Anything Photoshop or Photography

How to Turn a Brush into a Watercolor Brush

I just keep learning more about textures. This is one of those little tips that just did not occur to me until I looked at my old notes from Fay Sirkis’s “A Stroke of Genius-Photoshop Art Studio” webinar at the NAPP website and it sort of “jumped out” at me. BTW, if you want to learn how to paint in Photoshop, Fay’s video is full of information to teach just that – she does a great job of explaining all the famous artist’s techniques.

Now for the basic tip: If you want to make a regular brush into a watercolor brush, just check the Scattering section in your Brush Panel – even the default settings can do wonders. You will probably need to reduce the opacity of the brush to get a good effect and also adjust the size. Can try changing the scattering amount and adding texture to the brush for more interest. Just be sure to save it if you want to reuse it by clicking on the Create a New Brush icon at bottom of the Brush Panel. If you use a Wacom tablet, you will get different results using a regular tablet brush and/or Barrel Rotation Brush, besides what you get with just a mouse stroke. My images all used the Barrel Rotation Brush to get the painterly look (I use an old large Intuous 3 Tablet that still works just fine), but I did switch between brushes and mouse to get a little different texture added. See bottom of blog for download link to all the brushes I have created.

For the agapanthas (African Lily) flower image above, these steps were followed:

1.  First duplicate the image.

2.  Place a layer underneath the top layer and fill with white (One way to do this is to go to Edit -> Fill and select in the Use drop-down white).

3.  A black layer mask was added to the top layer with the image, and in the mask the flowers were painted back in carefully using a 30% opacity white soft brush.

TIP: For the flowers in the bottom two image, first the Select -> Color Range command was used before the Layer Mask was added to get most of the flower and/or background selected (instead of painting it all in the mask by hand). The Quick Mask (press Q to enter and exit) was used to fine-tune the selection before adding the Layer Mask to the flower layer – this puts the selection into the layer mask when you click the icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel. If the wrong area is black, just highlight the layer mask and invert by pressing CTRL+I.

4.  A new blank layer was added underneath the flowers but above the white layer. This is where I started experimenting with the above brushes – the watercolor texture was painted in exactly where I wanted it to fit around the flower. I ended up using a Watercolor Salt Brush set to Scattering at 368%, 170 pixel Brush Size at 30% opacity in a light blue. (This will look totally wrong at a higher opacity.) I tried several different colors and ended up using this soft greenish color (R160/G174/B124) in a Solid Color Adjustment Layer that was clipped to the painted texture (go to Layer -> New Fill Layer -> Solid Color and check Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask). The Watercolor Salt Brush layer was set to 41% opacity. (This is my SJ Watercolor Salt Brush Tool Preset brush.)

5.  I decided to add in another watercolor texture layer made with the Round Watercolor Brush set to 30% opacity and Scattering 169%. (See my SJ Round Watercolor Erodible Brush 1.) The layer was set to 100% and the Solid Color Adjustment Layer was duplicated and placed above the top texture layer and clipped (hold down the ALT+click between the layers to get a clipping mask).

Optional Step as shown in first and second image: To get the look that this is on watercolor looking paper, all that you need to do is to add a Pattern Overlay Layer Style on the white layer created in Step 2 and use the same Pattern Overlay Layer Style on the actual flower layer in Step 3. When the Layer Style (double click on the layer thumbnail and select the Pattern Overlay style where you replace the default bubble with the CS6 Artist Surface Watercolor Pattern. (Click on the down arrow by the bubble pattern and click on the little gear on the upper right – navigate to the the Artist Surface patterns.) I set the scale to 536% and the pattern opacity to 74%. For Step 3 layer, set pattern opacity to 34%. You can find other watercolor patterns on the internet if you want a different look.

Those are all the basic steps to get this beautiful result. The hardest part was creating the layer mask for the flowers. You can always work on the flower layer mask more after you get your textures in place.
…..
This image followed exactly the same workflow above except a different color was used and the layer opacity was left at 100% for the texture. The Optional Step texture is from Russell Brown’s Watercolor Assistant Panel that is a free download for Photoshop CS6 users. It contains this beautiful watercolor paper pattern called Bockingford_rough. Download the panel and try painting – it is a lot of fun and you get this beautiful pattern to use for your watercolor background effects.

I got really nice results with the tablet brush using the new CS6 Round Watercolor Erodible Brush and adding the default Scattering settings, 30% brush opacity, and a larger 125 pixel brush. (See my SJ Round Watercolor Erodible Brush 1 in downloadable set below.) The CS6 Watercolor Salt brush actually generates a pretty realistic cloud effect when set to a soft bright blue color. Try the new Bristle Brushes too – gives a totally different look. I also created a nice Watercolor Brush using CS5 – in this case I started with the Round Blunt Medium Stiff brush. In Brush Tip Shape, Shape is Round Blunt, Bristles 14%, Length 137%, Thickness 37%, Stiffness 71%, and Angle 53 degrees. Then the Shape Dynamics section was checked with and Angle Jitter set to 34%, Scattering set to the Scatter 338%, Texture using one called White Stationary, Transfer  – Opacity Jitter set to 47% and Control Pen Pressure, Wet Brushes and Smoothing checked. (This is my SJ Watercolor Brush Tool Round Blunt brush in download set.) There several watercolor brushes in the Natural Brushes 2 set and Wet Brushes for CS5 users that would probably make really nice scatter brushes too.
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This image used roughly the same workflow except the background color is a lovely soft orange. This time my Salt Watercolor brush set to a light orange was used along with McBad’s Watercolor Brush 37 at 768 pixels using a light yellow. When finished, Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Adjust 5’s French Countryside (one of my favorites) preset was applied (with these changes: Adaptive Exp. .47, adjusted Contrast and Brightness, turned off Diffusion and Vignette, and set Tone Strength to .78), Topaz Detail 3 set to the Overall Medium Detail preset (I use this setting all the time on my images now), and Topaz DeNoise 3 used to clean up noise in flower center only – used a black layer mask and painted out the center. rbcampos Iris Set 01 Brush 005 was used for the center eye and set to a layer opacity of 27%. A catchlight was added to the eye and OnOne (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) PhotoFrame Dave Cross 13 was added in a matching soft orange.
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Here is a final example that follows the same workflow. In this case the background was created using McBad’s Watercolor Brush 11 with Scattering on and the Brush Size set to 2000 pixels. Just dabbed on a separate document until I got an interesting watercolor texture – then dragged it into the flower image under the Step 3 flower with layer mask layer, but above the Step 2 white layer. Topaz Simplify 4 was applied to the flower layer and the Watercolor II preset applied, except to the center of the flower. French Kiss’s free Glorious Grunge Edging Overlay with the center cleared out was applied and a purple Color Fill Adjustment Layer added. Just a slightly different look using a different type brush.

I have made my five brushes in this blog available for download at my Deviant Art: SJ WATERCOLOR BRUSH TOOL PRESETS. Load them into Photoshop by clicking on the first icon in Options Bar – click to open Tool Preset Picker and open up fly-out menu or little gear on top right – select Load Tool Presets and navigate to where you downloaded the file. (The file is in a compressed ZIP file format as Deviant Art would not take a .tpl extension.) Change all the settings – you can always get back to what they were by opening up the Tool Preset Picker and clicking on the brush tool again. Hopefully you will develop some even better brushes than these I supplied. Have fun experimenting with this…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How to Create Unique Watercolor Background Texture
How to Create Unique Textured Backgrounds
Using a Couple of My Textures

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7 responses

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