Watercolor Painting in Photoshop CC Tutorial

Draw It. Scan It. Paint It. Print It. 


As designers we tend to spend a lot of time simply making vector designs on the computer and not enough time actually sketching out images that we can manipulate in Photoshop. We don’t have to make everything into a vector graphic. In fact, it’s incredibly boring and monotonous to do this all the time! This tutorial will allow you to get out of your comfort zone and create something simply for the sake of creating it. I was originally inspired to do this by a few designs I saw on Pinterest. We can make things on our own without having to attach a fake business to our creations. Let’s get started!

  1. Start by drawing a super cool image that you will later scan into the computer. I drew a fashion illustration because as I’ve mentioned before, I once wanted to be a fashion designer. I also originally did this project for a class called Specialized Studies in Design so it’s going to be interesting recreating this initial idea. 

2. Once you have “perfected” your image, scan it onto a computer at at least 300 dpi to ensure the quality of your image. 


3. Open the image in Photoshop, making sure that your color mode is set to either CMYK or RGB…I originally scanned my images in grayscale and one time forgot to change the color mode after making a few layers and everything ended up flattened. Don’t make the same mistakes as me. 


4. If you have any imperfections such as obscure pencils marks you can use the Healing Brush to make them disappear in a matter of seconds. You can also use the Spot Healing Brush if the area isn’t too big, but that’s entirely up to you. A lot of times I will go back in with this tool to clean up the blurry lines that the Healing Brush can sometimes create. Just remember to not overdo it, this is art as well as design so it doesn’t have to be spot free. 


5. Next you will want to use the Burn tool to darken your pencil lines so they are a little more prominent. I like to keep the Exposure pretty low when it comes to this, so I kept it at 25% and my Range is set to midtones. Makes sure to adjust your brush to accommodate for line thickness. 


6. After this you can use your Dodge tool to add highlights to the image. I kept my Range at midtones and changed my Exposure to 25% because I don’t want it to be too obvious what has been done.  I used it to lighten up the areas I will later be painting on. 


7. Now that you have everything set up just so, you will want to create a different layer for each of the aspects of your drawing that you will be painting. It is important to do this so that you are able to easily create the desired effect later on and won’t have to worry about it along the way. 


8. Select a simple brush and keep the opacity at 100%. While this technique looks really…interesting now, it will pay off in the long run. Otherwise you won’t be able to let go of your mouse and trust me, your hand is going to cramp up after a short while.


9. Next, begin painting your sketch. After you finish a layer, go ahead and lower the Opacity of it so you can see where you need to clean up the edge. 


10. Grab your Eraser tool, select the size you need, and make sure to lower the hardness to at least 50%, we don’t want to create harsh edges here.


11. After your first layers of painting, you can create a layer and name it Shadows for each of the original layers you have, in this layer you can go back to each of the pieces you already painted and add in some more depth to the image. Make sure this layer is above the one you are wanting to add shadow to. 


12. In order to properly select the right color for creating more shadows, increase the opacity of one layer at a time, use your eyedropper to select the color, and then decrease that layer again. 


13. Paint in shadows. 


14. Repeat steps 11-13 for the rest of your painted sections.

15. After you finish adding in shadows, decrease each individual Shadow Layer until your image looks seamless. 


16. When you have finished your digital painting go ahead and print it out, don’t just leave it in the digital realm. Mat it on a piece of black matboard. Frame it. Use spray adhesive and attach it to a canvas. Do whatever your little creative heart desires. When I first did this I attached my drawings to cardstock I had painted on with foam core and then attached that to a canvas I painted on as well. 



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