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Q: Advice on achieving a Watercolor look

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  • Q: Advice on achieving a Watercolor look

    Hi Danny, Steve -- I need your comments on this photo and watercolor. I thought I did a pretty good job on this photo but when I showed it to my relatives all they said was that the photo looked better and clearer. Please let me know what is the problem with the watercolor - Jean
    Attached Files

  • #2
    Hello Jean,

    Hope you don't mind if I jump in. I've had the same response and it usually comes from people who just want to see the picture with no changes. It has nothing to do with your work being good (it's good) or bad.

    Before I got into this digital stuff, I felt the same way, it's not a "real" picture if you mess with it. I've since learned (learning) that they can be both. Don't be discouraged. Some pictures are meant to be snap shots for some people. Neither way is a bad thing.



    • #3

      I think you need to stop asking your relatives for their opinions. Personally, I think the watercolor is adorable - and very good. The colors are great! It is a little small which tends to hide some blurry/fuzzy problems, but from what I can see, I think you did a fantastic job with this!!

      Just curious how you showed your relatives the watercolor? Did you show them an electronic version or print it out? If you printed it, did you print the watercolor on glossy or matte paper? I've found that if I print "art" on glossy paper, it looks a lot "fuzzier" than if I print it on matte/fine art paper. I'm not sure why that is, but I just don't print my artistic renditions on glossy because I don't like the way they look.

      Don't get discouraged! There are lots of members here who don't get the support they want/need from those closest to them, so they come here when they need encouragement. Know that you're not alone either in your situation or your development as an artist. We're always happy to give you a boost when you need it!



      • #4
        Jeanie & EB, Thanks for the encouragement - I printed out several watercolors on glossy paper (that's all I had) - some were watercolors and others were photo munipulations. I should have known not to print the original photo as it was a little confusing to them but I thought they would see the difference. My son and my sister keep asking what I do so long at the computer and I thought this would make them happy - duh - not.
        Amanda did a great interpretation of my little shih tzu with top hat and pipe - really cute; they didn't even say anything about that and you know how great her work is.
        I do want to print out my watercolors on good paper but don't know what to buy - Jeanie or EB any advice?


        • #5
          Jean, what kind of printer do you have? I've got the Epson 2200 and I've been really happy with my "art" printed on Somerset Velvet and the Epson Watercolor. Heck, I even like it printed on the Epson Enhanced Matte (though Kevin just reminded us today that it will start yellowing after 30 years or so.) If you have a non-Epson, look for a "true" matte paper (i.e., no shiny surface.) If you can find a textured one (like watercolor paper), all the better for your watercolor art!



          • #6
            Jeanie, I have a HP and have been happy with the results - for a beginner it is just fine. I will try to find HP watercolor but if they don't make it I can use the Epson - What is Somerset Velvet? Thanks for the tip -


            • #7
              Jean --

              Many people who are not doing photography or artwork don't really have the words to say much beyond "I like it" or "I don't like it", and they don't know why they react as they do. I found that I learned so much as I started more seriously studying photography and digital photo editing -- I learned to NOTICE where the light was coming from, the contrast, the placement of subject, placement of the lines, curves, etc.

              I would have walked by art work or photos and not even noticed how well done they were -- because I didn't know how to distinguish one piece from another. "Oh, I love that color!", I might have said about an image that lacked any sense of composition. I still find that critiquing my work or others' work is difficult, but rewarding -- to figure out what works and what doesn't and to know WHY.

              So, keep coming here while you start to share what you know with your friends and family, and as you continue to get better and better -- they will learn to SEE the differences for themselves also.


              • #8
                New thread created for topic focus - DannyR


                I agree with many of the comments above regarding paper, printer, presentation, and not being discouraged by others, so I won't rehash them. Overall I'd say this is a very impressive effort, "Dog-gone good," if you'll forgive the pun.

                I've seen a few photo-art tutorials that attempt to desribe how to get a WC-look, but none that have impressed all that much.

                I don't have any monumental suggestions for how to improve your look, but here's a couple observations. Take the following with a grain of salt since I don't have a lick of "real art" background.

                Here's how I envison a WC look: One dips a brush in some water, squeezes some of it out, applies paint to the brush and then strokes the paper. Characteristics of the WC-look, then, include how the paint bleeds into the paper, how a given stroke combines with existings strokes, and how fast the stroke fades (a function of wetness and/or the absorption rate of the paper). Strokes tend to be somewhat transparent, too. This combination of bleeding, fade, transparency, etc. can't be achieved by filters alone as I'm sure you, too, have concluded.

                Here's something you might try, keeping in mind WC stroke characteristics.

