Achieving a Watercolor Effect in Photoshop

A photograph can look like a painting thanks to a watercolor effect in Photoshop. There is a filter in the "Filter" drop down called "Watercolor".  But, if you are not happy with its results, follow these steps. Luckily, this is not a complex process despite the many layers that you will be working with.

Step 1: Getting Started

Having more vibrant the colors in your image will lead to the effect being more convincing. A monotone photo will not respond to this process very well. In general, paintings of any sort are much richer than the reality that they emulate. So, starting as close as possible to a heightened world will only lead to better results. First, you need to duplicate the background three times.  Go to "Layer" and select "Duplicate Layer," then name each Layers 1 through 3. Turn off the top two layers by clicking the eyeballs that correspond with each. 

Step 2: Applying an Effect to Layer 1

Now select "Layer 1," which should be immediately above the "Background" layer. Go to "Filter", "Artistic", and select "Cutout". Set the "Number of Levels" and "Edge Simplicity" to around 4 and adjust "Edge Fidelity" to somewhere in the middle of its spectrum. With the new settings in place, the image will not look like much. But, finding the right blend settings will send us back in the right direction. Go to the top of your layer window and use the drop-down to set "Layer 1" to "Luminosity". 

Step 3: Doctoring Layer 2

Now, turn on the next layer and select it to be worked on. On this layer, we will apply a "Dry Brush" effect by going to "Filter", "Artistic", then "Dry Brush".  Set all of the settings to maximum and apply the changes. Return to the layer window and use the drop-down to set this layer in the "Screen" blend mode. The image should be getting pretty close to looking like a painting. At any point, you can go back and fine tune the effects if you are not satisfied.

Step 4: Final Adjustments to Layer 3

Finally, select the top layer for its make over. Go to the "Filter" drop-down once more and select "Noise" and "Median". Using the preview, you can play with the brush radius as you wish. Something around 10 could work. Apply the effect then once again use the drop-down in the layer window to set the blend mode to "Soft Light". The effect should look complete. But, not all images are the same, so feel free to tweak these effects to suit your photo.

Watercolor is a pleasant texture and can be emulated with a few filters. Remember that as with most things, gorgeous results come more easily with strong beginnings. As long as you pick the right photo, you should be pleased with the end product.


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