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Pastel Watercolor Effect


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I recently watched one of @dmstraker Dave Straker’s InAffinity tutorials about “Pastel Colour Grading…” and it gave me some ideas. So, thanks to you for the inspiration, Dave!

I’ve attached another macro for creating a specific Artistic Look – this one called a Pastel Watercolor Effect. The attached file is a macro category (even though it only contains a single macro); you can import it into the Library Panel in the Desktop version of Affinity Photo, and it is compatible with the iPad version as well. (In my own preliminary testing, the macro works fairly well on an iPad, although there are some issues with missing items in the dialog box that appears for setting parameters.)

When you click the macro, it creates a number of layers inside of a group. The group is called “Pastel Watercolor Effect” and it can be turned on and off by simply showing or hiding the entire group. When you invoke the macro, you will be presented with a number of options in a dialog:

1-6] Lighten Color - Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Red, Green, Blue

All of these color ranges are initially set to a value of -200%. As you move each of the sliders to the right, that particular color range will be selectively lightened. If you set any of the sliders all the way to 100% then that color range will go to white.

7] Set Amount of Pastel Blurring

This slider defaults to a value of 25 px. Setting it higher or lower will adjust the amount of “smudging” that the pastel layer displays.

8] Set Intensity of Outlines

This slider defaults to a value of 0.7. You can set it to values between 0 and 2, with higher values giving you darker and more intense outlines. If you set the Intensity slider to 0, the black outlines will effectively disappear.

9] Adjust Brightness

Brightness defaults to a value of 20%. You might want to increase it if (i) you have increased the outline intensity significantly, or (ii) to compensate for changes (particularly decreases) you might make to the Contrast.

10] Adjust Contrast

Contrast defaults to 0%. Adjust this to taste.

I’ve attached 2 photos (below) to show Before and After versions using this effect. Included in the photos are the settings that were used (which are a bit different from the default values).




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As with all of the macros I have submitted, please note that I am only one person and have tested this on a limited number of images on a single computer. There is no way to have foreseen every possible scenario. I am hopeful (but obviously won’t guarantee) that you’ll like the results.

If you do like the macro, please keep it and enjoy it. This is “pay it forward software,” the happy result of an abundance of learning gleaned from the members of this forum who are so generous with their time and expertise!

Pastel Watercolor Effect.afmacros

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Thanks, @smadell and great job! Really good demo examples, too.

I had a tinker and came up with a couple of thoughts for the 'EdgesLayer' layer development. I don't know how you used the the Black & White conversion after Detect Edges and Invert, but if you turn down the colours in this, the edges get blacker. I tried replacing the Median Blur with a Bilateral Blur, which seemed a slight improvement. It could also be useful to apply a Posterise at some point to reduce the number of colours.

Dave Straker

Cameras: Sony A7R2, RX100V

Computers: Win10: Chillblast i9 Custom + Philips 40in 4K & Benq 23in; Surface Pro 4 i5; iPad Pro 11"

Favourite word: Aha. For me and for others.

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  • 2 weeks later...
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very good work as always smadell. I played with your macro on some landscapes and there are many different effects you can get  with your macro just by varying the adjustments. In my playing around I added a paper texture to give it a painting look.  They way I have done water colors is the standard way by going to a black and white adding water color splotches, then adding a levels adjustment and playing with blend modes to get the watercolor effect.  thanks for your work

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  • 3 weeks later...

It’s a gift, MxHeppa.

There are only two things I ask. First, remember to give back to the community. As you become more talented and knowledgeable, share your knowledge with others. That is why I call this “pay it forward” software. Second, if you create something wherein these macros played an integral part, attribution would be the ethical thing to do, right?

The answer to your un-asked question is that I don’t expect to send a team of high-priced attorneys knocking on your door if you use the macro to create work from which you then profit.

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  • 1 year later...
6 hours ago, Stevie D said:

I have a question I can't get this macro to load, my program will only load .macro not .macros it this because I'm still using the trial ?

Hi @Stevie D Welcome to the forums.

Import it to the Library tab, not to the Macro tab. (Macro files go to Macro tab, Macros files go to Library tab.) If the Library tab is not showing, go to View > Studio > tick Library.

Acer XC-895 : Core i5-10400 Hexa-core 2.90 GHz :  32GB RAM : Intel UHD Graphics 630 : Windows 10 Home
Affinity Publisher 2 : Affinity Photo 2 : Affinity Designer 2 : (latest release versions) on desktop and iPad

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Hi smadell

Wanted to find out if you could help me to learn something it is becoming difficult for me. I would like to make the image I attach or include to look as a watercolor cartoon effect. Similar as what is accomplished by Ally Anderson in her post or article in https://affinityrevolution.com/watercolor-effect-affinity-photo-tutorial/ also as your Flamingo image in this post or article from you. I just mention Ally´s because it was what I was originally looking for to accomplish. I could have try to reach and contact Ally but don´t have a clue how to do so. But seeing your level of expertise with your images and the macro I believe you can help me out.

No special reason, just trying to learn new techniques. You have a wonderful macro that does incredible results. As a matter of fact so far after trying out many techniques in different articles your macro gives me the best result.

However, this image for some reason has kine of to many details or edges that show of on the image and instead of a smooth uniform result as the image by Ally, I get in this unplash image (from some other tutorial) I´m testing witch has kind of too much details.

I´m guessing that there must be some live filter or adjustment that I can use to make the image less detailed. I would appreciate comments or ideas.



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Good morning @RogerFx. I downloaded the image you posted (above) and looked at the web page from Ally Anderson. As you said, your particular image has so much fine detail that the Detect Edges filter finds too many edges. When you use the Subtract blend mode (which should produce outlines) you simply get too many and the result is dark and messy. The goal should be to detect fewer edges.

There are a few ways to do this. I used this method (which may not be the simplest, but it was the one I came up with first!). (a) I duplicated the background layer and ran the Detect Edges filter. (b) I applied a Black and White filter so that all the edges were either white or shades of grey. (c) I also applied a Live Luminosity Mask to this layer, using settings that were able to eliminate all but the brightest of the edges. (d) I put a black Fill Layer underneath this, and put that whole mess into a Group. (e) I set the Blend Mode of the group to Subtract.

I then did the rest of the edit using Ally’s method, more or less exactly as she specified. This is what I came up with - JPG below, and .afphoto attached.


Ally's Method (with modification).afphoto

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