Transform any photograph into a watercolor image in Photoshop
March 19, 2020
Today I want to show you how to transform any photograph you’ve taken into a watercolor image in Photoshop! These images make great gifts and even upsells for completed sessions that your clients are sure to love!
Before you get started you will need a couple of resources: a watercolor paper texture and some watercolor brushes for photoshop. I found the best of both worlds in this etsy shop. Once you’ve downloaded your brushes, just double click the file to load them into photoshop.
For my extra visual learners, I’ve made you a step by step video you can watch here (closed captioning available) or continue on to read and view the screenshots!
Next, open the image you would like to transform in Photoshop.
Make a new layer by selecting cmnd+j on a mac or alt+j if you are on a pc.
Convert that new layer into a smart object by right clicking on it and choose “Convert to smart object.”
Go to filter on the main menu and choose “Filter Gallery.”
Under Artistic, choose dry brush. You can play around with the settings here but I found the following to give the best results: brush size 2, (larger number for less detail, smaller number for more detail), brush detail 8, and texture 1. Select OK.
Go to filter again on the main menu, Filter Gallery, and then choose Cut Out this time. Again, you can play with your settings here but the following seems to yield the best results: number of levels 8, edge simplicity 0 , edge fidelity 2. Select Ok.
Double click on the symbol next to the first (top) filter gallery under layer 1.
Choose mode: pin light and drop opacity to 50%. Select OK.
Go back up to Filter, select ‘Blur’, choose Smart Blur, set radius to 5, threshold to 100 and quality to High. Select OK.
Now, go to layer 1 and double click on smart blur. Set the mode to Screen, opacity to 50% and select OK.
Go to Filter again (I promise this is the last time!!), choose Stylize, and find edges.
Double click on the icon next to find edges just underneath Layer 1. Change the mode to Multiply, opacity to 50% and select OK.
To expand the canvas size of your image (Optional). Click on the magnifying class, select your option key and then click on your image. Next, hit the letter C to toggle the crop tool and expand the edges out to your desired size.
Now, go up to File and choose Place Embedded. Navigate to the watercolor paper texture file you downloaded previously and choose one you like! Line up the paper so that it completely covers your canvas.
Click on the paper layer and choose multiply from the dropdown directly above.
Add a black layer mask to your background layer if you would like to preserve some elements from the original image (I like to retain some detail in the face usually). Paint over any part of the image you would like to have come through your final image in white. (Toggle the eyeball icon on the layer labeled “Layer 1” if you’d like to see what you’re doing otherwise you won’t notice any changes).
Go to layer 1. Add a layer mask and invert it to black (Command+i).
Press the letter ‘B’ to toggle the brush tool (make sure it is on the color white). Choose one of your new watercolor brushes and change the size to something appropriate for your image. You can also play with different opacities at this time.
Paint white over any part of your image you want to show. If you paint over the face that we revealed on the background layer previously, just paint over it again with black and you will see that background layer again.
Ta-da you did it! I made an action out of this process for all the steps until I dropped in the paper and it made the process so much faster! You can watch my video if you need any clarification or would like to see the entire process done with and without actions!