Rubber Stamped

My first attempt at a pen and wash effect using the filters in 'Photoshop'.

MY ILLUSTRATOR friend John Welding was telling me about a science fiction short story from years ago about a world where instead of having to go to the trouble of drawing things artists had only to dial up the appropriate rubber stamp.

That day has arrived because the new version of Photoshop that I’m using includes a stamp filter (left). So much quicker than making your own lino-cut.

Filter Gallery

I’m new to this version of Photoshop so this is the first chance that I’ve had to play around with the Filter Gallery, which is useful as you get instant full size previews of the effects of the filters on offer. By using slider controls you can fine tune the effect.

The Watercolour Filter (left) simplifies the photograph to blocky colour.

To get the effect of a pen and watercolour wash drawing you need to add line. In Photoshop, as with most other image manipulation programs, you do this on a new layer.

Find Edges

This time the filter you need, ‘Find Edges’, doesn’t appear in the Filter Gallery; you’ll find in the Filter Menu under ‘Stylize’.

This gives you rather more than the pure line that you’re after (right), even if you try converting the image to grayscale before you start as I did in this example. There are no slider controls to filter out the tones. You now need to go to . . .


To reduce this to pure black and white you need to use the ‘Threshold’ command from the image menu, something I’ve used a lot when scanning my pen and ink artwork when I wanted to print it in line rather than tone.

Just to keep you on your toes, the Threshold command can’t be found amongst the Filters. It’s in the Image menu under Adjustments. Like most of the filters this has a slider control so you can go from almost black to almost washed out.

The ‘pen’ layer, as you might expect, needs to go on top of the ‘watercolour’ layer but to make it transparent you have to set the ‘pen’ layers properties to ‘Multiply’ instead of ‘Normal’ (top).

The finished result wouldn’t convince anybody that I’d used real pen and ink and watercolours but I love that chunky effect and I’d be tempted to use it when I’m painting real watercolours.

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  1. The short story was ‘Portrait of the Artist’ by Harry Harrison. The internet is great for half remembered things.

    1. Thanks John. Much as I like them, Photoshop filters are probably going to get neglected this weekend because I’ve just bought a copy of ‘Create 3D Like a Superhero’. Just about my level.

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