Watercolor Filter

Adobe Elements doesn’t have a watercolour filter, so you have to make your own.

Yes I know – I usually use Paint Shop Pro but the great selling point of Elements is its ability to run an extensive library of plugins which are all good to process, pre-process and post process your images.

As a result I’ve broken my vows and habits of a lifetime to experiment with this piece of software.

Presently I’m running Topaz Adjust 4 or NIK Color Efex 4 Pro to pre-process some images as well as making layers adjustments.  I’m looking at all kinds of filter combinations to get ‘impressions’ in my pictures.

I came across this idea for producing watercolours in Adobe Elements but the software has moved on since the idea was first mooted.  What you need for a good watercolour is an image which will simplify without losing the message because watercolours don’t have the textures of paint, just the paper texture.

The other tip on this is a simple one.  Forget adding the paper textures in software.  I’ve been playing around with cut-down sheets of real watercolour painting paper in my inkjet printer using old-fashioned dye based inks.  The effect is amazingly good.  The images look ‘painted’.
I’ve written some other stuff on watercolours on a Paint Shop Pro tutorial page which is worth a visit - Watercolour Tutorial.

There are four stages in the process
  1. Adjusting the image (pre-process).

  2. Making the artist’s sketch.

  3. Creating the watercolour paint.

  4. Final adjustments

Pre Processing

Most watercolour images have softness, so contrast is not good.  You might be trying to convey a particular message, so cleaning up; cropping; desaturation might be necessary.  I used
Filter > Adjustments > Equalize to slightly tone the image down.

watercolour filter original

The Artists Sketch

Elements 10 has the weirdest way of making a line drawing from the’ edges’ of the objects within the image.

I knew which features I wanted to retain, so I made three copies of the background layer.  I kept the background layer untouched for safety – always a good move.  In the layers palette, right click on the background layer and choose Duplicate layer.

Set the top layer to be hidden by closing the ‘eye’ of this layer.

watercolour filter layers

Counting from the bottom layer, set the blending mode of the third layer (the second copy) to Soft Light.

watercolour filter smart blur settings

With the layer still selected Filter > Blur > Smart Blur, Quality to High, Mode to Edge only.

The original image is 4500+ pixels wide, so I needed to choose a radius of 48.2 and a threshold of 62.2, but you’ll need to experiment with the settings.

This gives a white on black image.  To turn this to black on white Filter > Adjustments > Invert

Making the Watercolour Filter

watercolour filter crystallize
Counting from the bottom background layer, choose the next layer up and then select ...
Filter > Pixellate > Crystallize

Again by experiment, I found the value of 107 about right.

The softness of the image is achieved by Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.  By experimentation, I found I needed a value of 40.

Click OK and here's your watercolour filter to this point ...

watercolour filter after crystallize

Final Adjustments

The image just needs that hint of detail.  Unhide the top layer by unchecking the ‘eye’ of the top layer and add a layer mask by clicking the icon in the layers palette.

Then invert the mask by selecting it and Filter > Adjustments > Invert.

With white loaded on a brush of 30% opacity and of largish size, just lightly paint over details to be revealed, by painting on the mask.  This is where having a Wacom tablet comes in handy.  It provides an accurate, fine gentle touch to reveal just a hint of detail.

watercolour filter final image

And there you have it – happy painting.

Watercolour Filter
Page Links

Pre Processing

Artists Sketch

Watercolour Filter

Final Adjustments

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