Digital Watercolor Method by Jim Leggitt

By Jim Leggitt

I have been experimenting with combining 3D SketchUp models, traditional hand coloring and Photoshop filtering to create the digital effect of a watercolor painting. I call this the “Digital Watercolor Method” and it is worth trying on your next project!

The process involves building a detailed Google SketchUp model, exporting the scene in different pieces, creating a photorealistic rendering of the model using Shaderlight, recombining all of the separate pieces in Adobe Photoshop, printing, hand coloring with markers, and finally applying a watercolor filter to a scanned image. The success comes from the hand coloring step, which gives the image the hand-crafted character that no one has yet been able to successfully achieve strictly using a computer. Here is a quick overview of my process:

Google SketchUp Model – Step 1

I began the visualization project by importing the architect’s AutoCAD model into SketchUp and adding entourage to the scene with plants and 2D people. I photographed views from the site and created the realistic background trees as a backdrop in the model.

Step 1. SketchUp Model

Model Export Variations – Steps 2 – 5

Step 2. Export Faces

Step 3. Export Edges

Step 4. Shaderlight Rendering

Step 5. Composite Image

Hand Coloring with Markers – Step 6

I printed the composite image on 11”x17” matte finish coated bond paper and colored the entire scene with very light colored Charpak AD markers. The marker created an informal wash of color, overlapping “blobs” of marker strokes and additional color in windows, reflections and landscaping.

Step 6. Hand Coloring

Watercolor Filter – Step 7

I scanned the hand colored print at 300dpi and imported the image into Adobe Photoshop. I applied a watercolor filter to the view and adjusted the contrast levels to my desired effect. The resulting digital watercolor accentuated the marker strokes and created an overall painted appearance to the building, people and landscaping.

Step 7. Watercolor Filter

I will continue exploring this digital watercolor method and encourage you to try out the process and send me examples of your own success with this interesting visualization technique!

You can visit Jim’s website and read his new book Drawing Shortcuts Second Edition.

Thanks Jim!

One Response to “Digital Watercolor Method by Jim Leggitt”

  1. nomeradona on September 9th, 2011 1:04 pm

    lovely tutorial. i always like the softness of Jim’s output.

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