Hand-painted to Digital: The Process

I’m an old school paper, brushes and paint gal. I’m pretty tech savvy and can hold my own with software, but digital art is still a learning curve I’m working to master. Imagine my delight when a client wanted a hand-painted header for her website! Be still my heart.

Everything was the same almost to the end when the “finished” header needed to be placed in its digital home. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the process:

First, brainstorming ideas.


Once we settled on an arrangement, I made the rough on vellum in pencil so we could move things around if needed. She wanted me to add ferns. 

ME_Template                       FernPlacement


Then the fun stuff – mixing the colors.

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Once the client approves a palette it’s time to bring it to life. The image is transferred to scale onto paper and I start painting. I like to work in small increments  – making a mistake means starting over and I want to avoid that.



When I’m not sure about an idea or stroke I’ll test it on the sidelines until I’m confident…like figuring out how I’m going to make the ferns. Sometimes I’ll play with a new idea and doodle with the paint until I find something I like. My clean palette looks like this by the end of the project.



It’s exciting to see it come to life bit by bit! I work with like colors in the same sitting if I can for consistency.





See that extra piece of greenery up top? Directly below it I smudged the paint with my hand. Up top I will recreate that section then use Photoshop magic to replace the smudged area with the clean version.  Once the original is finished, I erase all the pencil lines then scan it into the computer. My commercial photographic scanner gives me super high resolution options to make sure details aren’t lost in the transfer. Then it’s time to remove the background paper in Photoshop. The aqua background is in place to illuminate any spots I might miss. (Yes, I am working upside down. I’ll also use my other hand when necessary to reach tight spots.)

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Once I’m happy it’s sized accordingly and sent to the web-designer for import. You can see the final results on Michaela’s site!

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