Although Photoshop includes filters and effects rather optimistically labeled Watercolor, their shortcomings become all too apparent after the first few attempts to use them to produce a convincing fine art image.
In fact, the program does have the power to enable us to mimic real watercolor paintings, but success relies on good technique rather than a simple one-click process.
Although the techniques in this example are relatively basic—manipulating image layers and adding some subtle brushwork—the results are deceptively sophisticated.
A point worth noting here is that a pressure-sensitive stylus and pad is virtually essential when it comes to expressive and effective use of brushes. Using Brush Options, a brush can be set to respond directly to the pressure applied by the stylus. As a result, extremely subtle variations in the opacity and density of the brushstrokes can be achieved.
1 Duplicate the background layer (Ctrl/Cmd+J). To prepare the image for the watercolor effect, go to Filter > Blur > Smart Blur. This will simplify the tones and the detail in the image. Use these settings: Radius 14.1, Threshold 68.4, Quality High, Mode Normal.
2 Duplicate ...