Tuesday Tricks: Watercolor Layer Effects

Watercolor effects are very popular these days. Personally, I love using them in my business card designs and invitations. With the right textures and shapes, you can give your designs a very realistic and organic look, as if they were really painted by hand. A good watercolor effect starts with the right texture or pattern. I’m currently working on a watercolor effects kit that will include both patterns and shapes, which I’m planning on sharing with you early March. This tutorial will give you a little sneak peek at one of the patterns that will be part of this new kit.

This tutorial shows how to apply a watercolor effect to text, but since this technique uses layer effects, it can also be applied to different types of layers. Please click on the thumbnails to see larger versions of the images.

Step 1: create new document

Create a new document, for instance 3600 x 1400 at 300 dpi. I chose a transparent background to start with, so the image can be saved as a transparent PNG.

Step 2: add text

Add some text. Since we’re trying to emulate watercolor, it would be best to pick a font that has slightly irregular shapes. I chose the free Landliebe font.

Watercolor Layer Step 2

Step 3: add layer style

Now add a layer style to the layer by clicking on the Layer menu, choosing Layer Style, and then Pattern Overlay… You should see something similar to the following screenshot. You may have a different pattern selected by default:

Watercolor Layer Step 3

Step 4: copy text layer

After applying the pattern, the text already has a watercolor texture, but we can make it look even more realistic. A stroke painted with watercolor usually has a bit more color near the edges than the center. To mimic this, we can add a stroke, but it doesn’t look too great when we add the stroke to the same layer. So start by duplicating the text layer. You can do this by selecting the text layer and then clicking the Layer, Duplicate Layer… menu items. After duplicating the layer, remove the pattern overlay from the duplicate layer’s layer effect. The easiest way to do this, is by clicking the Pattern Overlay in the layers panel and then dragging it to the trash can at the bottom right of the panel. You also need to set the fill for this duplicate layer to 0%, using the Fill slider at the top of the layers panel.

Step 5: add stroke

We’re now ready to add the stroke to our duplicate layer. Double-click the effects item for this layer in the layers panel and make sure to select and check the Stroke option. The stroke size depends a lot on the size of your text. I chose 10px. Make sure to select the Inside as the position for your stroke. You can play with the Blend Mode, but I left mine at Normal. You also want to choose a low opacity for your stroke, to make sure you can still see the pattern of the original text layer. The easiest way to set the color is by clicking the small color rectangle, and then using the color picker to select the darkest part of your image. Then you can manually select an even darker shade of the same color.

Watercolor Layer Step 5

Step 6: finished!

You have now successfully added a realistic watercolor effect to your text. I added a white background layer below the two text layers so it is easier to see the end result in the image below.

Watercolor Layer Done

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