Create a watercolor effect in Photoshop CS6

In this tutorial, we will learn how to turn a photo into a watercolor drawing in just a few steps. This lesson was created specifically for Photoshop CS6, if you have an earlier version of flash, then some steps may differ.

To create a watercolor effect, we will use layers, filters, blending modes, smart objects and smart filters. When using smart filters, you will be able to edit the effects you need at any time, experiment with different filter settings and get a variety of results from their application. This effect looks best on bright, vivid colors, on images where there are not very many small details.

Let’s get to work!

The photo that I use in the still life photo lesson (from Shutterstock), you can take any other photo you like.

And this is how our final result will look like after applying all the filters:

Step 1

Open the photo in Photoshop. Our work begins with the Background layer.

Create a copy of the Background layer. To do this, go to the Layers menu (Layer) – New (New) – Copy to a new layer (Layer Via Copy) or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + J (Win) / Command + J (Mac).

We will have a copy of the background layer with the name Layer 1 on the layers panel, which will be located above the Background layer.

Step 2

Let’s convert a copy of our layer into a smart object so that with further use of filters it remains fully editable. To do this, being on a copy of the layer go to the menu Layers (Layer) – Smart object (Smart Objects) – Convert to smart object (Convert to Smart Object).

You can see that in the layers panel on our layer a small smart object icon appeared.

Step 3

Create two copies of the smart object using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + J (Win) / Command + J (Mac) Use this keyboard shortcut twice to create two copies of the layer with a smart object.

Step 4

Rename the layers, as those names that are given to the layers by default are not very convenient for viewing. To rename a layer, just double-click the layer name in the layers palette. Next, write a name convenient for you and press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) I used the following names in my work – Application (Cutout), Drybrush (Dry Brush) and Median (Median).

Step 5

Hide the top two layers by clicking on the layer visibility icon (the eye icon to the left of each layer in the layers palette):

Step 6

Click on the layer Application (Cutout) to activate it for further work.

Step 7

Now we will apply the first of the three filters needed to create the effect of watercolor painting. Go to the menu Filter (Filter) – Filter Gallery (Filter Gallery):

Select a tab Imitation (Artistic), Application (Cutout):

Use the following filter settings: Number of levels (Number of Levels) and Simplicity edges (Edge Simplicity) four, Edge clarity (Edge Fidelity) 2.

Click OK to apply the filter.

Step 8

Now we need to change Blend mode (Blend Mode) on Brightness / Glow (Luminosity). You will find this menu in the upper left corner of the layers panel, in the list of blend modes that opens, select the mode we need and click on it with the mouse.

Here is how our picture will look after applying the filter and changing the blending mode:

Step 9

Go to layer Drybrush (Dry Brush) – first click on the layer to go to it, and then click on the icon next to the layer to turn it on:

Step 10

Apply to layer Drybrush (Dry Brush) filter. For this we use again Filter Gallery (Filter Gallery) in the menu Filter (Filter):

There we select the filter Imitation (Artistic), Drybrush (Dry Brush) with the following settings:
Brush Size and Brush Detail 10, Texture 3. Click OK to close the dialog box and apply the filter.

Change Modeoverlay (Blend Mode) on Lightening/Screen (Screen).

This is how our picture looks after applying two filters:

Step 12

Go to layer Median (Median) – also activate it by clicking on the layer and turn on visibility:

Step 13

Apply the following filter to the layer: go to the menu Filter (Filter), select there Noise (Noise) – Median (Median).

Set the following value for Radius (Radius) equal to 12 pixels.

Step 14

Change layer Median (Median) blending mode on Softshine (Soft Light):

Let’s compare our original image and the result after applying the filters.
Here is what we had:

Here is what happened as a result of the lesson:

Editing smart filters

Using smart filters provides ample opportunities for editing your work at any stage of its creation. So for example, if you don’t really like the result, you can always change any of the smart filters – edit some of its values ​​or replace the filter itself.

To change the smart filter settings, double-click the filter name. In the opened filter dialog box you can change the values ​​of its parameters. To apply the filter and view the result, click OK.

If you need to change not only the settings, but also the filter itself, then you need to double-click on the Filter Gallery. In the dialog box that opens, you can select a different filter or edit the settings of an already applied filter.

So we did it! We learned to turn a photo into a watercolor drawing in just a few steps!

Lesson author: Steve Patterson

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