• Post comments:0 Comments

Digital watercolor in Rebelle 7 – tutorial

Rebelle and digital watercolor – what is that?

Rebelle is a graphics program by the Slovak company Escape Motions ( applause for my neighbor country!). Its brushes and tools are its greatest advantage, which allow us to reproduce not only the look of media such as watercolors, oils, acrylics, dry media, but also the process itself. This is especially spectacular when painting with digital watercolors in Rebelle, which spreads on the canvas, creating streaks and textures. And that will be the topic of today’s post!

I wrote about my first meeting with this program in a post about Rebelle 3. Even then I was delighted with the program’s capabilities. It’s been 6 years since that post was published, and I’m still impressed! Because Rebelle is developing amazingly. Every year updates, new features, additional tools come out.

I have been a fan of watercolor for years, which you can see by looking at my portfolio. Traditional watercolor invariably remains my favorite technique, but the ability to transfer the effects, but also all the exciting parts of the traditional process makes me eager to use the digital watercolor technique in my work as an illustrator. That is, in work where, in addition to the effect, the time it takes to complete the work and the ease of making corrections are also important.

I recorded a video tutorial about this process. There and in this post I will try to introduce the principles of the tools in Rebelle and describe my process of creating a digital watercolor based on a winter illustration in a fairy-tale (obviously:)) climate.

Digital watercolor in Rebelle 7 – tools and features

Paper texture

In Rebelle, the paper texture affects the behavior of the paints on the layer, so we choose it when we create a new file already. We can change the paper texture and its color in the background layer in the layers panel at any time.


Water is a crucial tool in the process of digital watercolor. Its symbol is a droplet. It can be found in the tools panel under the panel with the selection of main brushes.

With pure water brushes, by adjusting the amount of water in the brush, we can apply it to the layer in selected places or remove it from the page with the nearby Sponge tool.

We can also wet or dry the entire layer in the layers menu. And preview the presence of water on the layer by turning on the droplet eye in the upper-left corner of the layers panel. If water is present on the layer, the area will highlight blue. The more water – the more intense color you will see.

We also determine the presence of water in brushes from the watercolor and inks categories. We can increase or decrease it in the panel with brush properties. The more water on the layer, the more likely the paints will melt on the canvas.


It’s a tool with which we can control water flow and dripping. It simulates the tilt of a sheet of paper. We can put the direction and degree of slope by moving the slider of the tool. The farther the slider is moved, the greater the tilt and the faster the paint runs off and the more frequent the formation of streaks. Painting with the Tilt tool is fun and allows for interesting experiments.


BLOW is another tool that works with the large amount of water present on the layer. It allows the paint to be blown in all directions simultaneously.


Watercolor brushes

By selecting the watercolor brush category, we have access to a number of brushes differing in tips, textures and brush settings such as size, transparency and the aforementioned presence of water in the brush.

In addition, we can select different transparency modes for watercolor brushes. The default mode is like real watercolor transparent paints. This means that the previous layer of paint will be visible from under the next one. This effect can be compared to digital painting in multiply mode. So even light colors applied over darker ones will still only darken the colors in the picture.

Semi-transparent painting mode allows you to slightly cover the colors underneath and requires several layers to fully cover them. Opaque mode allows you to completely cover the previously painted layers of color. Lighter colors applied over darker ones will be visible. This is similar to painting with gouache. When I want the effect closest to the look of a watercolor illustration I choose transparent mode.

In addition to the opacity of the brush, we can also decide on its behaviour mode. We can choose from five functions, which are successively assigned keyboard shortcuts with numbers. This makes switching between them quick and convenient.

1 – ordinary painting

2 – painting and mixing paints on paper (with the paint still melting)

3 – painting and blending (without paint melting)

4 – rubbing the paints on the paper

5 – using a brush of your choice as an eraser

When creating the discussed illustration, I use the usual painting mode (1).


Digital water in Rebelle can be just as unpredictable as real water on paper :), but we have the advantage that its flowing can be stopped at any time using the keyboard shortcut F (from “freeze”) or undo the flowing using good old CRTL+Z, which undoes the flowing and activates it again. In this way, we can calmly observe the process of paint melting and choose the most interesting effects and phases , without fear of spoiling the picture.

As you can see, it takes a while to get acquainted with the most important tools in Rebelle, but I promise that this time will more than pay off during painting. And this is just a snippet of what the application offers!

Digital watercolor in Rebelle 7 step by step

The entire step-by-step process with commentary can be seen in the YouTube video above, below you can preview the sped up process and description of the phases of the illustration.

Choosing a paper texture

I start by choosing a paper size (A4 300DPI, vertical format) and a textured watercolor paper (Aquarelle) in white.

Loose sketch

Before I start sketching, I think about what should appear on the page: what the illustration will be about, what composition will I use, what color palette, what impression do I want to evoke in the viewer?

