DIY Watercolor Dog Art

This tutorial teaches you how to create a one of a kind piece of watercolor art of your dog. The only cost is your time to create it on the computer and the cost to print it. No messy paint necessary!

DIY Watercolor Dog Art


I really love my pup, Pebbles. But it was one of those relationships that you have work towards, because she was a textbook Maligator when she was a puppy (think a cute German Shepard puppy mixed with an alligator, running on redbull). She was a tyrant when she a puppy, and I still have the scars and ripped clothing to prove it.

Malinois Puppy

But after lots of training, patients, and good old fashion bonding, she’s really become an integral part of my family. She’s my protector in the night when I wander through the house in the dark looking for a midnight snack, a lap dog pretty much anytime she catches me sitting down, and Matt’s partner in crime when it comes to waking me up in the mornings.


After being a dog owner for about 6 months I started noticing all the dog art that was available, they were all so fun and sweet, so it became a scavenger hunt to find something that resembled Pebbles, a Belgian Malinois. Of course the closest I would ever find would be a German Shepard, and if you talk to any Mal owners, that ain’t even close.


If you google Belgian Malinois, for the most part you’ll find something like this:

Malinois Protection Dog Certification

(Yes, that is little Pebbles training for her Protection Dog Certification)


As much as I love showing off her pictures of her bad ass-ness to others, it doesn’t quite make for good wall art around the house. Since I couldn’t find it anywhere I had to resolve to make it myself.


A great thing about this tutorial is that you don’t really need any materials, just a camera (or any picture you already have of your pet) and your computer, then you just upload the picture to be printed on canvas. I like to use CanvasOnSale, they have low prices and the quality is pretty good for this type of print. (If I were printing something that required more detail and exact color, I would go with AdoramaPics).


Step 1: Download Gimp


(If you don’t already have it)


Gimp is my go to for photo editing. It’s free and is comparable to PhotoShop with what it can do.


Step 2: Find or take a good picture of your pet


The picture you find or take needs to have good light and dark contrast. Some pets naturally have light and dark contrast in their fur patterns, so you can pretty much use any photo you like. But if your pet is a bit more monochromatic, like Pebbles, it will take some creativity to get some light and dark contrast.


Because her face is so dark, I thought it would add good contrast (an a fun element) to put some sunglasses on her. This took a few tries and some well positioned treats.

DIY Watercolor Dog Art


Here’s the one that was a keeper

DIY Watercolor Dog Art

Step 3: Open picture in Gimp

DIY Watercolor Dog Art


Step 4: Desaturate


Navigation: Colors > Desaturate…

DIY Watercolor Dog Art


Step 5: Adjust Brightness/Contrast


You want to adjust the Brightness and Contrast so the photo looks very over exposed, to where you can easily see light and dark contrasts of your pet, but not so much that all the details of the image are lost


Navigation: Colors > Brightness-Contrast…

DIY Watercolor Dog Art


Step 6: Remove background


Use the Lasso tool to select your pet. You want to get as close as possible, but it doesn’t have to be perfect.

DIY Watercolor Dog Art

Now, to remove the background, invert your selection and then press the Delete button on your keyboard.


Navigation: Select > Invert


Step 7: Oilify


Select the entire image


Navigation: Select > All


“Oilify” the entire image. Oilify is a built in filter that gives your image an oil painting affect. Here I chose a Mask size of 20, this option is what determines how big the brush strokes look.  The size will vary based on the size of your image, so I like to start with 15, see how it looks, then adjust accordingly.


Navigation: Filters > Artistic > Oilify…

Tip: Be patient, depending on your computer, it could take a few minutes to process, there’s a progress bar at the bottom.


When I zoom in, you can see the details in her fur look oilified. (You can also see the reflection of me taking the picture of her in the glasses!)


Step 8: Prepare Layer for Colors


To get the watercolor effect, we need to create layers of colors that overlap the desaturated, oilifed, image we just created.


