Tutorial – Watercolor effect

I’m not a big fan of Photoshop’s Watercolor effect unless it is combined with something else or altered in some way. So I’ve come up with my own method for creating a watercolor effect that to me is much more real looking.

The Photo – I usually snip my flowers and bring them inside for a nice digital capture more under my control. I like a black background for two reasons. The flowers are really a WOW with a black background, but for those who need art for rooms that don’t lend themselves to black, it is also easy to remove and replace with some other background.

 For this tutorial, I’ll use a Begonia.


Next I apply a layer mask by using the magic wand to select the black, then either add the mask by Layer/Add Layer Mask/Hide Selection. Or you can add the mask by Select/Inverse and clicking the add Layer Mask button surrounded in blue below.


You’ll notice the edge is a bit jagged. I correct this with two adjustments.


First select the layer mask by clicking on the mask which I have surrounded in red above. Next, choose Filter/Blur/Gaussian Blur and choose between 3 and 6. Use your best judgement on this. You’ll see the edge soften. Then choose Image/Adjustments/Levels and move the sliders until you achieve a nice, crisp, but not jagged edge.

tutorial03.jpg Nice smooth edge.

Next I add two layers under the Begonia layer, the Base (Layer 1)  and Layer 2.

Layer 1 can be any solid color that ends up looking good, this is where your creative side comes in and you can play a lot. I chose white because I’m going for a very soft, pastel watercolor feel.

Next I select Layer 2 and make a pattern using the Brush Tool. I personally like the Leaf brush and set it to a fairly large leaf. Then select contrasting colors but colors that will blend as in this case, peaches, yellows, greens and pinks. Do each color one on top of the other.


Your background should look something like this if you make the Begonia layer invisible for the time… and remember, I made Layer 1 white. At the end I’ll show 3 examples of different colors for the base layer.


Now, we don’t want the leaf lines to show up like they do for this, so here is where Photoshop’s Watercolor effect comes in. With this leaf layer active select Filter/Artistic/Watercolor and use the following settings:

tutorial06.jpg You may wish to do this effect twice which is what I chose to do so as to enhance the effect.

Then you want to do a Gaussian Blur… Filter/Blur/Gaussian and choose a setting that you like.


I chose to blur by 10 pixels. Both how many times you do the Watercolor effect and how much you blur will depend on the size of your photo and how many ppi you are using. This example is 15×15 at 200 ppi. I’m using these settings to make it easier for this tutorial. But usually my photos are more like 30×30 at 300-350 ppi. So I have to really intensify to get the look I want. But this is a very creative process and you can modify a lot of these steps to suit your own tastes and artistic view.

Now we make the Begonia Layer visible again, AND duplicate it twice. Layer/Duplicate or just right click on the layer in the Layers list and choose duplicate.

On the bottom two Begonia Layers, Enable the Layer Mask. Right click on the mask and choose Enable. Then choose the the layer Type

tutorial10.jpg choose this for all three Begonia Layers.

Then set the Opacity of each layer.


Notice I also added a Levels Layer and a Hue and Saturation Layer which you can do by clicking on the 4th icon to the right on the bottom of the above image… it looks like a half and half circle. And I changed the base layer color from white to a salmon like the flower.

Those you can play with until you get just the look you like. In this case I made both of those Layers ONLY effect the 3rd or TOP Begonia Layer. I also painted a little extra out of the Layer Mask on that Layer to allow more background to show through. And also erased the Hue/Saturation Layer in the center of the Flower so that it would remain Yellow.

Here are three examples of a finished product. They’re running off the page a bit, I’ll fix later. You can click on them to see the full image.



More blur and a Hue/Saturation Layer applied only to leaf layer, and then another Watercolor effect to background and two layers of Begonia.


 Now you can play with various cropping. If there is anything you don’t understand, please feel free to comment and I will attempt to make the tutorial better!



~ by Jayleen on April 1, 2007.

4 Responses to “Tutorial – Watercolor effect”

  1. Good work and I like your beach grass!


  2. Thank you. Looks like it’s time for me to find out ‘all things cool’… 🙂

  3. Wow! Really thanks! I couldn’t find a place to respond at ‘All things cool’ but you’ve got a great collention of cool stuff on there. I loved the speed painting. I’ll have to see if I have any I’ve done that still have all the layers and post a screen shot of it. I don’t know about that guy, but when I paint in Photoshop I usually have a zillion layers… well, okay, not an actual zillion, but a lot.

    Thanks for the link! I am part of ‘all things cool’ and that will make me smile for a month at least. 😉

  4. thank you for sharing this tutorial…

    nice post!

    i will keep you posted! 🙂

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