Add a watercolor effect to a photo in photoshop

As the title says, this tutorial will help transform your regular family photos and stock images into really cool watercolor drawings that you can use as a cover for albums, put on Facebook news feeds or for creative wedding invitations.

If you already know how to draw simple shapes using the Pen tool (P) or using brushes, then this lesson will be as easy and enjoyable for you as a walk in the park. It is not as complicated as it seems at first glance, you just need to pay attention to some details.

The final result:

Cool, yeah? Let’s see how this can be achieved!

Note: The author used paid materials. In the archive you will find an alternative version of the images to perform the lesson.

First, we need to start with the idea of ​​composition: we are going to create a watercolor composition with a girl in a hat. To do this, we need to slightly change the pose of the girl, so that she seems more calm and relaxed.

Now her position (slightly bent forward) expresses a desire to act. To resolve this issue, you just need to tilt the image to the left.

Step 1

Go to menu File> Open (File> Open) (CTRL + O), select the image with the girl and press OK. Then press the key combination CTRL + J to duplicate the layer.

Step 2

Go to menu Editing> Free Transform (Edit> Free Transform) (CTRL + T) and rotate the image, then press Enter.

Step 3

Go to menu Layers> New> Layer (Layer> New> Layer) (CTRL + SHIFT + N) to create a new layer and place it between the background and a copy of the layer. Press D to reset foreground colors, then press CTRL + Backspace to fill the entire layer with white.

Step 4

Decrease opacity (Opacity) copy layer with a girl up to 40% and create a new layer (CTRL + SHIFT + N). Call it “Sketch”. Take the tool Brush (Brush Tool) (B) size 2 or 3 px and start to draw a sketch of the girl.

Step 5

At the moment we do not need a copy of the layer with the girl, so you can turn off his visibility. Now from the sketch we can do everything we want, and the image with the girl will not bother us anymore. At the moment, the sketch looks good.
Do not try to add details to the sketch, it will take you a lot of time.

Step 6

Reduce the opacity of the sketch layer, as we will use dark colors to draw the outline.

Step 7

Take the tool Pen (Pen Tool) (P) and select the mode “Figure” (Shapes). Now we can start to draw the main forms, starting with the contour of the face. Try to draw as shown below.

To make anchor point (anchor points) sharper, after you have drawn the contour, you need to hold down the ALT key and click on the desired point. To return everything back, press SHIFT + click the mouse button.

Step 8

Next, add wavy shapes for drawing hair. Use the color # 2e3743 and # 354a66.

Step 9

These two colors are similar in tone, so we need to make sure that each element stands out. In this case, we can use the layer style. “Stroke” (Stroke) that will look good.

Press the fx button at the bottom of the layers palette and select Overlay options (Blending Options). Select “Stroke” (Stroke) and in the settings set the stroke color to white (# 000000), position “Inside” (Inside). Click OK.

Step 10

To apply this effect to the remaining layers, hold down the ALT key and drag the fx icon, which appeared on the right of the layer thumbnail, onto other layers.

Step 11

Draw some shapes using other blue tones # 708baf and # 5e6f86 (approximately 3 or 4 will look good). If you have no experience in drawing hair, do not hesitate to use the original image as a hint.

Step 12

Draw even more wavy shapes using different blue tones. To change the color of the shape, double-click on the thumbnail of the layer itself and select the desired color on the palette that appears. Use the key combination CTRL + [and CTRL +] to swap the layers with the figures, set them above or below other layers.

Step 13

Repeat this whole process to draw the hair on the other side.

Step 14

Now everything looks flat and boring, so let’s add textures to the hair! Load the brushes with patterns that we need into the palette and press F5.

Step 15

Choose a tool Move ( Move Tool) (V) and, while pressing the CTRL key, click on the desired shape to select the current layer (this combination will work only if “auto selection” is disabled), then go to the menu Layers> New> Layer (Layer> New> Layer) (CTRL + SHIFT + N) to create a new layer. Then hold down the ALT button and click between the thumbnails of the layers to create a clipping mask.

