Tutorial: Create A Fun Ink Splatter Vector

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Want to learn how to create your own custom ink splatter vector? The process is not very difficult (it’s actually kind of fun) and it should be easy to follow, but it does take some time.

Here is a preview of the final result of this tutorial.

Tutorial: Create A Fun Ink Splatter Vector

These splatter vectors are fun to create, and since the end result is in vector format it is highly versatile.

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Creating the Splatter Vector: 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)

To improve your skills with Illustrator, see Learn Adobe Illustrator.

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 give 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:

Image of splattered ink on paper

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.

Using levels in Photoshop

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.

Adjusting levels to remove gray areas in the scan

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:

The splatter after gray has been removed

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.

closeup view of imperfect edges

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%.

grayish-brown areas that need to be changed to black

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.

Closeup after the colored areas have been changed to black

Save your image as a JPG and we’ll move on to the next step.

For more tutorials, please see:

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

Opening the image in Inkscape

Go to Path – Trace Bitmap and you will see the following.

Trace bitmap in Inkscape

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.

Bitmap and vector versions side by side

Then delete the original image that you started with, leaving just the trace.

Deleting the bitmap version

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.

Open the SVG file in Illustrator

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:

Our finished splatter vector
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