Tutorial: Watercolor Portrait

KTwatercolor500 Tutorial: Watercolor Portrait My oldest daughter will be going to college next fall, so I'm working hard to get a scrapbook done for her to take. I came across this photo and wanted to make a portrait out of it that I could hang here at home too. I had so much fun playing with MommaHarvey's Doodle Portrait tutorial, I decided to play around and see what else I could do with a simple portrait photo. Working off of the same technique I used for my Word Portrait tutorial, I wanted to see what I could do with watercolor brushes. It came out beautifully, and was easy to do! Here's how: Step 1: Black and White This works best with a black and white image. You can change it to B&W any way you want to, but you want to have the skin area be fairly white without losing the features.
  • Photoshop: go to the Menu Bar and choose Image> Adjustments> Black and White. You can then adjust the sliders until you get a look you like.
  • Photoshop Elements: go to the Menu Bar and choose Enhance> Convert to Black and White. Adjust the sliders until you get a look you like.
Step 2: Posterize This step will convert your photo to a specific number of gray values. We want between 4 and 6 different shades of gray making up the portrait to get a good look.
  • Photoshop: Go to the Menu Bar and choose Image> Adjustments> Posterize. In the Levels dialog box, try entering 4 and see if you like the look. If you need more detail, enter 5 or 6 to see how it look, then click OK. watercolorport1 300x232 Tutorial: Watercolor Portrait
  • Photoshop Elements: Go to the Menu Bar and choose Filter> Adjustments> Posterize. In the Levels dialog box, try entering 4 and see if you like the look. If you need more detail, enter 5 or 6 to see how it look, then click OK.
Step 3: Set up to Paint To paint the portrait, you want to use a watercolor brush. Not the brushes that come with the program, but a brush made from an actual swash of watercolor. You can find them lots of places, like this free brush set I used from Bittbox.com. Once you've loaded a brush set, you want to set up your layers.
  • Photoshop: From the Tool Bar select the Magic Wand. In the Tool Options bar at top, make sure the "contiguous" box is unchecked. Click on the darkest color in your image. Create a new layer, and you're ready to paint!
  • Photoshop Elements: From the Tool Bar select the Magic Wand. In the Tool Options bar, make sure the "contiguous" box is unchecked. Click on the darkest color in your image. Create a new layer, and you're ready to paint!
Step 4: Paint
  • Both programs: Choose a shade of gray, and start brushing on the new layer. You want to not over-do the brush work, it's ok to have some gaps. If you don't like the results, you can just delete the layer and start over while your selection is still active.
Repeat steps 3 and 4 for all the colors on your base image. You will end up with a layer for each color. To see how it looks, be sure to turn off the original layer at the bottom. If you like, try changing the opacity of the various layers until you get a good look. watercolorport3 Tutorial: Watercolor Portrait Step 5: Add Color
  • Photoshop: Starting with the darkest layer, create a new layer just above the existing brushed layer. Holding the ALT key down, click on the line between the two layers to create a clipping mask. You'll see the thumbnail of the new layer move to the right, with an arrow. Using a soft round brush, brush whatever color you like over the image, the color will only appear where there is something on the layer beneath it. When you're happy, you can merge the two layers by holding the CTRL key down, clicking on both layers and pressing the E key.watercolorport6 Tutorial: Watercolor Portrait
  • Photoshop Elements: Starting with the darkest layer, create a new layer just above the existing brushed layer. Holding the ALT key down, click on the line between the two layers to create a clipping mask. You'll see the thumbnail of the new layer move to the right, with an arrow. Using a soft round brush, brush whatever color you like over the image, the color will only appear where there is something on the layer beneath it. When you're happy, you can merge the two layers by holding the CTRL key down, clicking on both layers and pressing the E key.
Once you get it the way you want, you can flatten all the layers before moving to your layout. I'm thinking you could try this technique on a lot of photos, including landscapes, pet photos, pretty much anything. Give it a try, and post in the DST gallery and link it up in the comments so we can all see and leave you some love!          
PDF24    Send article as PDF   
  • http://onestepawayintl.org Susan aka suslyn

    Thank you — just what I’ve been wanting! :)

  • Sandy_in_MD

    Thanks so much for the detailed tutorial – the effect is wonderful.

  • Grambie/Shirl

    I am so glad I decided to visit the blog because for some reason I had missed this tutorial. Thank you for the PDF that eliminates all the copying and often losing part of the tutorial. Beautiful photo results. I can’t wait to try this out on my daughter’s photo. Hugs. ;)