Making a sketch with the Wacom® Inkling® and painting it with Digital Watercolor in Painter™

By Cher Threinen-Pendarvis

Artist Cher Pendarvis is the author of all ten editions of The Painter Wow! Book. To learn more about Cher, please visit her Web site at

For the landscape study San Diego Desert Mountains, I began by sketching on location in my sketchbook using the Wacom® Inkling®. Later, back at the studio, I copied the sketch file to my computer, and painted colored washes using the Digital Watercolor brushes in Corel® Painter™.

Inkling is a revolutionary device created by Wacom that allows you to digitally record the process of drawing on paper using the Inkling pressure-sensitive ballpoint sketch pen. The Inkling pen works on any standard page, such as a sketchbook, an individual sheet of paper, or other substrate up to 8 x 11 inches in size. The drawings are captured and stored to the Inkling receiver. You can then transfer them to your Mac® or Windows® computer as layered raster or vector art.

1. Getting started with the Inkling

To use Inkling, you need to attach the receiver to an individual piece of paper, or to a page in your sketchbook, as I did. You can attach the Inkling receiver to the top of the page in the center, or you can place it on the side. I found it easiest to work with it attached on the top center. Squeeze the receiver clip to open it, and then slide the paper into the opening. Make sure the receiver is centered on the page.

You can begin a drawing session by pressing the power button on the receiver. The unit is ready when the power button lights up green. Every time you open and then close the receiver, a new sketch file is created.

2. Drawing with the Inkling

When holding the pen, avoid covering the pen tip cone area, because it contains sensors that communicate with the receiver. Covering this area blocks the line of sight to the receiver.

Wacom also recommends maintaining a distance of two centimeters between the receiver and the sketch area. I had the best results when drawing near the center of the page, a few inches away from the receiver.

Take care not to move the receiver until your sketch is complete, because it may cause your drawing to be out of register.

As you work, the Inkling pen senses variations in both pressure and tilt, allowing you to record lines with expressive thin to thick variations.

To become familiar with my subject, I drew a few sketches of the scene using the Inkling. I drew some line drawings and some shaded sketches that showed more of the landscape forms. The sketch that I chose to use as a basis for my Digital Watercolor painting is a simple line sketch.

3. Saving a sketch file and transferring it to a computer

When I finish a drawing, I close the receiver to save the sketch file. Next, I connect the Inkling receiver to my computer using the USB cable provided. Once connected, the unit lights up and the Inkling Sketch Manager automatically appears and displays the sketch files. Inkling records the sketches to the WPI format by default, but you can save them as other formats including TIFF, JPEG, PNG, SVG, BMP, and PDF. You can also edit the sketch files as bitmaps or vector files. To save my file for import into Painter, I choose File > Save as Different Format in the Inkling Sketch Manager and choose the TIFF format.

4. Opening and preparing the sketch in Painter

In Painter, I import the sketch file by choosing File > Open. Next, I place the drawing on a layer to keep the Digital Watercolor brushwork separate from the drawing. To place the drawing on a layer, I choose Select > All and then Select > Float. Next, I make the white areas of the layer transparent. In the Layers panel, I set the Composite Method for the layer to Gel, and then reduce the layer opacity by adjusting the Opacity slider.

My next step is to set up brush tracking, which lets you customize Painter to the unique feel of your hand. To set up brush tracking, choose Corel Painter > Preferences > Brush Tracking (Mac) or Edit > Preferences > Brush Tracking (PC) and, when the Brush Tracking dialog box appears, make a representative brushstroke in the scratch pad.

To establish the color theme for my piece, I use the Mixer panel to create a palette of colors, including blues, purples, browns, greens and golds. To open the Mixer panel, press Cmd+2 (Mac) or Ctrl+2 (PC).

5. Choosing brushes

For this project, I choose the following brushes from the Digital Watercolor Brush category: Broad Water Brush, Coarse Dry Brush, Coarse Water, Flat Water Blender, Soft Round Blender, and New Simple Water. Here are sample brushstrokes painted with each brush.

To try out the brushes prior to painting, you can open a new file by choosing File > New. In the New Image dialog box, set the brush sample file to 600 (Width) x 800 (Height) pixels.

6. Adding the first washes of color

In the Layers panel, I click the Canvas to select it. In the Brush Selector, I choose the Digital Watercolor category, and then choose the Broad Water Brush variant. I then open the Colors panel by pressing Cmd+1 (Mac) or Ctrl+1 (PC) and choose a light blue color. I also choose colors from the Mixer panel as I go. At this stage, I begin making loose strokes across the sky, resizing the brush as needed using the Size slider on the property bar.

Next, I choose the Coarse Dry Brush (Digital Watercolor category) from the Brush Selector to apply washes of purples, browns, and greens on the landscape. Cooler colors recede and warm colors come forward in the composition. The Coarse Dry Brush has thick bristles, and with it you can achieve a nice brushy look with your strokes. You can see the bristle marks in the shadows on the mountain. I also use the Coarse Dry Brush to apply a variety of deep blue-grays to the shadow areas of the painting. I then add touches of warmer colors, such as ochre, where the sunlight hits the landscape, and touches of warm greens and browns, keeping in mind to follow the traditional watercolor practice of preserving the highlights as untouched areas of white paper.

7. Blending the colors

I blend the colors by lightly brushing back and forth with the Coarse Dry Brush. The Flat Water Blender and Soft Round Blender, both from the Digital Watercolor category, are also nice for blending and for applying a small amount of color.

8. Adding details

Before I start adding the details, I take a step back and take a careful look at the painting. Where are details needed? Are there areas that would benefit from more, or less, contrast? The Pointed Simple Water variant is a versatile brush for adding details in an expressive way, as it paints nicely thin to thick, depending on your stylus pressure. I also like to use the Coarse Water variant, sized smaller to about 8-10 pixels, to brush and pull color, and to diffuse edges. To finish, I sprinkle varied color and texture onto the foreground and mid-ground of the painting, using the Spatter Water and Salt variants.

About Cher Pendarvis

A pioneer in digital art, Cher Pendarvis has created illustrations using the Macintosh computer for more than two decades. Cher holds a BFA with Highest Honors and Distinction in Art specializing in painting and printmaking, and she is a member of the San Diego ¬Museum of Art Artist Guild and the Digital Art Guild. She has taught Painter and Photoshop workshops around the world, and is principal of the consulting firm Cher Threinen Design. Cher is author of all ten editions of The Painter Wow! Book, co-author of Beyond Digital Photography (with Donal Jolley) and author of the The Photoshop and Painter Artist Tablet Book.

To find out more about Cher, visit her web site: