope (or use one of the envelopes provided somewhere near the entrance) with money. This is your gift - you're essentially helping to pay for the wedding venue, food etc. 
The amount varies depending on how close your relationship is, so try asking some friends or colleagues from the same circle on how much they give.

There'll be two tables to chose from - one for the bride's guests and one for the groom's - where you'll be able to hand over your envelope (with your name written on it) and sign the guest book in exchange for a buffet coupon. You'll probably be able to greet the couple's parents there, too.

I added a little extra drawing as a wedding gift for the couple.

I added a little extra drawing as a wedding gift for the couple.

3. Ceremony  

The ceremony hall was inspired by a church when it came to design and layout. The benches on the right side of the aisle were for family, the left side for friends and co-workers, but we chose to stand to see better.
The actual ceremony is usually short. A ceremony master guides through the process, which is opened by the two mothers. Their part of the ceremony is based in Korean traditional weddings, so they'll be lighting candles and greet each other with bows while wearing traditional Hanbok. Then, the ceremony master introduces first the groom and then the bride, who'll be led down the aisle by her father.

For traditional Korean weddings, the exchange of symbolic food between the to-be married couple, as well as between the two families, is very important. Traditional Hanbok are worn and, among other elements, lavishly decorated dishes and lots of bowing dominate the ceremony. 

For traditional Korean weddings, the exchange of symbolic food between the to-be married couple, as well as between the two families, is very important. Traditional Hanbok are worn and, among other elements, lavishly decorated dishes and lots of bowing dominate the ceremony. 

A note on traditional Korean weddings: 

While there are lots of elements from Korean traditional weddings sprinkled through-out the modern version, the actual thing isn't that common anymore. For a true traditional ceremony, the bride and groom (as well as close relatives) would all be in Hanbok - with traditional wedding adornments on top! - and instead of exchanged vows or rings, it involves a lot of greetings and gifts between the families in form of symbolic food. 
I actually got married in a traditional Korean ceremony and will blog about that in the future!

Wedding illustration for an invitation card to a traditional Korean ceremony. The elaborate Hanbok for weddings are colorful, covered in intricate embroidery, and surprisingly heavy!  This wedding invitation portrait was a custom order. 

Wedding illustration for an invitation card to a traditional Korean ceremony. The elaborate Hanbok for weddings are colorful, covered in intricate embroidery, and surprisingly heavy!
This wedding invitation portrait was a custom order. 


The groom has to do a lot of bowing through-out the ceremony! Where the bride has a dress (and a flurry of professional ceremony assistants assuring it always looks perfect) that limits her movements to half-bows, the groom will do the traditional full bow on his hands and knees in front of the parents to ask for their blessings. 

The couple will also read out their vows, and the fathers or a very close friend will hold a short speech. Depending on the couple's background, there might be other short interludes (my friend had a singer duo sing for her since both she and her husband work in the music industry) but generally, the ceremony will be over in about 20-30 minutes.  

4. More pictures! 

Then, it's immediately time for some group pictures. At this particular wedding, the large number of guests made them take the group picture with friends before the family ones so that the largest chunk of people would be out of the ceremony hall. The bride will also throw her bouquet to an (already decided on) girlfriend. 

5. Buffet

While group pictures are still being taken, you can head over to the dining hall. Some guests don't even watch the ceremony, just hand over their gift envelopes, eat and leave. With the number of guest at this particular ceremony being well over 700, that was the only way to have the wedding hall and even dining hall not be completely overcrowded. 

Grab food and an empty table (only chairs for the couple's closest relatives come labeled), enjoy the music and make sure to eat noodles! Noodle soup or any noodle dish brings luck for the married couple, with the length of the noodles symbolizing a long and happy marriage.

Is it over...? 

The now married couple will change outfits after the ceremony and join the guests in the dining hall.
On this particular occasion, the bride went from wedding dress to evening gown (by the way, none of the guests or even bridesmaids wore anything even close to a gown. Like mentioned: Business-casual) and went around the hall to greet everyone and, since they're musicians, sang a duet. After that, another outfit change into the traditional Korean hanbok was in order. I believe the couple didn't get a single bite to eat! 

That is pretty much the end of all official parts.

At one point, the married couple and closest relatives will go into another room to complete the traditional Korean part of the wedding ceremony, but at that time, most of the other guests will have left already.

It can be a bit hard to tell when it's time to leave since guests trickle in and out constantly.

But don't be surprised if you feel like you're leaving early - as mentioned, Korean weddings don't take very long, and as far as I know, there is no dancing involved. In fact, when we had our own 'second' wedding in Switzerland to celebrate with my Swiss relatives and friends, my husband was petrified when he found out we'd have to dance a little bit of a wedding waltz! 

Just leave after you've at least once congratulated the married couple and eaten your share of the buffet!

free printable paperdoll inspired outfit stickers - Korean wedding guest dresses - watercolor illustration, makeup and handbags, sticker printables for scrapbooks, filofax, planners and journals.

If you - like me - love to decorate your journals and stationery with outfit stickers, you can download the printable file for these illustrations here. Just print them on sticker paper of your choice (or normal paper - a good old glue stick does the trick!), cut them with scissors and put them in your journal, planner, Filofax, or scrapbook. The files are 300 dpi on half a US letter page, making for some cute, small outfit stickers. 

Some of the drawings are from my 'OOTD Seoul' post here.