How to make watercolor portraits


This was a really shabby, dull and dark picture of my daughter who had fallen asleep in the back of the car. There was no way I was ever going to use it on a layout, but it intriged me, because the picture really showed of her soft, long eyelashes. I came across a watercolor tutorial showing how to turn your photo into an artsy splattered work-of-art. This picture immediately sprung to mind! Here is how I did it:

– I converted my photo to black and white.
– Adjusted the levels to make the whites and blacks even whiter and blacker. Try not to lose all detail while doing this!
– I added a layer mask and filled it with black. This makes the photo  disappear from your page (aaah), leaving an all white canvas. It is supposed to do this, don’t fret…
– Choose a brush. I went for the grungy type brushes (Just Jaimee offers some beautiful grunge-brushes on her blog).
– With the layer mask selected (this is important!) and my foreground color set to white, I started brushing carefully. The black-and-white photo reemerges where the brush is ‘stamped’. I only painted the eyes, nose and mouth ‘back’.
– Choose another brush. This time I selected Messy splatters by Happy Scrap Girl and some gorgeous Lace brushes (found on Deviantart).
– Set your foreground color to black.
– Start stamping on your brush in a new layer above the photo layer. I made different layers for different brushes, for the lace brushes I even created a layer for every lace ‘stamp’. This makes it easier to move thing around until you are satisfied. I varied the opacity of the brushes.
– Above the brushes layer I created a Gradient fill adjustment layer, made a gradient (purple, orange, yellow) and chose an angle. Set the blending mode to Overlay. This instantly colors all the black brushes and the photolayer!
– The photo was a little ‘lost’ in this gradient, so I decide to create an extra Gradient fill adjustment layer with a gradient which was almost the same, just with a little black added. I clipped the adjustment layer to my photolayer to give it a little boost.
– I added a little bit of black splatter and lace on a new layer above all other layers. On another layer I added the ‘you are my inspiration’ wordart (in a very low opacity).
– Type the title (I struggled with the font for this, but in order to let the picture take the podium I decided on a very basic Helvetica Ultralight) and added ‘I love you’ wordart.

Done! Now show me yours 🙂

6 thoughts on “How to make watercolor portraits

  • February 3, 2013 at 03:16

    Thank you so much for sharing how you did this,

  • February 4, 2013 at 04:55

    I love this technique, I don’t know much about gradients but can see I need to start learning more about them if this is the effect you can get to colorize brushes. Thank you so much for giving me inspiration.

  • February 7, 2013 at 17:18

    Love this idea! Thank you for the steps. I have one in progress, having a bit of trouble getting it right but I love a challenge.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • February 7, 2013 at 17:55

      Hi Bobbie, if you have any questions, ask away, I’ll try to help where I can. Would love to see the result!

  • August 2, 2013 at 03:09

    This is AMAZING!! I can’t wait to try!

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