Make a photo into a ‘watercolor’ painting

Creative Effects with Photoshop – How to make an image into a watercolor “painting”

Photoshop is an amazingly powerful, versatile tool.  There are tutorials all over the web (and right from Adobe.com) to help you do all sorts of things.  I find the hardest part is figuring out exactly *what* I want to do.  Once I have that knowledge, I can take a class through Creative Live or find tutorials with a basic Google or YouTube search.  Warning: millage may vary on tutorial uses as they are not all created equally.  I will endeavor to make this clear and concise.

Original photo image ready to be made into a watercolor

Original photo image ready to be made into a watercolor.  Make sure you fully edit your photo *before* you do the watercolor process.

Here is the image that I’ll be adjusting into a watercolor “painting.”  Open the image of your choice in Photoshop.  I now use Photoshop CC.  This is a great upgrade from CS4 that I had, but one of my go-to features seemed to be missing.  For this process, I use some “artistic” filters. Those used to be available in the regular Filter menu drop-down – but no longer.  The easiest way to access them if you’re going to use them more than once is to go into the Edit menu (in Windows, Photoshop menu on Macs), select Preferences, then select Plug-Ins.

Use the Edit menu (in Windows) to get your Artistic filters back into place in Photoshop CC

Use the Edit menu (in Windows) to get your Artistic filters back into place in Photoshop CC

Then you just need to check the “Show all Filter Gallery Groups and Names” and click OK.  Now you can go back to the Filter menu and the handy-dandy Artistic filters are “back.”  On to creating that watercolor!

Final step in reintroducing Artistic filters back into Photoshop CC

Final step for reintroducing Artistic filters back into Photoshop CC Filter menu

Step one: Ctrl-J three times to open 3 duplicate layers.  Click the eyeball “off” of all but for Background and Layer 1 and select select Layer 1 by clicking on it.  The selected layer will be highlighted in blue.  Photoshop will only edit an active (selected) layer.

You layer panel will show each layer that can be made visible or hidden by clicking on the eyeball next to that layer. Blending modes, opacity, and fill are also easily adjusted here.

You layer panel will show each layer that can be made visible or hidden by clicking on the eyeball next to that layer. Blending modes, opacity, and fill are also easily adjusted here.

Layer 1 eyeball is circled in green, the unselected eyeballs for layer 1 copy and layer 1 copy 2 are circles in blue.  The Blending Mode drop down menu is in red.  Notice layer 1 is highlighted in blue.  This means that layer is selected.  Just click on a layer to select it. Shift-Click to select more than one layer – but you don’t need that for this process.

Step 2:  Go to the filter menu and select Artistic then select Cutout.  I set all the sliders to their maximum range, so Number of Levels is 8, Edge Simplicity is 0, and Edge Fidelity is 3.  Then click OK.  Now set the Blending Mode for Layer 1 to Luminosity.  This is what my image looks like at this point.

Image with background and layer 1 visible after the first artistic filter is applied and blending mode changed to luminosity.

Image with background and layer 1 visible after the first artistic filter is applied and blending mode changed to luminosity.

Step 3: Click on the eyeball and select the Layer 1 copy.  Select this layer, then go back to the Filter menu and choose Artistic then select Dry Brush.  Set your Brush Size to 10, Brush Detail to 10, and Texture to 3.  Then click OK.  Now set the Blending Mode for Layer 1 copy to Screen.  Here’s my image at this point.

Image with background, layer 1, and layer 2 visible after the second artistic filter is applied and blending mode changed to screen.

Image with background, layer 1, and layer 2 visible after the second artistic filter is applied and blending mode changed to screen.

Step 4: Click on the eyeball on Layer 1 copy 2 (this should be the top layer). Select this layer, then go back to the Filter menu.  This time, select Noise and choose Median.  Set the radius to 12 pixels and click OK.  Now set the Blending Mode for this layer to Soft Light.

Final watercolor image

Final watercolor image

You have your finished image!  This is a technique, not a rule.  Try changing around some of the sliders to see if you like a different look.  Remember Photoshop will save the last settings you had on your filters so this process is easy to replicate on many images.  Just one note of caution: do all editing on the image before you begin this process.  The final image will be much cleaner and the editing is easier when done first.  If you see something you missed after the conversion process, you can flatten the layers and try to edit.  However, this process is so quick it’s best to go back to the start and edit there then do the process again.  You don’t even have to turn the eyeballs on and off – it just helps the first few times you do this to see your progress.  You do always have to select the layer on which you’re working.

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Dressage in August

Last week was Rolelu Stables, Inc’s August competition.  Every month from April through October, Rolelu offers an open competition with a Dressage Show, a Combined Test (dressage and stadium), a Jumping Derby, and Cross-Country Schooling as weather allows.  I am in the fortunate position to be the exclusive photographer for each of these shows!

Owen Wong and Raven. More than slightly biased, but I'm so proud of this pair

Owen Wong and Raven. More than slightly biased, but I’m so proud of this pair

The Dressage Show offers tests from introductory Level all the way through 4th level, including every “eventing” dressage test currently out there.  The Combined Test and the Jumping Derby both offer Introductory through Preliminary levels.  So, the possibility of some really nice rides on really nice horses certainly exists.  However, these are set up knowing that people use them as schooling shows.  Inexperienced horses and riders (sometimes together) come to get that valuable ‘out of their own barn/comfort zone’ experience.  So not every ride is beautiful from start to finish and there are definitely mistakes made – but that is the reason Rolelu hosts these shows.

Alyssa Teresi and Matthew. She is pretty small, but he's a gentle giant with whom everyone fell in love!

Alyssa Teresi and Matthew. She is pretty small, but he’s a gentle giant with whom everyone fell in love!

Even in the English-style competitive horse-back riding world, dressage tends to be among the least popular activates – especially at the lower levels.  Many eventers would rather skip dressage entirely or see it as a necessary evil they must conquer to be allowed to go have a blast on the Cross-Country course. Watching dressage has been likened more than once to watching paint dry.

Grady Fleming and Fred. I don't think you can be any cuter than these two.

Grady Fleming and Fred. I don’t think you can be any cuter than these two.

Personally, I have never been of that opinion.  Even as a youth I more than tolerated dressage.  As a teen, I loved doing dressage way more than doing cross-country – but that’s another story.  Dressage is a program to increase suppleness, balance, and obedience work that can prepare the horse for future work in any discipline.  For a primer on dressage basics, check on Rolelu Stables’ page.

Ann Lowe and Connect The Dots.  I love this picture, but I am biased towards appaloosas :)

Ann Lowe and Connect The Dots. I love this picture, but I am biased towards appaloosas 🙂

Olympic level riders and horses may have flashier tests, but the unique opportunity to see a team grow in flexibility, understanding, balance, gaits (collected through extended) makes watching even the lowest level tests at Rolelu Stables an exciting experience.  Sometimes, a green horse will add their own brand of excitement, too… Not that I’d share pictures of that with the world 🙂

Samantha Vanderstyne and Toot A Roo. A great pair.

Samantha Vanderstyne and Toot A Roo. A great pair.