Photograph to Watercolor in 4 Steps Using Photoshop

Love the look of watercolors, but don’t know how to paint? If you have Photoshop, you don’t have to know how – Photoshop will do it for you! All you need is a copy of Photoshop (any version from 7 through the current CS2 will perform this process) and a photograph that you’d like to see as watercolor on canvas.

This guide will take you through the very quick, simple steps to creating a watercolor in Adobe Photoshop using filters. You may want to reference Illustration 02 attached to this article, as it provides screenshots of the steps along the way. Do be aware, though, that the illustrated steps aren’t as detailed as the article.


One: Start by opening the photograph you want to turn into a watercolor. Any photograph will work, but for the best effects try to keep in mind traditional watercolor subjects; landscapes, flowers, and nature. I’ll be using a seaside landscape photo that I picked up at Always make sure that images you find off of the Internet are free to use – the photograph I’m using has been marked as “Royalty Free” with “No Restrictions”, which means that I won’t be infringing copyright law by using it.

Two: Before we start applying effects, we’re going to duplicate the original photograph (Right-click and choose “Duplicate Layer”). Why are we duplicating? First of all, this protects the original photo – if we do something we really hate, we can just delete the new layer. Secondly, filters can’t be applied to a background layer. Any time that you’re playing around with Photoshop filters, it’s really important to take the quick step to duplicate – it will save you a lot of time and headaches.

Three: With our new layer made, we’re ready to play with Photoshop’s filters. The first filter we’ll apply is the “Dry Brush”. So, click “Filter” in your toolbar, choose “Artistic”, and click “Dry Brush”. This brings up a dialogue. You’ll want to change the settings to Brush Size: 1, Brush Detail: 6, and Texture: 2. Click OK. Then, click Ctrl + L on your keyboard. This will bring up the levels dialogue. The only setting you need to change in this dialogue is the middle Input Level value to 2. Then, click OK.

Four: Would you believe there’s only one step left? Seriously, this is it. First, duplicate the painting layer (Right-click and choose “Duplicate Layer”). Now, go to “Filter” and choose “Texture”. From the list, pick “Texturizer”. It will open a new dialgoue. You need to change the settings to Texture: Canvas, Scaling: 75%, Relief: 3, and Light: Top.

A beautiful watercolor canvas before your very eyes!

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