Here is a preview of the final result of this tutorial.
These splatter vectors are fun to create, and since the end result is in vector format it is highly versatile.
Things You Will Need:
- A bottle of ink (I used black India ink from a craft shop)
- Paper (photo paper or heavy white paper)
- A straw
- A scanner
- Adobe Illustrator
- Adobe Photoshop
- Inkscape (optional)
Overview of the Process:
In a moment we’ll be going over the specific steps and the details of each, but first let’s take a look at the basic process:
1 – Creating the ink splatter on paper
2 – Scanning it after the ink has dried
3 – Cleaning the image in Photoshop
4 – Tracing the image and saving it as a vector file
So as you can see it is not an overly complicated process, you just need some patience to let the ink dry and to complete the needed adjustments in Photoshop.
Now let’s get started.
Step 1: Creating the Ink Splatter
This is probably the most fun part, and it’s definitely the messiest. Take a piece of paper (I’d recommend either photo paper or a heavy piece of white paper) and place it somewhere that can get a little bit messy. You may want to put it on a table covered with newspaper, on your basement or garage floor, or somewhere that is protected from the ink splatters.
Your bottle of ink may come with a tube for dispensing the ink, or you can use a simple straw to collect the ink. Gather some ink in the tube or straw and splatter it on your paper. You’ll probably want to do this several times to get a good amount of ink.
Once you have a bunch of ink on the paper allow it to dry. Some types of ink are pretty thick so be sure that you are giving it adequate time to dry before scanning, or else you can damage your scanner. I allowed about 24 hours for the ink used in this tutorial to dry.
Step 2: Scanning
Once the ink is completely dried, scan it at 300 DPI and open it in Photoshop. Here is a look at my image at this stage:
Step 3: Clean Up the Image in Photoshop
As you can see from the image above, we have the splatter but it needs some work before it will be usable. To start with, there are some gray areas that need to be made white. We want to have the ink splatters as black, and the paper as white so that it will allow us to create a splatter that can be used on any background.
To get rid of the gray areas we will make some changes to the levels. Go to Image – Adjustments – Levels and you should see something like this.
Change the white level (on the right) to about 160, which will turn the gray areas to white, and change the black level (on the left) to about 25, which will make the dark areas black.
The specific levels and numbers used will be different on your image, so play with it to get a combination that makes the white areas white and the black areas black.
Here is a look at the image after simply adjusting the levels:
This is a good start, but if you look at the image at 100% you will see plenty of areas that still need to be touched up. In the image below you’ll notice some areas, especially near the edges of the splatters, where there is still a good bit of gray. We want to color all of this to black.
To do so we’ll use the brush tool with a small round tip. The size of the brush tip will depend on your particular image, smaller tips will be needed for more detailed areas.
Take the brush, with the foreground color set to black, and color the gray areas so that they become black. You’ll also want to use a white brush tip to color over any tiny stray splatters or ink spots. You may find it easiest to work with the image zoomed. The image below is at 300%.
Tracing the image to create the vector will also help with the cleanup process, but it helps to get it as clean as possible in Photoshop first. After touching up the image shown earlier, here is how it looks.
Save your image as a JPG and we’ll move on to the next step.
Step 4: Tracing the Image
Adobe Illustrator has a powerful Live Trace functionality, but after reading a tutorial on Bittbox a few years ago I have been in the habit of using Inkscape for this. Inkscape is a free program that can be downloaded here, or you can simply use Illustrator to accomplish the same thing.
Open the image in Inkscape
Go to Path – Trace Bitmap and you will see the following.
There are a lot of settings you can change here, but start with the default, it usually works pretty well for purposes like this. Click “Ok” and then X out of that box.
The trace will now be showing above the image you started with, so drag the trace to the side.
Then delete the original image that you started with, leaving just the trace.
Now click on the trace and go to File – Save As and save it as a .svg file, which we can then open in Illustrator.
In Illustrator open the .svg file.
You can inspect the image to see that it looks ok, but it should be pretty good with no need for additional clean up. At this point you can save it as a .ai file and the process is complete. You now have a versatile splatter vector that can be used whenever you need it.
Here is our final result:
The full set of 15 ink splatter vectors is available for Vandelay Premier members to download and use in their own work.