How to Turn a Photo into a Pencil Drawing in Photoshop, the new and improved Sketch effect

In the past I have made a photoshop tutorial on turning a photo into a sketch.  But after many years, I have a much better way of doing it, check out the photo to Pencil Drawing tutorial here.
We are going to create the fine lines of the outline as well as the smoother shading that is characteristic of a pencil drawing. I suggest watching the video first, then use the written steps as easy reference so you don’t have ti remember everything.

Here are the promised resources

photoshop pencil sketch start

How to turn your photo into a pencil drawing in Photoshop, step by step instructions.

This works in all Photoshop versions.

Step 1

Duplicate the Layer (Ctrl/Cmd+J)

duplicate layer

Step 2

Convert the new layer to Black and White (Ctl/Cmd+Shift+U)

Black and white photoshop

Step 3

Duplicate the black and white layer  (Ctrl/Cmd+J)

Duplicate layers

We now have 2 black and white layers

Step 4

Invert the top Black and white layer (Ctrl/Cmd+I)

Invert top layer

Step 5

Change the Blending mode to Color Dodge (Click on Normal in the Layers panel)

Applying the blending mode

The image is all white, this is normal and expected.

Step 6

Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur

Move the amount slider just enough so that we get a nice thin, but clear outline around everything.

We now have an etched effect

blur to create a thin pencil outline from photo


Step 7. Adding the shading

We now have a nice outline, but we want to add smooth shading, (this is where other tutorials usually stop).

Select both black and white layers and press Ctrl/Cmd+G to place into a layer group.

Stacking photoshop layers create a later group in Photoshop

Step 8

Duplicate the group. Click on the group in the Layers panel and press Ctrl/Cmd+J.

duplicate layer group in photoshop

Step 9

Choose the top layer in the top group

open layer group

Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur

Move the slider until you see some gentle shading

adding shading to out sketch effect


Step 10. Blending the 2 Layer Groups together.

Choose the top Group (not the pixel layer, but the group).

choose a later group in photoshop

Change the Blending mode to Darken, You can apply blending modes to groups as well as individual layers.

choose layer group

Adjust the opacity for a nice match.

adjust opacity

Step 11

Duplicate the Top layer blending mode once again for a 3rd group. (Ctrl/Cmd+J)

choose layer group

Step 12

Choose the top layer in the top group

open layer group, grab top layer

Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur

Move the slider until you see the final shading.

adding shading for pencil drawing from photo effect


Step 13. Masking the effect

Let’s target where this effect should go with a layer mask.

Select the top layer group and add a Layer Mask, but wait. We want an inverted mask (Hides everything)

Hold down Alt/Option as you click the new layer mask icon in the layers panel. You will now have a black mask.

Choosing top layer, to adjust opacity

Step 14

Choose a soft edged brush (B key)

Select white as the foreground color

Change the brush opacity to 30% in the top tool options.

choose a soft brush

Step 15

With the mask selected, paint on the image and add the shading where you need it. It’s fun painting in the shading.

Paint in the effectusing layer masks in Photoshop

This completes the basic effect. Lets enhance it

final painted result


Xtra Credit. Adding edge sharpening.

a/ Select all the layers and Press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E (Windows) Cmd+Option+Shift+E (Mac) to create a new composite layer on top

stamp visible layer

b/ Change the Layer Blending mode to overlay on the top layer

Overlay Blending mode

c/ Choose Filter>Other>High Pass

High pass edge sharpening in photoshop

d/ Adjust the amount until you are happy with the nice sharp Edges.

photoshop pencil sketch final

That’s it! Congratulations if you have completed this Photoshop Pencil Drawing tutorial! Nice job ?


Don’t forget to check out our other tutorials here at PhotoshopCAFE (Use the search bar at the top, or browse through the categories)

Thanks for checking out this weeks tutorial and see you all next week.

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