When I set about painting, the winter landscape was still white outside the window, but the forecasts were already hinting at a thaw. As is often the case with me, the weather outside the window strongly inspires me to paint. I wanted to create a fairy-tale-like, reflective illustration depicting a cold winter dream.

I opted for an oblique composition and based the figure of the sleeping girl on a diagonal. The first sketch is inaccurate, I like to use a larger brush for it (PencilsCharcoal2), I also often use brushes from the Pastels category for sketches, with which I only outline the shapes, not focusing on the details. I remember to reflect the image horizontally (SHIFT+F), which allows me to take a fresh look at the sketch and spot mistakes.

Precise lines

This time I choose a more precise brush from the Pencils category. I’m focusing on the resulting lines and painting a lot of detail, as the drawing will be the frame holding the melting watercolor layers in check.

The fine sketch and the loose sketch with reduced transparency (both layers in Multiply mode) will be at the very top. I will add the other layers underneath to make sure the sketch is always visible.

Body shape

I paint the girl’s shape on another layer. Above that, I add another layer and turn it into a Clipping Mask so I can apply colors to only the girl’s body without affecting the layer with the shape underneath. I use both layers: the one with the shape and the cut-off layer in Multiply mode. By wetting the entire cutoff layer (a function in the layers panel), I get a wet area of the girl’s body, and I can be sure that the paint will not spill outside the body shape area under the cutoff layer when painting. Very convenient!


Most of the background is created on the layer under the girl’s body. At first I use watercolor brushes with lots of water and let the paints flow. I have the most fun painting the area behind the star – I use tilt (TILT) and the BLOW tool to give direction to the resulting streaks. The painting process is similar to many other techniques: from the general to the detailed, and just like in watercolor painting: from lighter colors towards darker ones. However, I often use the advantage of Rebelle, that is, I stop the flow of paint at selected moments (F) and often reverse its flow (CTRL+Z).

Smaller elements

Christmas trees, fruits, letters, birds – all these I paint on another layer. This makes it easy for me to highlight different elements when I feel like changing their colors (I lasso the selected elements and use Filters > Hue Saturation or Curves).


The further process is to add facial details, frosty swirls. I use smaller brushes with less water for this. When I notice that we’ve gotten too crowded at the bottom of the work, I add another layer over the background in NORMAL mode and use light blurry paint to cover the details at the bottom, so the eye is directed back to our point of interest – the face, because that’s where it’s most attracted to the contrast between the white skin and the purple shadows.

I paint the snowflake’s swirls on the next layer in NORMAL mode. I darken the area behind it for more contrast.

Cracks filled with gold

On the new layer I paint cracks on the girl’s body. This refers to the fragility of ice, but also evokes associations with the Japanese art of bonding broken porcelain with gold. To paint the gold fill, I use the newest feature in Rebelle-metallicity. It can only be given to oil paints by selecting the diamond icon in the layers panel. This makes all oil paints present on the layer metallic. The effect is really impressive!


The last brush strokes are snow painted with brushes from the Watercolor category with splash effects. To make the white paint visible I paint on another layer in NORMAL mode.

Finished illustration

The sleeping girl is meant to symbolize an ice-covered and snow-obscured landscape. The birds and the cracks painted on her body at the end already foretell the approaching spring, but for now the sleep is still deep and peaceful.

Preparation for printing

The finished illustration looks like a real watercolor thanks to the Rebelle brushes and the texture of the paper. I decided to print it on textured paper (Canon Fine Art Rough) to further enhance this impression. In this case, the texture present in the file will not be needed. So I cover the background layer with a new layer at the very bottom in NORMAL mode and fill it with white color. The texture disappears. Under Edit>Convert to Profile, I select the profile of my printer and the selected paper and send the file to print.

And voila! This is how the digital watercolor looks in physical form.

Bunch of other features

In this post I focused on digital watercolor, but Rebelle offers so much more. The oil paints are amazing. The aforementioned metallic looks very realistic. The Nanopixel technology used in the program makes all the transformations (including the brilliantly working Liquify) of the images to maintain incredibly high quality even after the transformation. Let me add to this image filling with pattern, gradient, adding stamps, structures… There is a lot to choose from!

Recommending Rebelle7

I have been recommending Rebelle for years, as I myself am delighted with the program, the traditional sense of the digital process, and the development of the app. When Escape Motions commissioned me to do illustrations to promote Rebelle 3 a few years ago, I was in seventh heaven!

I also became a Featured Artist and have the opportunity to participate in the testing of new versions of Rebelle every year. It’s worth keeping an eye on Escape Motions’ social profiles, because every now and then there’s an opportunity to join, even if you don’t have the program and never used it before.

While preparing this material, I thought that if I were to decide to make a paid recommendation (affiliation) of a product, I must be convinced of its value and be a die-hard fan. And Rebelle meets these conditions!

So, if I have encouraged you to discover its benefits on your own, I would appreciate you using my affiliate link. It will be a great support for me!

If you found the topic of digital watercolor interesting, I cover it in yet another winter post Winter landscape in Rebelle.