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Digitally Color a Pencil Sketch in Photoshop Using Watercolor Brushes

At MyDesignDeals we know how enticing every deal can be, even if you have no idea how to use the items. They just look that good. That's why we're here to help.

Jason, the creator of the DIY Watercolor Bundle has put together a fun tutorial showing you how to digitally color a pencil sketch using items from his deal.

Follow along, and don't forget to grab his bundle before it expires!


Step 1

In this tutorial, we'll be using the brushes and watercolor textures from the deal to turn a plain pencil sketch into a full color work of art.

Start by drawing your illustration on a piece of paper, then scan it into Photoshop. Add a Levels adjustment layer and tweak the right stop until the background is completely white.

Merge your layers, then unlock the background layer if necessary, and set the Blend Mode for your sketch to Multiply.

Your sketch should always be the very top layer in the your document.


Step 2

Setup your layers with folders for each section of the drawing that will be colored (sky, mountains, trees, clouds).


Step 3

Create separate layer masks for each Layer Group you created. That way you can create multiple layers directly into each Layer Group and move them around without having to worry about applying a mask to each individual layer.

You can create the mask for each Layer Group by creating a selection based on the drawing using the Magic Wand tool, Quick Selection tool, or any other selection tool you like best.

The more accurate your masks are, the better the final outcome will be.


Step 4

Now that the masks are complete, its time to add some color.Make sure you have the watercolor brushes from the DIY Watercolor Bundle loaded.

Click Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color and select a green color for the trees, making sure that the new fill layer is within the "Trees" Layer Group.

Select the Brush tool and find a circular shaped watercolor brush. Set the brush opacity to 10-20% and started brushing black into the Layer Mask of the green Fill Layer, which will begin to hide those areas.

I usually switch the foreground and background constantly to brush part of the layer away and then brush it back in to get a nice subtle texture.

Pro Tip: You can set the brush scatter and spacing settings in the Brush panel to give you a more natural randomized look and feel as you use the brush if you know how to do so.


Step 5

Repeat the same process for the "Mountains" Layer Group.

Now lets add some shadows to give this illustration more depth.

For the mountains, create a new Solid Color Fill Layer, name it "Shadows" and select a brown that is lighter than your original mountains color. Make sure this Fill Layer is just above the other brown layer you already created to color your mountains. Set the Blend Mode to Multiply in the Layers panel.

Click on the layer mask thumbnail and press CTRL + I to invert the mask to black, which will give you a blank slate to start adding shadows. Select a new brush, and using white, paint in the Layer Mask to start adding shadows to your mountains.

Repeat the same process for the trees.


Step 6

Next let’s focus on the sky. First, create a selection of everything above the mountains and apply this as a mask to the "Sky" Layer Group.

Open up the deal folder and navigate to the "Textures_Large" folder. Find a texture that has a nice shape for the sky and drag the PSD into the "Sky" Layer Group.


Step 7

Create a new Solid Color Fill Layer within your "Clouds and Snow" Layer Group using the color white. Mask of the Layer Group so the white only fills in the snow and cloud areas in your drawing.


Step 8

Lastly, it's time to create an outer border for the whole piece.

Create a new, white Solid Color Fill Layer, position that above all the other layers in your document and give it a black Layer Mask.

Select one of the watercolor brushes, something fairly straight and brush the shape of the border in. This is the time to shape the whole piece, so if the sky or bottom of the trees isn't the way you want it, you can fix that with the border.


Final Image

Jason is a designer/illustrator who spends his day being a "professional" designer and evenings being an "artist".

He lives in Portland, Oregon where he enjoys iced coffee and long walks through the wilderness. He also has a shop on Creative Market selling digital goodness.


Did you learn how to better use brushes and textures in your own digital illustrations? Show us your version in the comments.

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