                With your existing creation, create a new layer and ALT+Merge Visible which will merge the visible layers w/o collapsing the individual layers.

                Create a new layer above that, set the blend mode to Multiply.

                PSE probably has a couple "water color" brushes in the brushes palette, right? I'd choose one and select options "wet edges" and experiment with the fade parameter and lower the opacity to 60%-70%.

                Then using the Eyedropper color sampler tool, select light colors in the image and paint on the top layer, which will generate slightly dark strokes because of the Multiply blend mode. Apply as desired. This will take some experimenting with brush characteristics, fade, opacity, etc. Since you're painting on a separate layer, you can trash it and start over whenever you like.

                Duplicate the process with another layer set to Screen. Then choose lighter colors and plaint over darker areas.

                The point of all this is to give more emphasis to the illusion of "overlapping, somewhat transparent paint strokes."

                In the attached image I added a Levels adjustment layer to add a little contrast.

                Hope this gives you some ideas. But, again, what you've got so far is very, very good.

                Attached Files


                • #9
                  Sarah has what I think is a nice tutorial somewhere here on her watercolor technique. It's a good place to start and then branch out from. Take bits and pieces from whoever's work you like and generate your own.

                  I am not sure what filters you have available, but this image started off with smart blur (at about 3/25, low, for settings), Layer copy and did Brush Strokes/Dark strokes, varying it until I liked what I saw. Another layer copy and ran the Artistic/watercolor filter, which I set the blend mode of that layer to lighten. I then flattened the image and did a little hue/sat work to taste, and finally added just a little texture with the texturizer filter set to watercolor paper.

                  This, plus what Danny has suggested, plus whatever else you can find and incorporate and you will soon have something that WE will want to copy the technique for, I'm sure!

                  Attached Files


                  • #10
                    Hi Jean,

                    I think you did quite well at making the puppy look like a watercolor, with the way the paint would run a little on the paper.

                    I realize that I have a somewhat different perspective than some folk. I like my watercolors fairly realistic. I decided to try my hand with your puppy.

                    I used a jpg cleaner first. I put a clean background behind him, using a part of the snow as a pattern to fill in where the trees, etc. were. Then I used a simplifier pattern, added a texture, a matte and a frame.

                    Attached Files


                    • #11

                      Would you elaborate on what a ".jpg cleaner" is?
                      * Plugin?
                      * Filter?
                      * 3rd party product?



                      • #12
                        Would you elaborate on what a ".jpg cleaner" is?

                        Woops - Sorry. PSP has a filter to pull out jpg artifacts, but I actually prefer the one that comes in Alien Skin's Image Doctor, called jpg repair. It is adjustable.

                        And the Simplifier is from AmphiSoft.



                        • #13

                          I'm not sure if HP makes a watercolor paper - and the Epson version is large (13x19"), so I don't think that will fit in your printer unless you cut it down (which you could).

                          A couple of years ago when I was using an HP, I just went to an art store and purchased a pad of watercolor paper. I had to cut it down just a little bit to fit 8.5x11", but I was happy with the results for what I needed at the time. That is, I didn't have anything with fine details, so the "bleeding" of the ink on a traditional, uncoated paper didn't matter. Also, if displayed on a wall (or anywhere but darkness), the image started to fade after a year. If the image is for yourself and you keep your digital file, you can just print a new one though.

                          I don't think that HP makes a matte paper, but I could be wrong. You might want to just try one of the Epson matte papers and see if you like the results. The paper isn't textured though, so if you want texture, you'll either have to order "fine art paper" online - or you may have an art store near you that sells inkjet art paper. One place that I've found online with a bunch of different fine art paper varieties is InkJetArt. They are not necessarily the cheapest, but they do have a large selection. And, you can order a "sampler pack" with two sheets each of a variety to see what you like best. Somerset Velvet is one type of fine art inkjet paper.

                          Hope this helps some, though I imagine it's just opened up a whole can of worms for you!



                          • #14
                            You might also look at They have a wide variety. I haven't gotten good enough to take a lot of care in printing what I do yet so I can't add anything to what the others have said about specific papers.


                            • #15
                              Tyeise, Danny, Blacknight, CJ, eb. Jeanie,
                              So Sorry it has taken me so long to respond but for the past few days everytime I would get online I would get kicked off just as fast. Since I loaded all this photo stuff - my computer acts like a stuffed potato with all the trimmings!
                              All of your suggestions are so informative I cannot begin to say enough of thanks to Ya'lll ! And, thanks for the info on the paper.
                              All three of your interpertations of this cute lab puppy are wonderful and I will try all for practice. By the way, Blacknight - what is anistropic(spel??) diffuse? I know you can't do without it but what is it?


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