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Design

How to Create an Abstract Watercolor Effect Photoshop Action

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:MediumLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial, you'll learn how to make abstract watercolor in Photoshop by creating an abstract watercolor ink painting Photoshop action. I will explain everything in so much detail that everyone can follow it, even those who have just opened Photoshop for the first time.

What You Will Learn in This Abstract Watercolor Photoshop Tutorial

  • How to create a watercolour Photoshop action
  • How to prepare watercolour Photoshop action brushes
  • How to create an abstract watercolor effect in Photoshop
  • How to make final adjustments to the watercolor Photoshop action effect
  • How to save Photoshop actions

Or Try a Ready-Made Watercolor Action!

Abstract Watercolor Effect Photoshop Action (ATN, ABR, PAT)

Abstract Watercolor Effect Photoshop Action

Using this abstract watercolor ink painting Photoshop action, you can transform your photos to amazing watercolor artworks with no work at all! Just brush over your subject with a color and play the action. It’s really that simple! With this artistic watercolor Photoshop action, creating advanced and realistic watercolor photo effects has never been this easy and fun.

What You'll Need

To recreate the design above, you will need the following resources:

1. How to Get Started

First, open the photo that you want to work with. To open your photo, go to File > Open, choose your photo, and click Open. Now, before we get started, just check a couple of things:

  1. Your photo should be in RGB Color mode, 8 Bits/Channel. To check this, go to Image > Mode.
  2. For best results, your photo size should be 2500–4500 px wide/high. To check this, go to Image > Image Size.
  3. Your photo should be the Background layer. If it is not, go to Layer > New > Background from Layer.
checking image size and mode

2. How to Create Watercolor Photoshop Brushes

In this section, we are going to prepare several watercolor Photoshop brushes we'll need. You can check this tutorial to follow the process described and create your own brushes from scratch, or you can download my TechnicalArt 2 Photoshop Action and get over 60 high-quality and resolution watercolor brushes. Here are the brushes I'll be using:

watercolor brushes

3. How to Start Recording a Photoshop Action

In this section, we are going to start recording the action. Go to Window > Actions, and in the Actions panel, click on the menu icon in the top right-hand corner, choose New Set to create a new set, and name it Abstract Watercolor. Then, click on the same menu icon again, choose New Action to create a new action, and name it Abstract Watercolor.

creating new photoshop action

4. How to Create the Background

In this section, we are going to create the background. Go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color to create a new solid color fill layer, name it Background Color, and choose the color #f2f2f2 as shown below:

creating new solid color fill layer

5. How to Create the Sketch Effect

Step 1

In this section, we are going to create the sketch effect. Select the Background layer and press Control-J on your keyboard to duplicate this layer. Then, drag this layer to the top of the layers in the Layers panel.

duplicating layer

Step 2

Now go to Filter > Filter Gallery > Stylize > Glowing Edges and set the Edge Width to 1, Edge Brightness to 20, and Smoothness to 15.

adding glowing edges filter

Step 3

Press Control-I on your keyboard to invert the layer colors. Then, press Control-Shift-U to desaturate this layer.

inverting layer colors

Step 4

Now go to Image > Auto Tone and then Image > Auto Contrast to make some auto-corrections to the layer tone and contrast. Then, go to Image > Adjustments > Levels and enter the settings below:

adjusting levels

Step 5

Change the Blending Mode of this layer to Multiply and set the Opacity to 37%. Then, name this layer Outline Sketch.

changing blending mode and opacity

Step 6

Now select the Background layer and press Control-J on your keyboard to duplicate it. Then, drag this layer to the top of the layers in the Layers panel. After that, press Control-J to duplicate this new layer.

duplicating layer

Step 7

Press Control-I on your keyboard to invert the layer colors and change the Blending Mode of this layer to Color Dodge. Then, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 20 px.

adding gaussian blur filter

Step 8

Now Control-click on the Background copy layer to select both layers at the same time, and press Control-E on your keyboard to merge them into one layer. Then, press Control-Shift-U to desaturate this new layer.

merging layers

Step 9

Change the Blending Mode of this layer to Multiply and set the Opacity to 70%. Then, name this layer Detailed Sketch and drag it just below the Outline Sketch layer in the Layers panel.

changing blending mode and opacity

Step 10

Now go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All to add a layer mask that reveals the whole layer. Then, set the foreground color to #000000, choose the Brush Tool (B), pick a soft brush, and brush over the background area to remove the sketch details in the background.

brushing into layer mask

Step 11

Select the Outline Sketch layer, go to File > Place Embedded, select the Diagonal Lines Texture file attached, click Place, and place it so it fits the canvas as shown below:

placing texture

Step 12

Now go to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All to add a layer mask that hides the whole layer. Then, set the foreground color to #ffffff, choose the Brush Tool (B), pick a hard brush, and brush over the area where you want the texture to appear.

