Piker's Watercolor Emulation Tutorial

1. For watercolor technique emulation choose an image without small details clutter.
2. Bring to effect artistic simplification and edge effects on regular photo. To simplify the image you can use different methods: Blur, Topaz Simplify, Topaz Vivacity, Buzz Pro, Caravaggio and others.
3. Reduce color noise
4. Bring out more detail in the image using Adjustments > Shadow/Highlight. 
5. Reduce the image size to 1024 pixels on the long edge. Resolution of 72 dpi.

6. In the History window create new snapshot and set it source for History brush.
7. Create a new layer “White layer”, fill it with white, set opacity to 85%.
8. Create a new layer “Layer 1”.
9. Use the tool Art History Brush (AHB) with “_WC Spatter L 70/30”.
10. Use a tablet for painting on layer «Layer 1».
11. Create a new layer “Layer 2”.
12. Use the tool AHB with “_WC Spatter M 40/30”.
13. Use a tablet for painting small details on the layer “Layer 2”.
14. If necessary, repeat some times steps 11-13 and reduce every time the size of AHB to work out details and contours.
15. Create a new layer “Fine Layer”.
16. Use the tool AHB “_WC Watercolor 6 M”.
17. Paint fine details (edges, eyes, etc.)
18. Set the layer “Background” invisible.
19. Select the layer “White layer” and set the opacity to 100%.
20. Select the layer “Fine Layer”.
21. Merge all visible layers from “White Layer” to “Fine Layer”.
22. Make a duplicate of the active layer “Fine Layer”.
23. Increase the sharpness of the active layer “Fine Layer copy” with Smart Sharpen.
24. Make a duplicate of the active layer twice.
25. Set the layer “Fine Layer copy 3” invisible.
26. Select the layer “Fine Layer copy 2”.
27. Apply Filter > Artistic > Watercolor.
28. Fade effect to 60% opacity.
29. Select the layer “Fine Layer copy 3”.
30. Create Adjustment Layer Curves.
31. Lighten the image to your liking.
32. Create Adjustment Layer Color balance.
33. Create Adjustment Layer Hue / Saturation.
34. Create Adjustment Layer Brightness / Contrast.
35. Adjustment layers can be used for making many types of adjustments to your work, without actually doing anything to the original layer.
36. Increase or fade effects of adjustment layers with masks.
37. For sketch make a duplicate of the layer “Background”, set this visible, move the layer over Adjustment Layers and name it “Sketch”.
38. Desaturate the layer.
39. Apply Filter > Stylize > Glowing Edges. Invert the layer.
40. Turn blending mode «Multiply». Experiment with Opacity.
41. Create a layer «Pigment», blending mode «Overlay», Opacity 35% -50%.
42. Copy to this layer one of the watercolor textures.
43. Create a layer «Paper», blending mode «Multiply», Opacity 35%.
44. Fill it with gray (RGB: 242-242-242).
45. Use a plug-in Splat > Resurface > Watercolor001-005.jpg for apply a paper texture (or other method).
46. Set the layer «Fine Layer copy 3» visible.
47. Apply Unsharp Mask filter (300, 1.5, 16), Opacity 20% -50%.
48. The masterpiece is ready.
49. If You sure that masterpiece delete layers “Fine Layer copy” and “Fine Layer”, else You can go back to step 22.
50. Steps 37-40 are only one of the simple sketch methods. You can use any other method that gives edges.
51. This is basic steps of the algorithm.
52. Improved results can be achieved with infinite possibilities of Photoshop.
53. Experiment and you will be able to develop your own style emulation of watercolor techniques.

... and more (NEW!)

In the watercolor technique is a feature - are nopainted areas, particularly at the edges. I think this effect can be done like this:
54. Make a duplicate of the layer “Background”.
55. Desaturate layer and Filter -> Stylize -> Glowing Edges
56. Inver layer
57. Filter -> Other -> Minimum (radius 2-3)
58. Creat a new brush: Edit -> Define Brush Presets...
59. Create a layer "Minimum brush with white"
60. Select this new brush with white color and click once with little offset.
61. Smart sharpen
62. Add layer mask and mask once white.


My tools are in the rar archive. The archive consist of 3 parts.

Need download 3 of 3 parts of the archive.

My AHB tool
Part 1
Piker's WC Tool Presets.part1.rar
compressed file archive 4.6 MB
Part 2
Piker's WC Tool Presets.part2.rar
compressed file archive 4.6 MB
Part 3
Piker's WC Tool Presets.part3.rar
compressed file archive 2.9 MB







Several paper textures for Paper layer
Compressed Archive in ZIP Format 146.6 KB
Several watercolor textures for Pigment layer
watercolor textures.rar
compressed file archive 2.2 MB
Sketch set for Impressionist plug-in (NEW!)
It's really small file
Compressed Archive in ZIP Format 279 Bytes


I hope helps.


Wellcome any questions.


Sorry my english.

Write a comment

Comments: 32
  • #1

    Grant Partridge (Wednesday, 16 December 2009 09:21)

    Thanks for the tutorial Vitaly it's great.I can't download the watercolor brush.Any help would be appreciated.


  • #2

    Alcar (Wednesday, 16 December 2009 14:35)

    Great tutorial. Your watercolor technique is the best I've seen. Many thanks for showing us how you do it.

  • #3

    Sue (Wednesday, 16 December 2009 16:14)

    thank you so much - this is wonderful! I can't wait to dive in and give it a try! You are so generous - I truly appreciate your sharing.

