Turn a Photo into a Pencil Drawing in Photoshop

01
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Create a Pencil Sketch in Photoshop

Photo to Sketch in Photoshop
Text and images © Sandra Trainor

This tutorial shows how to change a photograph into a pencil sketch using Photoshop's filters, blending modes and the brush tool. I'll also duplicate layers and make adjustments to certain layers, and I'll have what appears to be a pencil sketch when I'm done.

You'll need Photoshop CS6 or a more recent version of Photoshop to follow along, as well as the practice file below. Just right click on the file to save it to your computer, then open it in Photoshop.

ST_PSPencil-practice_file.jpg (practice file)
02
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Rename and Save File

Rename and Save File
Text and images © Sandra Trainor

Choose File > Save As with the color photograph open in Photoshop. Type in "cat" for a new name, then indicate where you want to save the file. Choose Photoshop for the file format and click Save.

03
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Duplicate and Desaturate Layer

Duplicate and Desaturate Layer
Text and images © Sandra Trainor

Open the Layers panel by choosing Window > Layers. Right click on the background layer and choose, "Duplicate Layer." You can also use the keyboard shortcut, which is Command J on a Mac or Control J in Windows. With the duplicated layer selected, choose Image > Adjustments > Desaturate.

04
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Duplicate Desaturated Layer

Duplicate Desaturated Layer
Text and images © Sandra Trainor

Duplicate the layer you just made adjustments to by using the keyboard shortcut of Command J or Control J. This will give you two desaturated layers.

05
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Change Blend Mode

Change Blend Mode
Text and images © Sandra Trainor

Change the Blend Mode from "Normal" to "Color Dodge" with the top layer selected. 

06
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Invert Image

Invert Image
Text and images © Sandra Trainor

Choose Image > Adjustments > Invert. The image will disappear.

07
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Create a Gaussian Blur

Create a Gaussian Blur
Text and images © Sandra Trainor

Choose Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Move the slider with a check mark next to "Preview" until the image looks as if it was drawn with a pencil. Set the Radius to 20.0 pixels, which looks good for the image we're using here. Then click OK.

08
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Brighten

Brighten
Text and images © Sandra Trainor

This looks pretty good, but we can make a few adjustments to make it even better. With the top layer selected, click on the "Create New Fill or Adjustment" layer button at the bottom of the Layers panel. Choose Levels, then move the middle slider slightly to the left. This will brighten the image a little. 

09
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Add Detail

Add Detail
Text and images © Sandra Trainor

You can correct for it if the image loses too much detail. Select the layer just under the Levels layer, then click on the Brush tool in the Tools panel. Choose the Airbrush in the Options bar. Indicate that you want it soft and round. Set the opacity to 15 percent and change the flow to 100 percent. Then, with the foreground color set to black in the Tools panel, go over just the areas where you want to see more detail.

You can quickly change the brush size if you want to by pressing on the left or right bracket. If you make a mistake by going over an area that you didn't mean to darken, switch the foreground to white and go over the area again to lighten it.

10
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Duplicate Merged Layers

Duplicate Merged Layers
Text and images © Sandra Trainor

Choose Image > Duplicate after you've restored detail. Place a check mark in the box that indicates you want to duplicate the merged layers only, then click OK. This will flatten the copy while preserving the original.

11
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Unsharp Mask

We can leave the image as it is, or we can add texture. Leaving it as it is produces an image that looks as though it was drawn on smooth paper and blended in areas. Adding texture will make it look as if it was drawn on paper with a rough surface.  

Choose Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask if you want to change texture, then change the amount to 185 percent. Make the Radios 2.4 pixels and set the Threshold to 4. You don't have to use these exact values – they'll depend on your preferences. You can play around with them a little to find the effect you like best. A check mark next to "Preview" lets you see how the image will look before you commit to it. .

Click OK when you're happy with the values you've chosen. Choose File > Save and you're done! You now have what appears to be a pencil sketch.

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Your Citation
Trainor, Sandra. "Turn a Photo into a Pencil Drawing in Photoshop." ThoughtCo, Mar. 3, 2017, thoughtco.com/turn-photo-into-pencil-drawing-photoshop-1702299. Trainor, Sandra. (2017, March 3). Turn a Photo into a Pencil Drawing in Photoshop. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/turn-photo-into-pencil-drawing-photoshop-1702299 Trainor, Sandra. "Turn a Photo into a Pencil Drawing in Photoshop." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/turn-photo-into-pencil-drawing-photoshop-1702299 (accessed January 17, 2018).