Printing Your Bluelines: Watercolor Basics

Love watercolor?  Check out my wonderful watercolor comic, 7" Kara, now available as a webcomic!

One of my secret ingredients for whipping out watercolor illustrations and comic pages so quickly is that I rely heavily on multiple stages to help me solve my problems.

I rarely draw directly on my watercolor paper, rather I sketch in my sketchbook, then scan it, convert that sketch to bluelines, and print that onto my watercolor paper.  From there, I pencil it, then stretch it.

Tight Sketch To Finished Watercolor:

Bluelines to Watercolors:

Ok, so why bluelines for watercolors?

Printing out bluelines means that I can sketch where I'm most comfortable- my sketchbook, whenever I choose to, and then select a sketch for further refinement.  I find that doing illustrations directly on watercolor paper can be stressful (although churning out so many tests and demonstrations for Youtube has certainly reduced that), and being able to work in my sketchbook, or in stages, is much less so.  This technique is particularly important to comics, which tends to be a multi stage process anyway and allows me to create multi-panel, detailed pages with minimal effort.

We touched on this the week prior with printing out comic pages.  The process does not differ much- what does differ is that your paper options are slightly larger.  Please refer to this post on necessary print settings and setup, as well as for recommended papers for printing watercolor comics.

Additional Papers:
Cotton rag papers that are mould and machine made, such as:
Canson Heritage
Langton Prestige

 Painted on Arches Coldpress

Painted on Canson Heritage coldpress

Painted on Canson Moulin du Roy (defunct but great, similar to Arches)

Again, go for tape bound, not block bound, and avoid printer papers.  While hotpress will run through your printer, it is more suitable for gouache techniques or black and white inks, as it's not recommended that you stretch hot press watercolor paper.

When printing your bluelines onto watercolor paper, you want to be SURE you are using a waterbased ink.  Most home printers do- just avoid using a toner printer.  You can test this by printing out a test piece on cheap paper, and spritzing it with water- if it runs, it's water-soluble, and you're good to go.

Stretching Your Paper:

I'm not going to go over stretching your watercolor  paper again, you can read all about that here.  I am going to stress the importance of doing so- it will remove the printer ink from the paper once you've penciled your image.

Demonstration of Printed Bluelines

In our next update, I'm going to discuss penciling your pages- the step you should do before stretching your watercolors.


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