  • #4

    Janet (Thursday, 17 December 2009 05:58)

    Superb tutorial. Having written a few of these myself, I can honestly say thank you for the time and effort you spent putting this together. Thank you for generously sharing this with others.


  • #5

    Gareth Davies (Thursday, 17 December 2009 15:14)

    Your results are great. The tool presets do not download properly for me - get a message "parts of RAR file missing or corrupt"


  • #6

    Виталий Щукин / Vitaly Schukin (Thursday, 17 December 2009 17:43)

    If you can't download RAR file from Jimdo, try other mirrors on DepositFiles, Rapidshare or Drop.io

  • #7

    Gareth Davies (Thursday, 17 December 2009 23:02)

    Job done - thanks, did not see the mirrors. Look forward to creating watercolours now.

  • #8

    Michael (Friday, 18 December 2009 23:12)

    Great tutorial and results, Thank you for putting it all together.

    With the papers i downloaded they all seemed very small files (approx 25kb), also what do you use for your pigment layer?

    Thank you for your generousity

  • #9

    Veronica (Saturday, 19 December 2009 06:04)

    Thanks again Vitaly for sharing your tutorial with us. It's such a grand technique and the effects are sensational.

  • #10

    Виталий Щукин / Vitaly Shchukin (Saturday, 19 December 2009 17:56)

    For Pigment layer I use files from the archive watercolor textures.

  • #11

    Vera (Sunday, 20 December 2009 00:34)

    Thanks, Vitaly for sharing this tutorial. I greatly admire your work and appreciate you posting this information. I can't wait to give it a try.

  • #12

    Michael (Sunday, 20 December 2009 20:11)

    Thanks Vitaly, I've been looking at your amazing paintings on flickr, do you use the same tutorial techniques for your people portraits as well? I really like your Nicole Kidman portrait.
    Thanks again

  • #13

    Виталий Щукин / Vitaly Shchukin (Monday, 21 December 2009 09:12)

    Yes, I use this techniques for people portrait.

  • #14

    Steve (Monday, 28 December 2009 09:50)

    Hi Vitaly, thanks for sharing the tutorial. I have been practising and trying to get similar results to some of your paintings on retouchpro, but they don't seem to be coming out that good. Is there any other books, websites or tutorials you can recommend for nice results like yours?

  • #15

    Semen (Wednesday, 06 January 2010 18:27)

    Спасибо, просто и доходчиво

  • #16

    tombell (Friday, 29 January 2010 22:19)


  • #17

    Julie (Saturday, 30 January 2010 20:35)

    Awesome tutorial Vitaly. You are very talented, thanks so much.

  • #18

    Valeriy (Friday, 09 April 2010 07:37)

    Спасибо за урок!
    Виталий, не обижайтесь за инцидент на Art Tower. Похоже, там башню снесло, но на форуме есть адекватные люди. Еще раз, спасибо!

  • #19

    Pat Thompson (Sunday, 02 May 2010 20:34)

    Thanks for your generosity of time and talent. And thanks for posting these tutorials.
    Pat Thompson

  • #20

    Stuart McCallum (Monday, 23 August 2010 11:39)

    Thank you so much for sharing your expertise through this tutorial, Vitaly. Your works on Flickr are still the best I have seen. I really enjoy viewing them.

    Большое спасибо!

    Stuart McCallum

  • #21

    Jared McCormick (Friday, 11 February 2011 16:48)

    I cant believe i found this!! I have been searching for a decent tutorial on how to emulate watercolour in Photoshop. You are extremely talented Vitaly, and even more generous! I hope to soon be producing images of this calibre?

    Thank you very much for sharing.

  • #22

    marion06095 (Monday, 06 February 2012 14:53)

    What a treasure trove of information you have here! You have given me many hours of wonderful discovery. Thank you for being so generous with your gift.

  • #23

    Klaud (Thursday, 05 April 2012 19:01)

    THX for info

  • #24

    Michael Kors (Tuesday, 26 June 2012 05:55)

    I do believe that this everyone should know and learn the information posted. Good day.

  • #25

    sue h (Saturday, 28 July 2012 22:37)

    Hi, Vitaly! I love your tutorial - I want to try it myself. The only problem is that I can't download your AHB Tool. I tried this page (part 1 didn't work) and all of the mirrors (2 didn't work and the Drop.io file is corrupted somehow).

    Do you have a fresh version I could try? - Many thanks, Sue H

  • #26

    sue h (Saturday, 28 July 2012 23:12)

    Hi again -

    I tried another download and this time it worked.

    Now I feel stupid! Thank you, Vitaly, for a great tutorial!!

  • #27

    Jerry Lau (Tuesday, 30 October 2012 10:52)

    I just want to say Thanks for the tutorial,
    its great!!!

  • #28

    Daane (Sunday, 18 November 2012 11:40)

    Great tutorial, Thanks you very much for your contribution.

  • #29

    Dianne Matecki (Pixal Pusher on Flickr) (Sunday, 25 November 2012 18:41)

    I feel I will just die if I don't learn this technique! Thank you sooo much for sharing this information. I would love to come to Russia and study this style and learn from you in person.

  • #30

    jason r (Monday, 31 December 2012 23:14)

    I too am having issues trying to download the brushes and all I am getting after it unzips is a .tpl sticky document. Do you have a newer version I could try.

    Thanks so much!!

  • #31

    matt z (Friday, 11 January 2013 04:36)

    Fantastic work !! what is the "Sketch set for Impressionist plug-in" I cannot figure this file out. Is this a adobe plug in? if so where?

  • #32

    deniz (Thursday, 21 February 2013 18:43)

    nice very nice