Watercolour metals challenge: Day 5 “She leaves a little sparkle wherever she goes”

Or, how to use Photoshop to help improve your watercolour technique.

Final with dots FINAL


Day 5, charm #5.

I have been saving this challenge up… I’m quite keen to start but nervous…  It’s the star in the centre, a delicious opportunity to indulge in watercolour shadows and highlights to tell the story, to make the star ‘pop’ out from the flat page.

My first attempt is a little timid in terms of contrast, in my second attempt I tried to up the strength of the darker tones, in particular the Paynes Grey (that almost black deep grey, it’s actually got a fair dose of deep navy and is a super colour to have in your collection of watercolour pans, just a touch of Paynes Grey adds a cool metallic edge to any colour.  (Careful, it packs a punch…).

she leaves a little sparkle v1 for blog

Attempt #1, read about how I use Photoshop to see where I can improve my next attempt.


Using Photoshop to help you check where you could make improvements in your illustration.

This is a handy little trick.  Scan in your first illustrated attempt (at 100%, or original size), and open it in Photoshop. Save as [TITLE]. Copy the image to a separate layer and name the new layer “watercolour”.

Open the original photograph file you used to make the print out you traced from.  Copy the image and paste it as a separate layer on top of the “watercolour layer” of the [TITLE] file. (If you paste into the file, Photoshop automatically makes the paste a separate layer, but I mention it if you’re new to the concept of layers so you realise what is happening).  Name this layer “original photo”. Switch off the background layer.

Now you can use the opacity toggle on the top RH corner of your work palette to make either image transparent and compare the differences between the two images (see photo below). Try changing which image is on the top and which is behind by clicking on the layer to alter (the layer title will turn blue to show you are modifying something on this layer), going to the menu, choosing LAYERS/ARRANGE/SEND BACKWARD or SEND TO BACK (or BRING FORWARD/BRING TO FRONT depending on which one you have clicked on).  Really look at the image as you toggle the opacity down from 100% to just under 50% and back.

This is a fantastic opportunity to compare not just accuracy of line, but of tone.  If you wish, you could add another layer and add notes as reminders (using the text function).  You could then switch off either the watercolour or the original, flatten the image and print out to use when you make your next attempt.

This can really train your eye, not only to see your shortcomings in your current attempt, but to increase your ability to ‘see’ more.  The more you see, the more choices you have to tell the story.

Happy days!


screen shot she leaves a little

Have a careful look at this screen shot that should help to explain how to use Photoshop to improve your work. You can see the overlay of the watercolour layer over the original, the watercolour layer is at 32% opacity. Toggle the opacity up and down to help you compare the two images, original vs your illustration. Note that the background layer is turned off.

Here’s the link to the Palas Jewellery charm “She leaves a little sparkle wherever she goes”.  This is the original image I worked from.


Here’s the link to the Palas Jewellery site.


PS Spot the difference…

I thought I had completed this second illustration until I realised something was missing.  Can you see it?  Just goes to prove to me (again) the old saying ‘sometimes you can’t see for looking’… Ha Ha!

she leaves a little sparkle final double what can you see

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