Watercolor Effect

Painting GIF

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.

beforeafter

 


 

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).

Duplicate Image

 

Then we’ll come up the top to Filters, Detect, Detect Edges.

Filters, Detect, Detect Edges

 

Right now our photo is looking pretty strange.

Strange Looking Image

 

If we change our layer’s Blend Mode from Normal to Subtract, then we’ll start to see the effect we’re going for.

Blend Mode, Normal to Subtract

 


 

Step 2: Adjustment Layers

To enhance the effect, we’re going to apply a couple of adjustment layers. Press the Adjustment icon.

Adjustment icon

 

Then apply a Brightness and Contrast Adjustment.

Brightness and Contrast Adjustment

 

I’ll increase the Brightness and the Contrast a little bit.

Increase Brightness and Contrast

 

Next, we’ll apply a Split Toning Adjustment.

Split Toning Adjustment

 

With this adjustment, I’ll add some red into the Highlights, and then add some purple into the Shadows.

Red Highlights, Purple Shadows

 

To help the colors pop even more, I’ll apply an HSL Adjustment.

HSL Adjustment

 

Then I’ll increase the Saturation a little bit.

Increase Saturation

 


 

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.

Curves Adjustment

 

Increase the brightness of our shadows by lifting the bottom left of the curve up.

Increase Shadows

 

We don’t want everything brighter though, so we are going to bring the middle of the curve down.

Bring Middle 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.

Paint Black, 0% Hardness

 

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.

Right Click, Merge Visible

 

Then with our merged layer selected, we’ll change its Blend Mode to Soft Light.

Merged Layer, Blend Mode, Soft Light

 

Now we just need to apply a filter to it. Press the Filters icon.

Press Filter icon

 

Select the Gaussian Blur Filter.

Gaussian Blur Filter

 

In the Dialog Box, bring the Radius up a little ways.

Increase Radius

 

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.

Curves Adjustment

 

Then adjust the curve the same way as before.

Increase Shadows, Decrease Middle

 

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.

 

Duplicate, paint on

 

After working with all of these adjustments and filters, our image is looking nice and watercolored.

after

 

Great work, you artist you!

clap GIF