Paint a Portrait using the Watercolor Filter & Color Blend Mode

Welcome back! I am Christa, and I am here with another “fun with filters” tip & tricks tutorial. I really love working in Photoshop with sketching, painting and blending. For me, besides my love for scrapbooking and memory keeping, I also love to explore Photoshop and play on the artistic side. I do have a few plug-in art filters from Akvis (Artworks & Sketch), but there are also fun filters built-in to Photoshop, (and Photoshop Elements) that you can do similar things with. Today let’s play with the Watercolor Filter!


The first thing we need to do, is to get a photo to work with. I am going to be working with a portrait. Use your own, or find one on a free stock photo site like . The portrait I am choosing is of this lovely woman. She can be found here :

  • Open up a new blank work space. Make it whatever size you are comfortable working with. [I am going to use a work space of 600 X 600 pixels at 72 dpi, as I will be posting directly to the gallery and will not be printing this out.]


  • Bring your photo into your work space and arrange as you wish. In my new work space I use File > Place to bring in the photo. This will bring it in as a Smart Object and will put the information directly into the layer pallet.


[TIP: File > Place brings photos, papers and elements into your work space without worry of losing or destroying the original item/image. Each item you place is put on its own layer, while retaining the file name. This is terrific for later on when you are listing your supply credits.]


I want this photo rather large and for the woman to fill most of the space.


  • Duplicate the photo layer. [*Note: the file name of the photo is indicated in the layer]


  • Create an adjustment layer of Black and White by clicking on the bottom off the layer pallet and the round circle. Use the pop up B/W adjustment panel to slide the sliders on each color to “dial in” the B/W the way you want it. I left her skin a little more on the gray side so when I paint it will adhere better. (White will not take color.)
  • Merge the adjustment B/W layer to the photo and then duplicate. You should now have 3 layers in the layer pallet. The Original Photo, the B/W photo, and the duplicate of the B/W photo. Turn off the bottom 2 layers (B/W and Orig.). Keep them hidden in case you need to use them again.


  • Now to add the Watercolor Filter. On the top Tool Bar, select Filter > Filter Gallery . When the Filter Gallery opens, under the Artistic folder, select Watercolor. On the sliders to the right, size the Brush Detail to 13, Shadow Intensity to 0 and Texture to 1. Click OKAY.


It looks neat in B/W with the Watercolor Filter, (and even if you left the photo as color and applied the Watercolor Filter), it looks good…
…but this is where your painting fun begins.

Let’s Paint!!

We are going to be adding new layers to the layer pallet. Each of these layers, as we go, will be using the blend mode of “color“.  It is also subject to taste re color etc, but for this tutorial, I will give you the hex color numbers so if you want you can follow along. You can use any brush you wish, but I am using a hard rounded brush size 9 which I will adjust the size by the bracket keys. Most of the time, my brush opacity is at 100% and flow is at 100%. (Occasionally I change the brush opacity and I will let you know what I use while painting.)

[TIP: Left bracket key makes brush smaller, right bracket key makes brush larger.]


  • Add new layer above B/W Watercolor Filter Layer. Set blend mode to COLOR. We are going to paint the face base color code = c7b299 and brush opacity 100%. (Adjust brush opacity on the top tool bar when you select the brush tool.) Using the brush tool. just paint where the skin is reflected. You can be messy as with the color blend mode, it makes you paint like Davinci!  (If you paint outside the line, like onto her dress/shirt etc., just use the erase tool to clean it up.)




  •  Add a new layer and set blend mode to COLOR. Paint again the face with face flesh color code = f9d6c7 brush opacity 100%.
  • Add a new layer and set blend mode to COLOR. Painting again on the face for the cheekbones/blush area only. face cheekbones = f9c2aa brush opacity 100%.
  • Add a new layer (blend mode COLOR) for the base of the lips: Color code = 620a1b  Paint the lips only.
  • Add a new layer (blend mode Linear Burn / fill at 21%) for the top coat of the lips: Color code = c02340  Paint the lips only.
  • Add a new layer (blend mode COLOR) for the eyes: Color code = 475366  Paint the eyes only.

Here is how our “Watercolor Filter” Painting is looking so far:


Okay! Looking good! Moving on… I want to paint her dress/shirt to add a little more color. While painting over white, the color blend mode layer of painting will not adhere. There is some gray in the folds of her dress/shirt, so that is where the color will stick. I decided I want her dress/shirt to have an aqua shading to it.


  • Add a new layer (blend mode COLOR) for the shirt. Color code = aae7f2 and set the Fill of the layer to 50% fill. Paint the shirt only.
We will paint the background now since that is under the hair.
  • Add a new layer (blend mode COLOR) for the background. Color code = 475366 and set the Fill of the layer to 50% fill. Paint the background area only.
  • Duplicate the painted background layer so there is two.




Now to paint in her hair.


  • Add a new layer (blend mode COLOR) for the hair whips: Color code = 736357 brush opacity at 84% and fill of layer blend mode at 48%. Paint around the edges of the hair that fall into the background. (See the layer for how this layer is painted.)




The remainder of the hair we are going to be layering the paint.
  • Add a new layer (blend mode COLOR) for the hair: Color code = a67c52 (Layer fill is back at 100%.) Paint hair area only. (See the layer for how this layer is painted.)





  • Add a new layer (blend mode COLOR) for the hair: Color code = 998675 Paint hair area only. (See the layer for how this layer is painted.)





  • Add a new layer (blend mode COLOR) for the hair: Color code = 736357 Paint hair area only. This will tone down the hair color a bit. (See the layer for how this layer is painted.)





Almost done! Now lets give her a little eye shadow.


  • Add a new layer (blend mode COLOR) for the eye shadow: Color code = aae7f2 at 35% fill. Just paint right by the brow line like in the photo.





Here is the Original Photo VS our “Watercolor Filter/Painted” picture.






Now lets combine everything on to one layer by holding the Ctrl, Alt., Shift and E key at the same time. This still leaves all your layer work in the PSD file, but allows you now to use that merged file at the top of your layer pallet to embellish with your scrapping supplies.






I have added a canvas style to my painting, in addition to adding digital supplies to complete my layout.
My Completed page:




(Credits: Mommyish – Stylin’ #204 – Art Canvas4 and Of Wishes Hopes and Dreams Collaboration all found at The LilyPad )


I hope you enjoyed this and learned how to paint and have fun with the Watercolor Filter. Until next time…Keep learning and scrapping!!





You may also like


  • Bonnie January 7, 2017   Reply →

    Trying to follow along already stuck. How does the file>place work in elements? Cuz I can’t seem to get the photo on my page by clicking on it and and doing file place. I would love to have the name in my layers panel, been trying to figure out how to do that forever.

  • Christa File January 7, 2017   Reply →

    Let me check.. I have PSE 15 also and I always do the File>place regardless of CC or PSE.

  • Christa File January 7, 2017   Reply →

    you need to do file > Place and then it will bring up folders.. go to where your photo is and click and it should bring in the file/photo and place the name in the layer pallette. I tried to post a screen print to show you but for some reason I am having issues here.

  • Christa File January 7, 2017   Reply →


Leave a comment

Pin It on Pinterest