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Create a Realistic Watercolor Painting Effect in 4 Easy Steps!

Want to create beautiful watercolor paintings without all the mess? With Photoshop, you can turn any photo into an incredible watercolor painting in just a few short steps! Learn how to use layer blend modes and the filter gallery to quickly turn your photos into colorful art!

Software: Adobe Photoshop CC

Difficulty: Beginner

Completion Time: 30 minutes

Images Used For This Tutorial

Stock Photo - Abstract grunge background, ink texture.

Abstract grunge background, ink texture: 24631394 © donatas1205

Stock Photo - Bridge in Venice

Bridge in Venice: 39566741 © Aurlien LAFORET

Step 1

Open the Venice reference in Photoshop. For the best effect, try to look for photos of scenery or architecture. They work best for that traditional watercolor feel. Control-J to duplicate the layer in order to make a copy.

Apply An Artistic Filter

Step 2

Select the duplicated layer and go to Filter > Filter Gallery. Select the Sponge option under the Artistic folder. Set the Brush Size to 1, the Definition to 4, and the Smoothness to 3.

After the filter is done, the duplicate should now look like this.

Finish the Effect

Step 3

Now copy and paste your watercolor reference onto the same document. Free Transform (Control-T) to resize it making sure it fills up the canvas. Position the layer so that it’s under the Venice duplicate.

Step 4

Let’s create the watercolor effect! Set the Blend Mode for the duplicated layer to Hard Light.

Next set the Blend Mode for the watercolor texture to Luminosity. Make sure to keep the original photo underneath at a normal blend mode.


And that’s it! In four simple steps you created a realistic watercolor effect that could fool any art fanatic! Try out this effect on different photos and see what you can come up with! Let us know how you like this tutorial in the comments, and share with us your results!

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