When I first started creating watercolors, I wondered how my favorite artists removed the textured background from around their paintings to make them usable for patterns and prints or cleaner looking for social media posts.
I searched for information and could only find drips and drabs–never a full tutorial. I thought there had to be an easy to way to do it (hint: not really) but everyone was keeping it a secret.
I had to take two paid courses to learn how to edit my watercolors and I still haven’t found high-quality free content that walks you through the entire process. So, I’m taking on the challenge!
If you want to learn how to remove the rough paper background from your watercolor paintings, I’m showing you the process today.
I edit my watercolors in Photoshop and most of the watercolor artists I know or asked or stalked online also use Photoshop. I’m sure there are other tools you could use, but this is the most popular one.
The only tools you’ll need for this process are a scanner and Photoshop.
Before you scroll through the steps below, I need to give you a warning: It looks complicated. It’s actually not very complex…it’s just time consuming. Once you do it a couple times, you’ll get the hang of it. But, the more intricate (and light in color) your painting, the more time it’ll take you to remove the background. Some paintings take hours but some paintings only take a handful of minutes.
Here’s my process:
Step 1: Scan the watercolor painting with my Epson Perfection V600 Scanner with the settings below.
Step 2: Make sure the image is clean.
Look for any dust, hair, dirt, etc. that could’ve gotten between the painting and the scanner when you scanned it in.
Step 3: Move the painting onto a new document using the lasso tool and crop it.
Create a new, large document with a white background (that you’ll delete later). Use the lasso tool to select your painting. Copy and paste it to the new document and crop it as close to the painting as possible.
Step 4: Brighten, adjust contrast, adjust colors, etc.
Step 5: Remove the background using the eraser tools.
Add a black rectangle. Try the magic eraser tool. Use the eraser tool to remove the rest of the background.
Step 6: Remove the rectangle and white background and save as a .png.