How to Create a Watercolor Effect in Photoshop

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to create a watercolor effect in Photoshop. You’ll learn how to use a layer mask and watercolor brushes to achieve a colorful watercolor portrait effect. You’ll also learn how to create the colourful light effect and at the end, we’ll finish it up by increasing the contrast of the image. Follow the tutorial and find out how you can easily do it!

Tutorial Resources

Preparing the Photo

Step 1

Create a new white document in Photoshop with the following values. You can create a new document in Photoshop by selecting File > New . I’m creating a white document but you can also directly open the image as well. Here are the values :


Here is the white document:


Step 2

Now place the model image to main document by selecting File > Place Embedded. Instead of using the model image you can also open your photos. So feel free to choose your own image.


You can notice that I keep some space from the top of the document but it doesn’t really matter because later we gonna fill the whole document with color.

Step 3

Now I’m going to add basic coloring for the photo using Gradient Fill adjustment layer. Make a Gradient Fill adjustment layer by clicking on third icon at the bottom of layer panel or go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Fill. Now choose the gradient color flow from #810D0D to #2590A3.

Due to this adjustment layer you’ve already seen the red and blue color in the final outcome of the tutorial. So it’s going to lay foundation of final colors now. If you want the different color then just try to add different colors to get the result of your taste.

You can see the setting in below image.


Set the blending mode of the Gradient Fill to Linear Dodge 100%. Here are the results with colors added to photo:


Step 4

As I said we are going to fill the whole document with white and now we going to do it. Create the new layer and fill this layer with white color. You can fill the layer with white color by selecting Edit > Fill choose white in the drop down list.

Remember if you want a different color then you can change the color according to your taste but I like the white. Not only color you can add kind of watercolor texture or maybe a colorful image as well.


Here you can see how the layer panel is arranged:


Create the Watercolor Effect

Step 5

Download the watercolor brushes and load them into Photoshop. Add a mask to newly created white layer by clicking on the second button at the bottom of layer panel. Set the foreground/background color to default black/white by pressing (D) on the keyboard.

Use any of watercolor brushes and then paint on the layer mask of the new white layer with black color. Try to use different watercolor brushes there are many and just do it freely and try to achieve the random effect by selecting different brushes and then apply them on the layer mask.

Here we’ve our watercolor effect:


Here are the results on the layer mask:


Step 6

On a new three separate layers, I painted some colorful light. You can see the three brush strokes with dark red, blue and green color. All painted using soft round brush with 100% opacity and flow. You can also paint the colorful lights on a single layer but I want to keep them separate.


Set the blend mode of each layer to Linear Dodge
and lower the opacity to 70%. Feel free to set the opacity according your way.


Final Adjustments

Step 7

Finally, I increased the contrast of the image using Levels adjustment layer. Create a Levels adjustment layer and use the following settings to increase the contrast.


Here are the final results:


Here how my layer panel is arranged:



Thanks for following the tutorial and I hope you enjoyed. If you really like the tutorial then do share it with the world. Just press the social media icon on your screen. Have a great day!

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