Instead of brushing into the layer mask, you can also use various selections and/or filters to modify the layer mask and determine where the texture will be visible.

brushing into layer mask

Step 13

Change the Opacity of this layer to 42%.

changing opacity

6. How to Crop an Image in Photoshop

In this section, we are going to crop the image before we start creating the watercolor effect. Firstly, we are going to pause the action recording. Go to Window > Actions, and in the Actions panel, click on the rectangle icon in the bottom left-hand corner to stop recording the action. Then, in the same panel, click on the menu icon in the top right-hand corner and choose Insert Stop to add the Stop command.

After that, choose the Crop Tool (C) and transform the Crop Box as shown below:

cropping image

7. How to Create an Abstract Watercolor Effect in Photoshop

Step 1

In this section, we are going to create our abstract watercolor effect in Photoshop. Go to Window > Actions, and in the Actions panel, click on the circle icon at the bottom to resume recording the action. Then, select the Background layer and press Control-J on your keyboard to duplicate it. After that, drag this layer to the top of the layers in the Layers panel.

duplicating layer

Step 2

Now go to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All to add a layer mask that hides the whole layer. Then, set the foreground color to #ffffff, choose the Brush Tool (B), and pick some of the watercolor brushes you have prepared. After that, stop recording the action, insert the Stop command again, and brush over and around the subject area where you want to create the watercolor effect.

brushing into layer mask

Step 3

Change the Opacity of this layer to 69% and name this layer Blue_Watercolor_1.

changing opacity

Step 4

Now go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color to create a new solid color fill layer, name it Color, and choose the color #0096ff as shown below. Then, press Control-Alt-G on your keyboard to create a clipping mask.

creating new solid color fill layer

Step 5

Repeat this process to create as many blue watercolor layers as you want. Here is my result:

repeating process

Step 6

Now, to create purple/pink watercolor layers, repeat the previous process but use the #b200b2 color instead of #0096ff. Then, position these watercolor and solid color fill layers at the top of the layers in the Layers panel. After that, Control-click on these new solid color fill layers to select them all at the same time, and change the Blending Mode of these layers to Vivid Light.

changing blending mode

Step 7

Select the top layer in the Layers panel and Shift-click on the last texture layer to select all layers between. Then, go to Layer > New > Group from Layers to create a new group from the selected layers, and name it Watercolor.

creating new group from layers

Step 8

Now, go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All to add a layer mask that reveals the whole layer group. Then, set the foreground color to #000000, choose the Brush Tool (B), pick some of the watercolor brushes, and brush over the face of the subject to slightly remove the textures in this area.

brushing into layer mask

8. How to Make Final Adjustments to the Watercolor Effect Photoshop Action

Step 1

In this section, we are going to make some final adjustments to the watercolor effect Photoshop action and save the action for future use. Go to Window > Actions, and in the Actions panel, click on the circle icon at the bottom to resume recording the action. Then, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves to create a new curves adjustment layer and name it Color Look.

creating new curves adjustment layer

Step 2

Now Double-click on this layer thumbnail, and in the Properties panel, enter the settings below:

adjusting curves

Step 3

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Vibrance to create a new vibrance adjustment layer and name it Overall Vibrance/Saturation.

creating new vibrance adjustment layer

Step 4

Now Double-click on this layer thumbnail and, in the Properties panel, set the Vibrance to +30 and Saturation to +20.

adjusting vibrance and saturation

Step 5

Press Control-Alt-Shift-E on your keyboard to make a screenshot, and then press Control-Shift-U to desaturate this layer. Then, go to Filter > Other > High Pass and set the Radius to 2 px.

adding high pass filter

Step 6

Now change the Blending Mode of this layer to Hard Light and name this layer Overall Sharpening. Then, go to Window > Actions, and in the Actions panel, click on the rectangle icon in the bottom left-hand corner to stop recording the action. Then, in the same panel, click on the menu icon in the top right-hand corner and choose Save Actions to save the action.

changing blending mode

You Made It!

Congratulations, you have succeeded! You've learned how to create a stylish watercolor Photoshop action. With this watercolor effect Photoshop action, you can now transform any photo to a watercolor illustration. Here is our final result:

final result

Take It to the Next Level!

Abstract Watercolor Effect Photoshop Action (ATN, ABR, PAT)

Abstract Watercolor Effect Photoshop Action

Using this artistic watercolor Photoshop action, you can transform your photos to amazing watercolor artworks with no work at all! Just brush over your subject with a color and play the action. It’s really that simple! With this creative watercolor Photoshop action, creating advanced and realistic watercolor photo effects has never been this easy and fun.

Liked this abstract watercolor Photoshop tutorial? Then you may also like these other Photoshop action tutorials:


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