Using Affinity Photo, you can turn any of your photos into beautiful watercolor paintings! With this simple effect, you’ll have your friends do a double-take when they see your pictures.
Step 0: Downloading the Image
For this tutorial, we’ll be using this landscape photo.
In addition to this written tutorial, you can also watch our video tutorial on this watercolor effect.
Step 1: Detect Edges
The first thing we need to do is duplicate our background layer, which we can do by pressing Command J (Mac) or Control J (PC).
Then we’ll come up the top to Filters, Detect, Detect Edges.
Right now our photo is looking pretty strange.
If we change our layer’s Blend Mode from Normal to Subtract, then we’ll start to see the effect we’re going for.
Step 2: Adjustment Layers
To enhance the effect, we’re going to apply a couple of adjustment layers. Press the Adjustment icon.
Then apply a Brightness and Contrast Adjustment.
I’ll increase the Brightness and the Contrast a little bit.
Next, we’ll apply a Split Toning Adjustment.
With this adjustment, I’ll add some red into the Highlights, and then add some purple into the Shadows.
To help the colors pop even more, I’ll apply an HSL Adjustment.
Then I’ll increase the Saturation a little bit.
Step 3: A Little Painting
At this point, some parts of our photo are looking a little too dark, especially our castle.
To fix this, we’re going to apply a Curves Adjustment.
Increase the brightness of our shadows by lifting the bottom left of the curve up.
We don’t want everything brighter though, so we are going to bring the middle of the curve down.
You can refine where your curves adjustment is being applied by painting in black on the parts of the photo you don’t want this adjustment applied to.
Just press B for the Paint Brush Tool, and make sure you have 0% Hardness while painting so your brush strokes will be soft and unnoticeable.
If you’d like to learn more about masking adjustment layers, you can check out our beginner’s guide to Affinity Photo, where we cover these techniques in much greater depth.
Step 4: Soften and Blend
Our photo is looking good, but we’re going to do a few more things to polish the effect.
The first thing we’re going to do is soften our photo and help the colors blend together better. To do this, we’ll right-click on any of our layers and select Merge Visible.
Then with our merged layer selected, we’ll change its Blend Mode to Soft Light.
Now we just need to apply a filter to it. Press the Filters icon.
Select the Gaussian Blur Filter.
In the Dialog Box, bring the Radius up a little ways.
But now our photo is looking a little dark again, so I’m going to apply another Curves Adjustment to brighten the shadows in our photo.
Then adjust the curve the same way as before.
If the adjustment isn’t quite strong enough, you can duplicate it by pressing Command J (Mac) or Control J (PC).
On the duplicate copy, I’m going to paint in black on the parts of the photo that I think have become too bright.
After working with all of these adjustments and filters, our image is looking nice and watercolored.
Great work, you artist you!