Creating a Watercolor Painting From a Photo

Open the photo you want to appear to be a watercolor painting. I am using the photo below:

Watercolor Photo

Make any adjustments as needed like cropping the photo before preceding with the activity.

In the Layers palette you'll need to copy the Background 3 times by dragging it over the 'Create A New Layer' icon, shown below:

Duplicate Layer

We need to name the layers next. Look at the graphic below and name your layers accordingly. To rename the layer simply click the text "Background copy" and then type in the new layer name:

Layers Renamed

Turn off the top two layers by clicking on the eye icon Eye Icon.

Hide Layers

Now start working on the first new layer - the Palette Knife layer. Click on the Palette Knife layer in the layers palette to select it (it will appear blue as shown above). From the Filter > Artistic menu select Palette Knife:

Palette Knife

Set the Stroke Size to around 6 and Stroke Detail at 3 and click OK. Experiment with these settings to see the different results. Click OK to apply these settings.

Palette Knife Setting

Palette Knife Layer:

Still working on the first layer renamed 'Palette Knife', from the Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation:

Hue and Saturation

Increase the Saturation to around +70 and increase the Lightness slightly as well, shown below. Click OK to apply these settings to the photo.

Hue Saturation


To allow the colors to blend a little easier with the effect try using the Gaussian Blur with a Radius of 4.0 ( Filter > Blur >Gaussian Blur).

Gaussian Blur Gaussian Blur


Dry Brush Layer:

Click on to the second new layer renamed 'Dry Brush' and click on the blank eye icon to turn the layer's visibility on. You should now see the eye icon Eye Icon appear. Apply the Dry Brush Filter ( Filter > Artistic > Dry Brush):

Dry Brush

Adjust the setting by moving the slider. Clicking inside the preview window will allow you to see the effect being applied. The settings I used are shown below:

Dry Brush Settings

Smart Blur Layer:

Now click on the Smart Blur layer and turn the visibility on by clicking on the eye icon. From the Filter menu select Blur > Smart Blur:

Smart Blur

From the dropdown menu under Mode select Edge Only. You can also adjust the Quality but for this image it was left at low. Try experimenting with both the Radius and Threshold setting but values around 15 for the Radius and a Threshold of 52 were selected. The settings I used are shown below:

Smart Blur Setting

When the Smart Blur is applied it appears with white lines on a black background, but here's a neat trick to inverse this. Press Image > Adjustments > Invert) (Ctrl I shortcut) to Invert the filter and now you have black lines on a white background.


If you feel the drawing effect needs to be a little bit stronger try adding Poster Edges Filter > Artistic >Poster Edges:

Poster Edges

The poster edge settings I used are shown below:

Poster Edge Settings

Now we need to Blend all the Layer together. Using the Layers palette under the Blend Mode select Soft Light and apply it to all three layers :

Layer Blend Mode Soft Light

Now we need to merge all the layers together. Click the Move button on the layers palette and select Merge Visible.

Layers Merge Visible

Adding texture to your image is a great way to enhance the effects. You will first save a texture somewhere on your hard drive and then open it into Elements. Click on the link below to open the photo. Once the picture loads on the page right click on the picture and save it anywhere on your hard drive. Just remember where you saved it.

Elephant Leather Texture

Open the photo in Photoshop and select File > Save As and choose Photoshop Elements format from the drop down list:

File Format

Return to your photo in Photoshop. Select Filter > Texture > Texturizer:


At the texturizer dialog box click the arrow to select load texture:

Load Texture

Navigate to the folder where you saved your Leather_Elephant.psd file. Below are the setting I used.


Here is my finished watercolor painting:


Photoshop CS5 Tutorials