How to Create a Watercolor Painting Look in After Effects
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Learn how to make your video footage and pictures look like a lush watercolor. This After Effects tutorial comes with a free preset. Immerse yourself!

This tutorial shows you how to create a beautiful watercolor look for footage and images in After Effects. Everything is done with the application's built-in effects – no plugins required! We're going to be using the color effect on transitions too, adding stop motion movement to the look. Ready to create art? Let's start!

Download the free project files

Create the watercolor look in After Effects

First, we need to apply two effects to our footage. The first is CC RepeTile. Once you've applied it, set all of them Expand Settings too 100 (expand right, left, up and down). Set the Tiles Setting on Unfold. This prevents us from having unwanted artifacts on the edge of our footage.

First apply the CC RepeTile effect, then apply the CC Vector Blur effect.

Next, apply the CC vector blur cause. We can use this effect to “smear” our footage and give it texture. Set the Art to Constant length, then set the quantity to 10 and the Angular misalignment to 90 degrees.

Dust & scratches

The core of this look is that Dust & scratches cause. (Who would have thought?) The Dust & Scratches effect is meant to be used on older footage to remove bugs. We'll be using it, however, to give it a paint-like appearance.

Watercolor paint effect: dust and scratch effect

Create a paint-like look with the dust and scratch effect.

Apply the Dust & Scratches effect to your footage and increase it radius Setting on 7th. (I find a value of 7 is a good place to start, but you can set the radius between 4 and 12 depending on your footage.) You should now see a lot of the fine details of your footage "melt away".

Blurred mask

Watercolor paint effect: sharpness

Sharpen the brushstrokes by applying the Unsharp Mask effect.

At the moment our footage looks a little too soft for a painting. So we need to sharpen the brushstrokes. To do this, apply that Blurred mask cause. Set the quantity to 400 and the radius to 2. The brushstrokes should now be much more defined. Feel free to discontinue that quantity to a higher or lower value.

Make adjustments

Watercolor paint effect: color adjustments

For a more textured look, adjust the Amount setting on the CC vector blur effect.

Depending on your subject and the size of your footage, you may want to adjust different values ​​for a better look – the most important is that radius Setting on the Dust & scratches cause. Setting the quantity Setting on the CC vector blur The effect can also produce interesting results and give the painting a different textured look.

I also recommend using the Lumetri color Effect on your footage. It makes it easy to adjust the color settings in one place, e.g. contrast and Liveliness. You can also make creative adjustments with the Faded film Setting or adding a vignette.

Transition effects

The watercolor effect looks great when you convert your footage from "normal" to "watercolor". You can do this in a number of ways. A is included in the project file Paint Transition Luma Matte Video clip. To use this, do two Copies of your footage in your composition.

Watercolor paint effect: transition

Now transfer your footage to the watercolor look with the Paint Transition Luma Matte video clip.

Apply the watercolor paint effect to the above copy then paste the Paint Transition Luma Matte Video clip over everything. Set the Track mat the "painted" version of your footage Luma Inverted Matte. When playing back the original material should now merge into the "painted" version.

Add stop motion wiggle

Lastly, let's see how to add one Stop motion wiggle Effect on color (commonly referred to as the Line boil cause). First, create a Setting level especially your footage and apply that Turbulent shift cause. Set the quantity to 10 and the size to 20th. Next we need to add an expression to that evolution Frame. Stop Old and click on the Stopwatch icon next to Evolution (hold option, click Mac). Enter for the expression random (359). This gives us a random evolution value for each frame.

Watercolor paint effect: Paint Stop Motion Boil

If the stop motion look stays the same, it's a little hectic as it changes every frame. I recommend using the Posterize Time Effect and attitude of Frame rate between 4th and 12. This will slow down how often the Turbulent Displace effect changes visibly, which is more like a traditional line boil animation.

Interested in the royalty-free tracks we made this video with? Listen again:

Looking for more After Effects Actions? We'll cover you:

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