Navigation: Right click on your layer and select Duplicate Layer


Tip: You can rename the Duplicated Layer by double clicking on the name.

DIY Watercolor Dog Art


Now you want to remove the white from the color layers and leave it transparent. First I need to add an Alpha Channel, this just means add the ability to have the background as transparent, instead of your background color.


Navigation: Right click on your layer and select Add Alpha Channel


Tip: If this option is grayed out, this means your image already has an Alpha Channel so you don’t need to worry about this part


Now we just want to remove the white from the image.


Navigation: Click the Select by Color button, then click on the white background. Press the delete button on your keyboard.

DIY Watercolor Dog Art

Tip: If you uncheck the eyeball to the left of the layer name, this makes the layer invisible, so you are only looking at the layer(s) with the eyeball next to it.

Set the Opacity to 75

DIY Watercolor Dog Art


Step 9: Duplicate Color Layers


I want to have 6 different colors for this image so I duplicate the layer 5 times until I get a total of 6 layers. I renamed them so it would be easy to identify which layer would be which color.

DIY Watercolor Dog Art


Step 10: Create Orange Layer


Click on Color Layer Orange and use the Lasso Tool to draw random squiggles all over the image and connect back.

DIY Watercolor Dog Art

Choose the color Orange. I used HTML notation ff7c00


DIY Watercolor Dog Art


Click on the Paint Can tool and begin clicking random areas to paint orange.


DIY Watercolor Dog Art


Click on the Select by Color tool and click on the orange.


DIY Watercolor Dog Art


Now remove all but the orange.


Navigation: Select > Invert


Hit the delete button on your keyboard.


Tip: Toggle the visibility of the bottom (oilified) layer to see your progress as you go


DIY Watercolor Dog Art


Step 11: Repeat Step 10 for Green, Blue, Yellow, Red, and Purple


Green: 00e205

DIY Watercolor Dog Art


Blue: 2326fa

DIY Watercolor Dog Art


Yellow: f2fa23

DIY Watercolor Dog Art


Red: fa0d00

DIY Watercolor Dog Art


Purple: 4f17a4

DIY Watercolor Dog Art


Step 12: Create Layer of All Colors


Now only make the colored layers visible, and create a new layer that is just all the colors.


Right click on any Color Layer and select New from Visible

DIY Watercolor Dog Art


Oilify the Visible All Colors Layer to help soften the look of the colors.


Tip: Remember to Select All


Navigation: Select > All. Tools > Artistic > Oilify…

DIY Watercolor Dog Art


Select the Blur tool and Run it all over the colors. I used a size of 1000 and a Rate of 95 to quickly blur the entire thing


DIY Watercolor Dog Art


Step 13: Add Back Desaturated Detail


Make a copy of the desaturated Oilify layer and bring it to the top. Have these three layers visible (the 2 desaturated oilify layers and the Visible All Colors)


DIY Watercolor Dog Art


Adjust the Opacity of the top Oilify layer to around 50% (Adjust based on how much color vs desaturated detail you want)


DIY Watercolor Dog Art


Step 14: Finishing Touch


Create a new layer from visible to put the finishing touches on with an opacity of 60.


Navigation: Right click on layer and select New from Visible


To give it a more “painted” look, use the paint splats brush of the paintbrush tool in all 6 colors around the painting. There are 2 different “Splats” brushes, I like to use both of them with for each color.


DIY Watercolor Dog Art


Step 15: Ready to Print


Now just export your picture and you are ready to have it printed!


Navigation: File > Export


To keep with the “painted” feel, I had this printed on canvas. Since this isn’t some detailed photography, I like to use CanvasOnSale for these types of canvas prints, they have reasonable prices and the quality is good for this type of print.


Alternatively you can print this and frame it.


Here’s how it turned out:

DIY Watercolor Dog Art


These also make great gifts! Here are a few that I made as gifts for my family for Christmas.

DIY Watercolor Dog Art


How did the artwork for you fabulous pooch turn out??


DIY Watercolor Dog Art