Photoshop is an indispensable tool used by photographers of all levels to enhance and edit digital images. While you can certainly use the program to do things like remove blemishes from a model's face or convert a color image to black and white, there's also a lot more that you can do to bring your average digital photograph to a new level.
If you've ever wanted to make your photos look like works of art, try converting them to watercolor paintings. Using the right workflow, you'll be able to quickly and easily convert an image so that people won't even be able to tell that it wasn't originally a watercolor painting after all.
While there are several different methods you can use, below is one that can get you started right away.
A Word About Selecting an Appropriate Image
Because certain images won't work with the watercolor effect, it's important to know what types of photos will be worth using. Remember that loss of detail will occur, and bright colors and deep contrast will become apparent, during the editing process. These factors will help you determine which images will look better, or worse, with the watercolor effect applied.
Copying the Background
If you look in the Layers palette within Photoshop, you'll notice that the only one available upon opening your image is the background layer. You need to make duplicates first so the original background layer can remain as it is. Make three copies of the background layer (to do so quickly, use Ctrl+J).
Once you have all of your duplicate layers in place, adjust the top two so that they're invisible. To do this, simply click on the visibility icon (it looks like an eye) for each layer.
Editing Your First Layer
Layer 1 is the first layer that you'll be editing, so click on it to select it and make sure it's visible. Then head over to the Filter menu. Once there, you'll find the option for Artistic, and then select the Cutout option, which will open up a dialog box.
Once in the dialog box, type in the number 4 for Levels, 4 for Edge Simplicity, and 2 for Edge Fidelity. Apply these new settings and then close the box before heading back to your Layers palette, where you'll now need to adjust the Blend Mode on your first layer to Luminosity.
Editing Your Second Layer
Go a layer above the one you just finished, which should be named Layer 1 Copy, and select it and make it visible. Once again, go to the Filter menu and click Artistic. But this time, pick the Dry Brush filter.
Again, a dialog box will appear. Insert 10 into Brush Size, 10 into Brush Detail, and 3 into Texture. Set the changes, close the box, head to the Layer palette, and adjust the Blend Mode by selecting Screen.
Editing Your Third Layer
The last step involves editing the third duplicate layer you created when you started this process. This one is named Layer 1 Copy 2. As before, select your layer, make it visible, and click on the Filter menu, where you'll select Noise and then Median.
A dialog box will once again appear, in which you'll insert 12 as the radius. Close this box and then adjust the Blend Mode to Soft Light within the Layers palette.
Enjoy Your New Work of Art
You should start noticing changes as you work, but once you're done editing that final layer, your image should be completely transformed into a lovely watercolor painting. There should be brilliant coloration throughout, softened lines and edges that create less detail, and plenty of contrast.
Expanding Your Editing Skills
If you enjoyed converting your photo to a watercolor painting, you can also do a lot more with the many other tools and effects available in Photoshop. To learn more tips, become a member of the PT community. Once you subscribe, you'll have access to lessons, contests, and valuable prizes, along with the ability to share your own images with a community of other photographers.