Photo to Pencil Sketch – Photoshop Tutorial

Rokaiya Yeasmin Munni | October 17, 2015

Banner of how to turn a photo into a line drawing effect in photoshop

Learn how to turn a photo into a line drawing effect in Photoshop.

Welcome back to another very exciting tutorial. In this Photoshop tutorial you are going to learn how to turn a photo into a line drawing effect in Photoshop. You don’t have to feel intimidated by line drawings once you get the hang of it. Follow these easy steps, and soon you too, can draw photo to pencil sketch just like the pros.

Note: You can use almost any photo to add the effects and create a realistic looking line drawing but keep in mind that the image in the white background.

Choose a photo with white background:

So, the first thing you need to start with is an image of white background for the best effect. If you don’t have an image with white background you can learn first how to remove background of an image.

Photo to pencil sketch

Duplicate background layer:

Next, start with the background and drag in to the new layer icon area to make a duplicate layer. To do it easily learn how to use layer in Photoshop.

A step by step tutorial on how to create a line drawing effect in Photoshop.

Convert color photo to black & white:

Then you will want to make a new black and white adjustment layer from the lower portion of layer panel. (Your photo will now be black and white rather than color). After that you will click the double arrow to close the panel.

Make a new black and white photo by clicking on lower portion of layer panel

Change blending mode:

Then go to the background copy and click blending mode to the color dodge. (This will give you a screen will more contrast).

Click blending mode to the color dodge

Invert the photo:

Next you will invert or reverse the colors. All you is press Ctrl + I on the keyboard together or go to Image>Adjustment>Invert.

Go to image, adjustment and invert

You will then see that everything disappears.

Everything is now disappears

Convert the layer to smart object:

Now you want to right click on the layer to convert using smart object.

Convert black and white layer to smart object

Apply Gaussian blur:

Then you go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian blur to make the object.

Go to filter, blur, gaussian blur to make the object

Adjust Gaussian blur window:

By blurring the image you can begin to see the outline, which is foundation of the line drawing. Set the radius at 6.4, you may adjust it slightly to see which works best for you, but you get the general idea. Then click ok.

Select 3.4 pixel in Gaussian blur

Gaussian blur window is in the layer panel:

You can see that the Gaussian blur window is just off to the side so you can make your adjustments accordingly and change the setting to suit your photo.

Gaussian blur option to go back to adjust later

Simple line drawing effect:

Now you can either use this line drawing that you have created so far for a strikingly simple effect and end it right here, or you can go in for more detail. If, however you want to make a more realistic looking drawing read on to see which filters will give you the best effect.

Simple line drawing effect by first step

Duplicate background copy layer:

So then you want to click on the background copy box on the right. Then push the Ctrl+J buttons together to duplicate the layer you want.

Copy the background image

Drag layer to top:

Then you need to click on it and drag it up to the top.

Drag the copied layer to top

Desaturate top layer:

Next you go back to the image at the top of the screen, then click on adjustments > de-saturate which will de-saturate the image.

Click on image, adjustment and desaturate

Apply filter gallery:

Then you need to go to the filters and click on filter gallery. Then you would choose the selection of stylize. This will actually create a negative looking effect and allows you to see the outline of the image in white.

Open filter gallery by clicking on Filter

Adjust style in filter gallery:

This white line looks similar to a pencil line; here you can also adjust the edges to find the width of line that you desire. The next step is to work on the smoothness of the edge and the brightness factor. I personally like to use an edge width of 1 and edge brightness of 4 and about an edge smoothness of 6. Then click ok when finished.

Select the style on filter gallery and adjust

Now at this moment the lines are white and the background is still black (reverse image) but we want it to be the opposite.

Invert the image:

So next you want to change the color again by pressing the Ctrl+I or go to Image>Adjustment>Invert to revert the image back black lines on white background.

Go to image, adjustment and invert

Change blending mode to multiply:

The next thing to do is to use what is called a blend mode to remove the white pixels and keep the black pixels. So what you do next is go into the multiply. This causes the white pixels to become invisible and the darker pixels are what remain.

Select Multiply from blending mode

You have now just created the actual outline for your drawing.

Add shading to the existing line drawing:

Next you may want to add a little shading to improve the contract of your drawing. In order to do this, you need to click on your background layer again and drag the duplicate drawing up to the top of the screen.

Copy the background image again and drag to top

Desaturate the image:

And then desaturate like you did before. To complete this; you would press the key Ctrl+shift+u.

Press Ctrl+shift+U to desaturate the image

Apply filter gallery:

Now go back to the filter section and select filter gallery, then a sketch section will pop up, and you want to select charcoal. This will create an etching effect that is quite similar to the appearance of pencil line drawings. The settings would be edge 1, details 4 and the light and dark would be roughly around 46-48. You can adjust these settings accordingly depending on your taste. Then be sure to click ok.

Select charcoal style from filter gallery and adjust the area

Change blending to multiply:

Now lastly, we want to remove the white, so we go back to the blend mode and change it to multiply.

Got original line drawing image

You now have the original line drawing but now it contains some more lines to help define the characteristics of the line drawings and how you can improve them.

Before and after image:

Befor-after-image-of-line-drawing-effect

So there you have it, how to create a line drawing using only pencil is a quite a challenge but if you work at it, it becomes easier as you do more. Good Luck on your new adventure.


Bellow is an infographic version of this Photoshop tutorial which will help you to learn photo to pencil sketch technique from your desktop.

Infographic of line drawing tutorial using Photoshop

Rokaiya Yeasmin Munni

As manager and head of digital marketing at Clipping Path India, Rokaiya wants to help retailers and photographers use marketing strategies and tactics that will elevate their business. She has an 18-year background in graphic design, content management and digital marketing.

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