The Art of Pamela Saville

My adventures creating drawings and artwork with coloured pencil, graphite and digital.

Digital Watercolour Effect – advanced tutorial

This is an advanced tutorial, using several different programs, that I wrote in 2006 for the sadly missed Innographx forum.

Programs required for this tutorial:

Adobe Photoshop, Deep Paint, Corel Painter

I’ll start by showing a few examples of the results you could get by following this tutorial:

Aging BeautyGeisha

Click on the images to view a larger version in my Flickr gallery.

I always open my image in Photoshop first to adjust colours, tone, size and anything else I want to change. When you’re done, save a flattened copy of the image (to preserve the original) and open it in Deep Paint.

In Deep Paint: Click the Clone tab to set the layers up for cloning then click the Paint tab to return to the usual options. Select the paper texture you want to use (I use my own texture scanned from some of my own handmade paper). I also toggle the Shine Box off in the toolbox pallette.

From the Command Panel:
Presets Tab: Select the Watercolour Clone brush.

Brush & Paint Settings Tab: set the scale of your brush, larger for bigger areas, smaller for details. I use a feather of 12 and strength of between 11 and 25 but you can just play with the amounts to get the look you like.

Check the Material Canvas circle.

Under Paint Settings set colour slider and fuzziness sliders both in the centre for a more subtle look, set the colour slider all the way to the left for more interesting colour effects. Check the Detail, Canvas Texture and Finer Detail boxes.

Switch to the Layers Tab.
I like to switch off the visibility of the source layer and increase the visibility of the outline layer while I’m cloning but you can work in whatever way suits you best. Start painting !

I like to paint over the whole image with a low strength brush first then increase the strength and decrease the brush scale to go over the bits I want to emphasise a bit more. When you finished cloning save the image as a PSD file, close Deep Paint and open the image in PS.

In Photoshop:
Turn off visibility for the outline and source layers and place a plain white (or whatever colour you want) layer under the Deep Paint cloned layer. I use the smudge tool with my own watercolour preset (available in the Treasure Chest) to gently go over any areas that look like they need blending or softening. Don’t have the strength set too high because you don’t want to obliterate the work you’ve done in Deep Paint, just blend it slightly where needed.

When you’re happy with the areas you’ve blended duplicate the image using the Image, Duplicate command, checking the “Duplicate Merged layers only” box. Working on the flattened copy image, duplicate the layer twice, save as a psd file and open it in Painter.

In Painter:
When you open the image in Painter you should have 4 layers. A blank white canvas layer and 3 identical layers containing your painted image. Select one of your image layers and under the Layers menu on the toolbar select “Drop”, the layer should move down to become the Canvas layer. Then go back to the Layers menu and select “Lift Canvas to Watercolour Layer”.

Choose whatever paper texture you want to use (I like the French Watercolour Paper) and then select one of the Watercolour brushes (different brushes will give different effects so play around with them all to see which ones you like). I usually use Bleach Runny and Diffuse Camel. When you’ve selected your brush go back to the Layers menu and select Wet Entire Watercolour Layer. You’ll see an animation of the painting as if it had been wet. When the animation has finished go back to one of your other image layers and repeat the process, using a different brush this time. You can repeat this process as many times as you like using different copies of your image layers but I usually stop at 2, dropping the last, untouched layer to the canvas before saving (again as a psd file) and opening up in PS again.

Don’t worry if your image looks dark in Painter, when you open it in PS it will be much lighter.

In Photoshop:
Play around with the blending modes of your two Painter watercolour layers (they will be set to Darken mode by default). I usually set one to Darken and the other to Lighten but see what works best for your image.

When you’re happy with the way everything looks select the top layer and press CTRL, ALT, SHIFT E to Stamp Visible Layers onto the top of the stack. Make sure your colour swatches are at the default setting of Black/White and select Filter, Sketch, Photocopy. Play around with the settings until you get something you like (it’s different for every image) then apply the filter. On the same layer, go to Filter, Artistic, Watercolour. Again, play around with the settings to make the little grey and black blobs look watery and apply the filter. Set the blend mode of this layer to Colour Burn and reduce the opacity (I usually use anything from 5% to 30% so see what looks good to you). You are trying to give the illusion of the paint pooling onto the paper texture so you want a subtle effect.

If you want to have a pencil type outline visible in places on the finished work you can either use the outline layer created by Deep Paint or make one using your own favourite method in Photoshop.

Nearly done now ! Just some finishing touches to do.

Adjust the colour and tone to your liking and sharpen if you wish (but not too much) and that’s it, we’re finished !!


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