Who loves Etsy? I know I do! However, I want to be honest; Etsy doesn’t always have the EXACT piece of artwork that I need. Case in point; I wanted a cute watercolor print of my home state (OREGON!) in some very specific colors for my office. Despite spending hours on Etsy, I just wasn’t able to find it. Thankfully, I was able to leverage my Photoshop skills and create EXACTLY what I wanted. With this tutorial, you can too! Making your own watercolor art in Photoshop is SUPER easy, and really fun! But the best part is that you can use the PERFECT colors for whatever space you’re decorating, and your art can be ANYTHING you want it to be.
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If you’ve read my other Photoshop tutorial on how to make pretty social media icons for your blog, you already know that I love Adobe Photoshop. While there are other image editing programs out there, some of which are easier to learn, Adobe Photoshop remains a powerhouse of a program. I use it to create and edit all the images I use on the blog. You’ll also need it for this tutorial, although the same concepts could be applied using a different image editing platform. If you don’t have Photoshop, and are interested in trying it, Adobe offers Creative Cloud, which lets you pick and choose which apps you use for a monthly fee rather than having to commit to buying the entire program. I personally use Creative Cloud and have been super happy with it.
How to make watercolor wall art using Adobe Photoshop
1. Find And Save A Basic Image For Your Artwork
First things first, what do you want your art to be? You’ll need a very simple picture to work with. Ideally, you want something solid colored with a white background. This will make it easy to remove the white background and work with the main image. For the purposes of this tutorial, I’ll use the same image in my header photo; an outline of Oregon. If you need an image to try this with, you can find the exact image I’m using here. Or, you could use one from your own home state. It’s totally up to you! Save the image in a place on your computer you’ll remember because you’re going to open it in Photoshop in a minute.
2. Open Your Image and Create a New Image in Photoshop
Open the image you’re going to use for your artwork in Photoshop. Additionally, create a new image and make it the dimensions you want for your wall art. For the purposes of this tutorial, I decided to make my Oregon wall art 8 inches wide by 8 inches tall. You can make your art whatever size you want! Just remember if you choose a large size you will likely have to go to a specialty printer to get it printed out.
3. Remove Any White Space Around The Object
Many images that you download will have a white backdrop, which we want to get rid of. We just want the object itself to work with. This will be important for later when we need to be able to outline the object for the purpose of applying our watercolor effect.
If your image already has a transparent background, great! If not, do the following:
- Create a new transparent layer and move it under the layer with your object.
- Click on the layer with your object and use the Magic Wand tool to select the white space.
- Use Ctrl-X or Edit -> Cut to get rid of the white space.
If you’ve done the following steps correctly you should be left with only an outline of the object that you want to use for your art. I suggest saving your edited object file so you don’t need to repeat this step later.
4. Copy and Paste Your Object Into Your Main File
Now that you’ve removed any background color from around your object, you’ll want to copy and paste it into the file you created where you’ll be creating your final wall art. You may have to resize the image slightly. Typically, I find that images tend to be too large to begin with, and need to be shrunk. If you pasted your object into your main file and it was too large, don’t panic! Hit Ctrl-Z or go to Edit -> Undo to get rid of it.
You can resize an image in Photoshop by going to Image -> Image Size. Resize your image until you are able to paste it into your main file and are happy with the dimensions.
5. Create A New Layer
You can close the file that had your object in it, we’ll only be working in the main file from here on out. In your main file, create a new layer, and make sure it’s on top of your object. This file should now look like my example image, with three layers in it. The layer you just created is going to be where we put our watercolor effect.
6. Add A Watercolor Effect
I added a watercolor effect using some FREE brushes that I downloaded from brusheezy.com. The link goes to the exact set that I downloaded. You can use any set, but look for large brushes (these were 1500 px and 2500 px), because the image you’re working with is rather large.
Use the Brush Tool and pick a watercolor brush to use. You may need to resize it. I chose a single brush and resized it to about 3000 px to cover the object completely. You’re using the brush as more of a stamp, you aren’t dragging it over the image. The color you use in this step doesn’t matter at all, just use something you can see. My image after this step doesn’t look very impressive, but we’re about the clean it up!
7. Desaturate Your Watercolor Layer
We are going to strip the color out of the watercolor layer before we add it back in. Select Layer -> New Adjustment Layer -> Hue/Saturation. Drag the Saturation slider all the way to the left. You’ll be left with a gray watercolor. This is fine! Finally, merge this layer down by hitting Ctrl-E. You should be left with an image that looks similar to mine, below.
8. Adjust The Levels in Your Watercolor Layer
To add some more depth in the watercolor layer, we want to really differentiate between the light and dark areas of the watercolor. To do this, select Layer -> New Adjustment Layer -> Levels. In this layer adjustment, there are three sliders. Play with the position of each slider under you’ve created some noticeable contrast between the dark and light areas of the watercolor. This adjustment later can be changed later based on how the final coloring looks.
9. Get Rid of Excess Watercolor Space
We’re now at the point where we want to get rid of the extra watercolor that the brush created, so the ONLY watercolor we have is our image itself. To accomplish this, start by selecting the layer with your object on it. Using the Magic Wand tool, click in the empty space around the object. This should select your object.
With the object selected, select the watercolor layer. Hit Ctrl-X or Edit -> Cut. This should get rid of all the extra watercolor and just leave you with the outline of your object.
As a final step here, delete the layer that had your object on it. You won’t need it anymore! At this point, you should be left with a gray toned watercolor image of your final object.
10. Color And Finalize It!
Now we’re at the final, fun step! Adding color! With your watercolor layer selected, go to Layer -> Layer Style -> Gradient Overlay. Photoshop has some nice presets to get you going, but this is where you’ll have to rely on trial and error and your own creativity more than a tutorial. I highly encourage you to just have fun playing with the different colors and options until you land on something you love. Remember that levels adjustment we made in step 8? You can also revisit that adjustment to change the colors even more.
When you’re happy with the color, congratulations, you’re done! Now just remember to save your final product, print it out, and hang it on your wall! 🙂