I was asked for some information about how I achieve the unique look of my watercolor style work. Although I don’t follow a strict formula, rather I typically follow a process of discovery when I work with images, my watercolor effects follow a recipe as much as I use a cookbook.
Typically the effect I want to achieve is something of a high dynamic range water color with saturated colors that pop although sometimes I work in a faded vintage tonal range.
In either case the process begins with a well produced photograph. I live in rural New Hampshire so many of the themes I capture in my work deal with local farms and rural life. Red barns, green tractors and old New England building and homes.
Sifting through my images if one pops out as a good subject for this technique – typically a scene with a bit of a nostalgic theme, I’m a sucker for the past and fading old buildings and vehicles – then I’ll process it for sharpness, color, tone and crop the image as well as remove any modern blight like telephone wires.
I’ll then work on the high dynamic range which combines under exposed, correct exposure and over exposed images into a final image that has a long range of tone from shadow to highlights. Often this creates an image with an almost 3D effect. Its perfect for the next part of the process which is the creation of the watercolor effect.
The watercolor is built up of layers just like a real painting would be build. Base layers in the beginning and then building up to more detailed layers and then finally a detailed layer at the end which brings out more detail.
The end result is nearly indistinguishable from a traditional watercolor. The final image keeps a lot of the details one might find in a regular photograph but with the addition of color washes that result in a very unique look.