How to Trace Watercolor in Illustrator

Follow these simple steps to trace a watercolor image in Adobe Illustrator. This process can be useful for creating vector illustrations from hand-painted artwork.

Checkout this video:


Watercolor is a beautiful medium with a lot of depth and texture. Unfortunately, it can be tricky to translate that same look into the digital world. However, with a few tips and tricks, you can create stunning watercolor effects in Adobe Illustrator.

There are two main ways to create watercolor effects in Illustrator: by using the built-in brushes, or by tracing an existing image. In this article, we’ll focus on the latter method.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

-A scanned image of your watercolor painting (make sure the scan is high-quality!)
-Adobe Illustrator
-A drawing tablet (optional, but helpful)

With those supplies ready to go, you’re now ready to start tracing your watercolor painting in Illustrator!

What you will need

In order to trace watercolor in Illustrator, you will need the following:
-A watercolor painting
-Adobe Illustrator
-Pen tool

Once you have gathered all of the necessary materials, you will need to scan your watercolor painting into Adobe Illustrator. Once your painting is scanned, you will need to use the pen tool to trace over the outline of your painting. After you have traced the outline of your painting, you will then need to fill in the inside of your painting with color.

Step One: Setting up your workspace

The first step to successfully tracing watercolor in Illustrator is to set up your workspace. You’ll need a few things:

-A watercolor painting
-A digital scanner
-Adobe Illustrator

Once you have those things, you’re ready to get started.

Step Two: Sketch your design

Start with a pencil sketch of your design. It can be as simple or as complex as you want. Once you have your sketch, you’re ready to start tracing.

Step Three: Create your tracing template

Now it’s time to set up your tracing template. Open a new document in Illustrator (File > New) and set the width and height to match your watercolor paper. Next, change the Color Mode to RGB (Edit > Edit Colors > Convert to RGB).

To begin, you need to determine the number of anchor points or “handles” that will be used to trace your artwork. The fewer the anchor points, the smoother your final trace will be, but too few anchor points can result in a trace that doesn’t accurately represent your original. Conversely, adding too many anchor points can result in a trace that is overly complex and difficult to edit. As a general rule of thumb, we recommend using between 8-12 anchor points for most traced images.

Once you’ve determined the number of anchor points you want to use, open the Tracing Options dialog box by going to Window > Image Trace. In the Presets drop-down menu, select Low Resolution Photo so that we can easily adjust the threshold later on. Check the Preview box so that you can see how your image will trace. Finally, enter the number of colors you want in your traced image under Number of Colors and click Trace.

Step Four: Trace your design

Now it’s time to trace your design. Select the “Pen” tool from the toolbar, and make sure that the “Stroke” color is set to black. Trace around the outside of your design, making sure to click on each node to create a sharp corner. When you’re finished tracing, double-click on the “Stroke” color swatch in the toolbar and change it back to white.

Step Five: Edit your tracing

After you have completed your tracing, you can edit it to clean it up and make it look more like the original image. To do this, select the object you want to edit and then click on the “Edit” button in the top toolbar.

In the Edit window, you will see a number of options that you can use to tweak your tracing. For example, you can use the “Smooth” tool to smooth out any rough edges in your tracing. You can also use the “Erase” tool to remove any unwanted parts of your tracing.

Once you are happy with your tracing, you can close the Edit window and save your work.

Step Six: Finish your tracing

Once you have your tracing complete, you can now turn it into a vector graphic! To do this, simply click on the “live trace” button in the top toolbar. This will bring up a menu of different options for you to choose from. We recommend using the “screen” option for best results. Now all you need to do is click “trace” and your image will be turned into vectors!

Tips and Tricks

Learning how to watercolor can be a fun and rewarding experience. However, it can be difficult to know where to start. This guide will provide some tips and tricks on how to watercolor in Adobe Illustrator.

There are a few things you will need before you start:
-A digital drawing tablet: This will allow you to have more control over your brushstrokes and get a more natural look.
-Watercolors: You can use tubes, pans, or even liquid watercolors.
-Paper towels or a cloth: This is for wiping your brush and absorbing excess water.
-A reference image: This is optional but can be helpful if you want to recreate a specific look or painting.

Once you have gathered all of your supplies, open Adobe Illustrator and create a new document. Then, set up your workspace by creating a new layer for your watercolors. Next, select the paintbrush tool and choose a soft round brush with 100% opacity. Now you are ready to start painting!

Begin by wetting your brush with water and then adding color to your brushstrokes. As you paint, vary the amount of water on your brush to create different effects. You can also try different brushes for different results. For example, using a dry brush will give your painting more texture.

Experiment with different techniques and have fun!


Now that you know how to use the Trace command in Illustrator, you can apply it to your own watercolor illustrations. Experiment with different settings to find the results that you like best. And don’t be afraid to experiment with other tracing techniques, such as using the Blob Brush tool or the Pencil tool.

Scroll to Top