How to create layers with transparencies

I love being inspired by what I learn from other artists. Over the past couple of years, I’ve learned so much from talented, and generous artists, and I’ve worked to  incorporate what they’ve taught me into my own work. Recently I found myself thinking about how to use all of the various styles I’ve learned with my own, and how might include them in a way that still retains each of the voices in its own right, while still making a complete piece. I tried a number of different techniques, but it wasn’t until I started considering my digital vs. analog work that it really struck me.

I love the messy, tactile world of my analog, pen and paper, paint all over me work, but I’ve also learned to appreciate the messiness of digital – its different, but it’s there, and while it will never be as fulfilling (there, I said it) as the smug of ink on the page, it absolutely inspired my latest watercolor journal.

I kept thinking about how incredible it is to see layers in Photoshop and Illustrator, how satisfying it is to click on an off certain layers so that you can see the piece as a completed whole, but also each of the parts individually.

By starting with my original watercolor illustrations, then building up layers using clear projection film sheets, I can each piece together, and on their own.

I loved adding in each layer, seeing how much it changed the image to add words to the watercolor, then ink defining the flowers.

I love that I can keep each layer intact, but I also get to have this complex, layered piece in the end.

Because I start each watercolor painting on a different part of the page, and with its own set of flowers, the words move and shift, and the outlines become both more and less complex depending on the image.

I used an Anne Lamott quote on one of the pages, and it says so much about what this journal is teaching me with each new page I add – we have to look at both the big picture and the smallest stitches.

Plus, the stitching is really quite beautiful all on its own…

But then again, so is the paint…

I think I might be inspired to add more layers next. There’s nothing like add them, well, besides seeing them on their own.

Here are a few of the simple supplies I used to make this journal:


Brandi is an illustrator and paper crafter who makes and records memories with her husband in Bellingham, Washington, a far cry from her home state of Georgia. She spends all her free moments playing with paper and glue, and drawing a version of the world around her. When she isn’t making a mess or dreaming up new designs, she’s spending time at one of her favorite neighborhood bookshops or watching episodes of Murder She Wrote, because nothing beats J.B. Fletcher.


  1. Katie Smith

    I love this idea!

  2. Julia Bethmann

    What a nice way to talk and think about your own style and what you personally and uniquely bring to the work you do… thank you!

  3. Ella G

    This idea is so cool!

  4. Rebecca Johnstone

    Wot a gorgeous technique and love the connection between digital and analogue work. I’m sure I have transparency somewhere -need to dig it out!

  5. Robin Lyday

    This is fascinating! I know what maps you were reminding of! I love the concept of capturing the layers of your own work vs. influence. The outcome being up a kind of “collage” that can be taken apart, layers analyzed, compared or appreciated sparately.

  6. Linda1948

    I love this idea! I’m going to give it a go!
    Thank you!