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Watercolor Painting

This tutorial will show how to turn a usual photo into a watercolor painting, quickly and simply. Tools used: Adobe Photoshop with the Filter Forge plug-in and a photo I've personally taken.

Step 1. Open the Original Image

Launch Photoshop. Press Ctrl+O to open the source image to be modified. I used a photo taken in Venice by an inexpensive Canon camera.

Filter Forge Tutorial - Step 1

Step 2. Adjust the Hue/Saturation

Let’s improve saturation: Image > Adjustments> Hue/Saturation (Ctrl+U). This step is optional: you can skip it if your image doesn’t require correction.

Filter Forge Tutorial - Step 2

Step 3. Apply a Filter Forge Filter – "Watercolor Painting"

Now we'll apply the Watercolor Painting filter. Launch the Filter Forge plugin (Filter > Filter Forge > Filter Forge).

Open the filter web page – http://www.filterforge.com/filters/7227.html – and click the 'Open in Filter Forge' button.

Filter Forge Tutorial - Step 3

Note: if you don't have Filter Forge installed, download and install a free trial version using this link:

Step 4. Fine-Tuning the Filter Parameters

Now we've got the necessary filter and can figure out the parameters required for the modification. For the start let's try the factory presets (on the Presets tab) – double-click a preset thumbnail. One of them is acceptable but can be fine-tuned. Click the Settings tab and start experimenting with the sliders.

One thing can be of great help: the 'Next variant' button in the Randomizer section. You can simply click it until you get sufficient results. The following variant seems to be close to perfect:

Filter Forge Tutorial - Step 4

Step 5. Looking for Imperfections

Look thoroughly at the result. The dirty blotches near the boat reflection spoil the picture. Some extra correction is needed.

Filter Forge Tutorial - Step 5

Step 6. Masking Places that Need Fixing

Undo the last action (Ctrl+Z) and start the color correction. Switch to the Quick Mask mode (Q) and use Soft Round brush to paint the areas that are meant to be preserved – everything except the water.

Filter Forge Tutorial - Step 6

Step 7. Fixing the Water with Masked Levels

Switch to the Standard Mode (Q) and invert the image: Select > Inverse (Ctrl+Shift+I). Go to Image>Adjustments>Levels and drag the slider until you get the detail that looks good to you.

Filter Forge Tutorial - Step 7

Step 8. Sharpening the Water

For better results sharpen the water areas using the Sharpen Tool (R) with large diameter and soft edges.

Filter Forge Tutorial - Step 8

Step 9. Final Filtering

Launch the Filter Forge plugin and apply the Watercolor Painting again. Here is the final result:

Filter Forge Tutorial - Step 9

Author: Kochubey
June 3, 2009

Class is going REALLY well! They are loving your stuff.

(after showing Filter Forge to a class at Adobe MAX 2009)

Russell Brown
Senior Creative Director
Adobe Inc.

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