Hey there and let me explain.
Here are few watercolor clipart elements. Can you tell which one is real watercolor, hand painted digital watercolor, which is traced watercolor turned vector and which is vector with applied watercolor style (done in either Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator)?
So the parrot was hand painted on paper and then scanned and cleaned. After that it was traced in Adobe Illustrator and this is the result. It looks like watercolor. From distance only. If you zoom enough, you’ll see thousands of patch pieces that build it. Each such patch piece has a number of points that mark the curve of the shape and also has fill. At the end the file is heavy and one can super easy see it was traced. The traced clipart I’ve seen so far is worse than the raster original. It would come in a vector file like eps, ai or svg. We don’t sell traced clipart in our shop. If you want you can easily trace it by yourself 🙂 The real parrot is from our Forever collection and is a raster image.
The Frame shape
This sweet summery frame shape is actually a very simple vector shape with a fill. In the program (PS or AI) there is an option to apply a style to your objects. A style consists of various properties like stroke thickness, transparency, effects and so on. A watercolor style usually means that the object gets a look of watercolor. The style is often made of real scanned paper with watercolor paint on it and is a great way to treat text. As you see, it works on shapes too 🙂
To me this frame looks like cut out of watercolor painted paper and is a nice clipart element with good quality. This frame, even though originally a vector element is finally turned to either jpg or png. Not getting into too much detail on this. If you’re curious, let me know and I’ll do a post about it. Here you can see more similar frames.
The rose, my beauty, is real watercolor painted on paper. It is then scanned and cleaned to be used as an element. Rich and deep color with distinctive edges of the petals. It is a lovely element and honestly, I don’t think I can make it like this in any other technique. Of course the rose would come as either jpg or png element. Actually it does, with a bunch of other roses and a cute kitten in the Purfect Ginger kit.
Last on the list is the mermaid. Hand painted created in purely digital environment. From the pencil sketch to the last scale on her tale – digital. It was painted on a Cintiq tablet and I could’ve painted 5 more with real paint for the same time. Nice to play with though. The mermaid is painted on layers, so it can come as layered PSD (why would you need that?!) jpg or png. This sweets fish-gal is from Under The Sea turquoise set.
At the end of the day
what this means to you as a watercolor clipart user? it means you can use all of them if they’re to your liking. It’s a good idea to know the details of what you purchase so you know what to expect. There is slight difference between the last 3, but an eye not trained would not tell there is. I would personally stay away from mixing digital and real watercolor clipart.
Here’s a tip
Most illustrators design their clipart collections with a color scheme in mind and the elements are designed to work together. If you stick to a single collection or same artist, most likely your final design will have a consistent feel.