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 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 and using the filter. Follow the tutorial and find out how you can easily do it!

Tutorial Resources

Preparing the Photo

Step 1

Create a new document in Photoshop. You can create a new document in Photoshop by selecting File > New . If you want you can also open any image directly and start working on it.

Here are the values:


Step 2

Now place the model image to the 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.


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 the foundation of final colors now. If you want the different colors then just try to add different colors to get the result of your taste.

You can see the setting in below image.


Color settings of Gradient Fill:


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


Step 4

Create a 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 a watercolor texture here as well if you like.


Here you can see how the layer panel is arranged:

Using the Paint Splash Brushes

Step 5

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

Use any of paint splash brushes and then paint on the layer mask of the new white layer with the black color to reveal the model.

Here is the first stroke of the brush and you can see the model is now started to appear:


Make another brush stroke but choose different splash brush:


Continue revealing the model with different brushes. Try to use different 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.


Similarly, I used many brushes to reveal the model layer.
Here you can see my results after using splash brushes:


Here are the results on the layer mask of the white layer which we created in step 4:


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

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 results:


Step 8

To finalize the effect, we’ll apply the Dry Brush Artistic filter. In order to do that, press CTRL + SHIFT + ALT + E to create a single layer of all layers and name it ‘watercolor’.

Select the watercolor layer, now to go to Filter > Gallery > Artistic > Dry Brush and set the setting as shown below.


I reduced the watercolor layer opacity to 70% to subtle the effect of Dry Brush filter.

Here we’ve our watercolor effect:


Here how my layer panel is arranged:


To replicate a watercolor effect, you can use the combination of filters, watercolor brushes and textures like I showed you in this tutorial. I hope this tutorial will help and let me know if you have any thoughts.


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