Thursday, June 30, 2016

Watercolors in Photoshop

One of my favorite books back when I was young was The Once and Future King by T.H. White. In it, the wizard Merlyn tells the boy who will become King Arthur that “The best thing for being sad is to learn something.” And I have valued that advice all of my life. Set yourself to learning something interesting, and, for a while at least, worries and problems are kept at bay.

I certainly forget myself when I'm delving into magical, marvelous Photoshop. I've been using it since 2001, but there is always something new to learn. Beyond my shelf of Photoshop books, the Web offers what seems like infinite tutorials, videos, online courses. I subscribe to Photoshop Roadmap which compiles tutorials, tips and techniques on all aspects of PS. In the article "5 ways to create Photoshop watercolor effects, explained and compared," I especially liked the technique demonstrated by in this video by Marty Geller from Blue Lightning TV. 

It's uncomplicated, just a few simple steps, but you have final control of the result. I think it worked best on this image.

You can compare it with the original photo I took of ferries in Portland, Maine last fall. The plain blue sky became a lot more interesting due to the brushstrokes applied in the main step. I redid that several times until I got an effect that I liked. 

The lilies more closely resemble the original photo; I increased the watercolor paper texture to give it less of a photographic appearance. I also played with the colors, intensifying the orange contrast in the center of the flowers. 

The third photo was taken in Woodstock, Vermont. I like the way the watercolor technique softened the house and put more focus on the gloriously blooming hydrangea. Nothing dramatic, just pretty, but sometimes that's perfectly satisfying. 

Of course, with all the complexity that Photoshop offers, these steps could be just one effect in a more elaborate composition. In fact, sometimes it's difficult to stop piling on the effects because you never know when something wonderful will appear. And while your eyes are glued on the screen and your hand is clutching your mouse or stylus, you forget that it's time to fix dinner or way past time for bed. You keep going because, as Meryln concluded “...what a lot of things there are to learn.”