Hello everyone! I present to you my basic digital watercolor tutorial. This technique is useful in architectural rendering, urban sketching and book illustration.



1A. Watercolor paper

You can skip this step, but it'll make your drawing much more realistic.


Fill a base layer with an off-white color, either warm-toned or cool-toned as you prefer.


Go to the Material tab > Monochromatic pattern > Texture. Drag-and-drop the one you like onto the Layer tab.


On the Layer Property tab, click the Overlay texture button. Put the Strength at 10 - 20.


Use a soft airbrush to randomly dab a slightly darker color onto the base color layer.


The paper is complete. Lock the two layers; your other drawing layers will be in between these two.


Warm tone:

Cool tone:

1B. Pencil line art

I'm using the Real pencil with a gray color. Set the Blending mode to Multiply.



A watercolor wash refers to a (real life or digital) transparent layer of color. A flat wash is an even layer of a single hue.


You can draw a flat wash by using the default Realistic watercolor brushes.


As you can see, a flat wash has a single hue (yellow) but not one color. The wash has lighter and darker tones, and a distinct watercolor border which is a dark shade of yellow.


The provided default brushes look nice, but they don't have many variations of color so the washes appear a bit shallow. It's hard to draw darker shades, and you need to draw the wash in a single stroke or there will be dark patches in between strokes.


I drew the image above with the default Realistic watercolor brushes. It has a pleasant quick sketch feeling - which is still good, but not if you aim for a more complete, finished kind of illustration like the one below:

It's not about which style is better, it simply means you'll need a different approach for each.


2A. Flat watercolor wash

Prepare the line art.


Use the Textured pen and Fill tool to draw in any color (doesn't matter which color).


Right-click the layer > Selection from layer > Create selection… (recommend to make this into a shortcut if you use it regularly)


Create a new layer > Create layer mask. (You can keep the old colored layer or delete it)


Now you can draw without worrying about the border. Use a big sized Round watercolor brush/Flat watercolor brush/Wet wash and go over the part multiple times if you want a darker color.


But if you want the watercolor wash to be more lively, follow these steps:


Pick the pure black color, use the Round watercolor brush/Flat watercolor brush/Wet wash and draw over several times. Now you have the watercolor texture with transparency. Set the Blending mode to Multiply.


Now it's the time to make your watercolor wash look richer.


Lock transparent pixels and use the Soft airbrush to "color" the texture.


Use at least two colors on a wash: darker color near the border, lighter color at the top and in the middle.

Lighten the wash with Watery brush.


Create water back run with Running color spray.


Make masking fluid splash marks by using the Droplet brush on the layer mask.


Finally, right-click the mask > Apply Mask to Layer (or click the button).


On the Layer Property tab, go to Effect > Border effect > Watercolor edge. Lower all the Range, Opacity, Darkness and Blurring width.



2B. Gradient wash

Similar to flat wash, just use more colors or the paper's color.


Use the paper's color if you want a color to transparent gradient.

2C. Using premade watercolor texture for more effects

Create selection like with the flat wash. Then go to the Material tab, drag-and-drop a watercolor texture onto the Layer tab.


Uncheck Link Mask to Layer.


Use Ctrl + T (Transform) to align the texture as you want.


Edit > Convert brightness to opacity


Lock transparent pixels.


Use the Soft airbrush to add colors.


Set the blending mode to Multiply and turn on the Border effect. Result:


I draw a house illustration using the techniques above!


Line art:

Base colors (each color here is on a separate layer):

Add imperfections with the Watery brush and Running color spray, plus the sky using the Wet wash brush (+ layer mask):

Add Border effect:

Add shadow details and white:

If you don't see the Wet wash brush by default, get it here:

The texture used in the tutorial:

The leaves in the sample was colored using the dual color brush in this set:

The default felt pen can be used as white gel pen like in the sample. If you don't see it in the default brushes, get it here (lower the opacity to 70%):

Big thanks to the authors of the assets!

I hope this tutorial can be useful to you all. See you next time.

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