Step 16

Take the tool Brush (Brush Tool) (B) and select the loaded brush from Paint brushes (Brushes palette) (F5), select the desired size and draw a pattern on the selected shape. Use a bright color, preferably white.

Step 17

Repeat steps 15 and 16 for the rest of the hair.

Step 18

Pick up the Pen Tool (P) and draw a hat. Build it from two forms. Also draw two shapes above the eyes. Make them in dark colors to make your eyes more prominent. You can also draw patterns using a texture brush.

Step 19

Now we have beautiful textured figures, but we still need to add the girl’s face to the composition. Remember that we turned off the original image? Turn on the layer visibility, duplicate it and press the CTRL + SHIFT + U key combination to discolor it (or Image> Correction> Discolor (Image> Adjustments> Desaturate)), make opacity (Opacity) layer 100%.

Step 20

Press the CTRL + L key combination to open the menu. “Levels” (Levels). Use the settings shown in the figure below. Remember that we are only interested in showing the eyes, nose and lips, so we need to make a strong contrast.

Step 21

In the layers palette, click on the icon Add layer mask (Add Layer Mask). Take a soft round Brush (Brush Tool) (B) and paint over the areas shown below.

Step 22

Select the “Sketch” layer and duplicate it (CTRL + J). Install Opacity (Opacity) back to 100% and erase the sketch in the area of ​​the hair and face, using Eraser (Eraser Tool) (E).

Step 23

Take a soft round Brush (Brush Tool) (B) size 2 px with an opacity of 60% and draw a soft contour around the eyes, the tip of the nose and lips.

Step 24

Let’s highlight the eyes!

Take the Move tool (V), hold down the CTRL key and click on one of the shapes above your eyes, go to the menu Layers> Mask Layer> Show All (Layer> Layer Mask> Reveal All). Using tool Brush (Brush Tool) (B) black over the area where the eye is located to erase part of the shape.

Repeat this step for another shape.

Step 25

Create a new layer in the menu. Layers> New> Layer (Layer> New> Layer) and set the blending mode “Color” (Color). Now take the tool Brush (Brush Tool) (B) and fill the iris with a bright blue color. Name this layer “Eye Color”.

Step 26

Create another layer and draw a few transparent blue-white strokes on the iris, then paint the upper eyelid with black.

Step 27

Open separately watercolor texture. Press CTRL + A to select the whole image, copy it (CTRL + C), press CTRL + Tab to switch to our document and paste the copied selection. Change its size and press Enter.

Set the blending mode Soft light (Soft Light), opacityl (Opacity) 50%. Also add a layer mask (Layers> Mask Layer> Show All) (Layer> Layer Mask> Reveal All).

Step 28

After selecting the layer mask, paint in black over the entire face (to remove the texture). The difference will be small, but we need it.

Step 29

Select a copy of the girl layer and press CTRL + SHIFT +] to make it the topmost layer. Set the blending mode to Overlap (Overlay), opacity (Opacity) 70% and add a layer mask (Layers> Mask Layer> Show All) (Layer> Layer Mask> Reveal All).

Step 30

Take soft Brush (Brush Tool) (B), opacity 60% and fill in the areas shown below.

Step 31

Select the layer that is above the original layer with the girl and create a new one. Layers> New> Layer (Layer> New> Layer). Take the tool Brush (Brush Tool) (B), set opacity (Opacity) up to 10%, pressure (Flow) to 30% and rigidity (Hardness) up to 100% and add shades of yellow, orange, green, violet and blue, as shown below.

Use yellow and orange for light, and blue and green for the shade. For face and eyeballs try using light pink tones and very soft orange.

Step 32

Add a paper texture, just like a watercolor texture. Now select the topmost layer and go to the menu. Layers> New Adjustment Layer> Gradient Map, Brightness / Contrast, Hue / Saturation (Layer> New Adjustment Layer> Gradient Map, Brightness / Contrast and Hue / Saturation). Specify the settings shown below.

Step 33

Selecting layer Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation), press CTRL + ALT + SHIFT + E, and then go to Filter> Other> Color Contrast (Filter> Other> High Pass). Set the radius to 1 px, click OK and set the blending mode to Overlap (Overlay).


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