Adobe Photoshop CC - Advanced Training

How to create a watercolor painting effect in Photoshop

Daniel Walter Scott

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Hi there, in this video we are going to create this watercolor effect. Here's the original, and with a few filters and a little bit of texture, and a little bit of brush strokes, maybe a little bit levels, we could make it look like it's hand painted. We'll do a second option. This one ends up being quite abstract but you can see, there's the original, beautiful old New Zealand, but now it's a watercolor painting. Let's jump in and learn how to do it in Photoshop. 

To get started let's open up 'Watercolor 1' , '2', '3', from your '12 Visual Styles' folder. We'll start working with 'Watercolor 1'. Now you need to convert this layer here to a Smart Object, or I'm just going to show you up here, 'Filter', 'Convert for Smart Filters'. We're going to use lots of filters in this video. And this option here, Convert for Smart Filters, does nothing other than convert it to a Smart Object. Just so you know, no difference between doing it this way, right clicking, and converting to a Smart Object, or Convert for Smart Filters. Same, same. 

Next thing, go into 'Filter' and go into 'Filter Gallery'. So a lot of the work is done by artistic, and in here, no surprise, watercolor. So click on this, and it will really depend on your image, on which of these settings to play around with. So this one here in particular, the Shadow Density, once it gets below 1, actually looks okay. Don't spend too long because this is a combination, right? We're going to combine a bunch of different filters to get the effect. So have a play around, get to what you feel looks like a realistic watercolor in your opinion. And a little advanced trick, is you can add more than one. See this little turned up page, it says, I can add watercolor. At the moment I've got two watercolors. So it's trying to apply it twice. 

What I'd like to do is actually have Palette Knife and Watercolor. And like Layers Panel, the order of this is important. So watercolor on top and Palette Knife on bottom will change the way it looks. That's what I'm looking for. So under 'Palette Knife', I'm going to, just mess about here. We're not going to spend a lot of time, like it's, it really depends on your image, on what details this should be. And remember, it's a combination, so what you might find look good here, you can go back up to 'Watercolor' and make some adjustments in here to get the right effect. It's not quite me. Back to 'Palette Knife'. 

The other thing, when you are adjusting this, can you see down the bottom here, this is your like, Holy Molly, I'm stressed out trying to apply this thing, just wait till it gets the end slider. So if you are thinking, "It's doing nothing, you're sliding around", just get away for that thing to finish. Let's say that I like these, let's click 'OK'. And they are a Smart Filter. Toggling through them, on and off. I want to apply another filter that's actually not part of the Filter Gallery. It's just in here, Noise and Median. This will depend on your image. This one actually looks okay the way it is, but if you find that your image, especially if it's like people's faces or anything that's quite detailed, you might find that it's just too realistic, you need to use this Median just to kind of blob it out. 

You can see, the higher you go the more kind of abstract this thing becomes, but I'll add it to this tutorial. This particular one doesn't really need it, but I'm still going to do it. Also note that the order over here is important. So in my case I want the Filter Gallery to apply first, and then I want to median it out. Weirdly, actually it works the other way around, so Median gets applied and then Filter Gallery on top. In my case I want to add some noise to it, you don't have to, I think I want to. So with the Layer selected I'm going to go to 'Filter', 'Noise', and add a bit of noise. How much? Not that much, just a little bit. Just add a bit of grain to this thing. Click 'OK', zoom out, that's just personal preference. 

What really makes this kind of watercolor effect work is the texture. So Watercolor 2 is just a stock library image that I bought. I'm going to copy it, paste it. We're going to use this to add a lot of the detail to. I'm going to copy it and paste it here. That works. So for this to work it needs to be desaturated. You could use Hue & Saturation adjustment layer and lower it. I'm just going to, cheap trick, use 'Command-Shift-U' just to yank out all the color. Then it's finding a Blending Mode, and this is what hopefully is going to give us our little effect. 

So I'm going to cycle through these different Blending Modes. And just find one that works for you. Lighten's kind of cool. Now this will depend on your image. I've found, like in this case Overlay works really good. On/off. But in other examples it's a different Blending Mode. This isn't an absolute fact, it shouldn't just be Overlay. Have a play around with them and don't be afraid to lower the opacity. Say you like this but it's maybe quite extreme, just going to lower it down, so there's that watercolor effect, but without it being really dominating. I like it being dominating, right at the top there. 

The other thing you can do though is, with this layer you can go to 'Adjustments' and go to 'Levels'. This one I don't really need it, but I want it to affect just my watercolor texture layer. You can mess around with this to kind of decide how dark it is basically, and how much it affects the layer underneath. So you can mess about in here. I'm happy where it is there. Awesome. 

One of the last things we'll do to add a bit of believability, is let's make a new layer. Let's even name it, go crazy. Let's call it 'Brush Strokes'. Grab your 'Brush Tool', and up here under-- so depending on what version of Photoshop you're using, if you're using 2018 or above you'll have General Brushes, Dry, Wet. We want the Special Effects Brushes, you won't have these two. These are just ones I installed in the Photoshop Essentials course. So under 'Special Effects Brushes' I'm going to pick this third one. Just because it kind of works for me. I'm going to steal one of the colors from it, I'll hold down the 'I' on my keyboard to get the Eyedropper over there, click one of the colors. Go back to my 'Brush Tool', make a really big brush. Probably not that big. Maybe not that big, and just click a couple of times. You see what I'm doing here? I'm just-- I'll turn that off so you can see. 

Just adding some paint drops to kind of, have a bit of faking, a little bit of realism to the top of it. Maybe the same thing with this brown here, I'll make a new layer. And just ahead, maybe just one, actually just one over here. Here we go. So just a couple of drops from that one little paint. Can't help myself. A bit more. Again, you might decide that's not for you, you might decide you need loads more. What's cool about this whole thing is - let's name this one 'Brush Strokes 2'. - is it’s reusable, so you spent some time getting something that you feel works for you, I'm going to grab this layer, this layer, and this layer, these three. The Brush Strokes are quite individual for the image. 

So if you use a different image, you'll probably create new Brush Strokes based on colors that are in it. The levels are important. That texture, and basically I want to bring this layer over because I want the Smart Filters. I'll use my Move Tool, I say, you fellows, go to Watercolor 3. Basically I bought him, just that these guys came. The Background Layer, let's make it a Smart Object, and just drag the Smart Layers. Smart Filters to that layer. And now I can bin this. You can see, all but the background. So all of the cool effects, all the filters applied. And all I need to do with this layer is that I need to transform it, rotate it around and get it to be something that fits this image. 

I'm going to zoom in there a little bit. You can see, Overlay in this case doesn't work as well, as it did in this original one. So with the layer selected, I might find Overlay doesn't work for me, or at least you like Overlay, and you lower the Opacity. So it's not as strong. We'll have a little look through here, and just see if there's another Blending Mode that works. If you find one that does, but it's maybe too strong or too weak, you can play with these levels here to adjust it, and it will affect the way that texture is applied. Let's have a look. How abstract do we want it? Soft Light, that's kind of cool. That works for me. Maybe Soft Light. Zoom all off, and I'll turn the Smart Filters off, so before, and then after. Cool, huh? 

All right, that's it for watercolors. I might add some Brush Strokes to this one. And what I might do is actually find a few different versions of this, so that I'm not kind of repeating myself so much. All right, that's it, I will see you in the next video.