I wanted to make a repeating pattern, so I drew a rough grid on some draft paper, and started drawing.
You can see in the sketch photo that I deliberated between several decorative elements. I also tried out several color combinations till I found one which pleased me.
To get my pattern on the “real paper” I simply darken the back side of the sketch with pencil and then with my mechanical pencil (very thin tip) I trace over the main lines and shapes. When tracing you need to have enough pressure so the line transfers to the paper underneath, but watch out not to press too hard, as then you may get etch marks on your paper.
Once I have my traced design, I usually prefer to outline my lines in ink before painting with colors. Then I erase my pencil marks.
This piece was done with my Staedtler Aquarelle pencils. The paper isn’t watercolor paper, and isn’t high quality. Its a fairly cheap sketching pad, with a lot of texture. It worked pretty well with the watercolor pencils as I don’t use much water with them, hence no paper-buckling problems.
When my drawing is done, I scan it and open it in Photoshop.
Most times I add some refinements digitally. That could include slight color manipulations, brightness & contrast, etc.
Since I wanted to make a card – a printable card – out of this design, I put it as is into my card template. The template has a “safe area” for printing both on A4 and Letter sized paper. In the screenshot below you can see my Photoshop layers.
I always keep my originals and other important layers which don’t appear in the final design under my background layer. If you look at the bottom two layers, you can see I scanned the drawing twice, with different configurations. Only when combining the two did I approve of the result. I saved the merged version and used that as a starting point for the card design. In the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer I very slightly shifted the hue to be more yellowish, as close as possible to the original work.
If you’re a Photoshop novice, I would highly recommend saving your original files, and working only on duplicates. For example, For the card I had to scale down the size of the design. Keeping the original ensures I can always use it again in its larger size.
For my clients I save it as a high resolution PDF file. Printing and cutting ensue and then some attractive item photos for Etsy.