Design, Effects, Tips & Info

Design Series: Photoshop – How to create a Pencil Sketch effect

Here in this tutorial, I will cover how to turn your photo into a pencil sketch. This is pretty simple to do and a fun effect to add to your photos. All you need is a subject and I suggest one with distinct edges. I pulled this photo of downtown Atlanta from the internet some time ago.


Step 1: Grayscale

Once you have your subject in Photoshop add a grayscale to the photo. Now there are two ways to do this. Your destructive option would be to go to Image > Mode > Grayscale, you will get a few prompts depending on how you have your image in the program. If you can tell from my above image it is currently a Smart Object. Grayscale eliminates color information from all of your current layers so it will ask do you want to flatten your image. Then it will ask do you want to Rasterize your layer if it’s already not rasterized, then it will tell you that you are about to delete all color information. Work these options depending on your situation. Alternatively, you can add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. Once you have the adjustment settings up turn the Saturation all the way down. This will affect all layers below the adjustment layer however you can adjust this setting non-destructively. I would suggest the latter option but all depends on your goals.



Step 2: Invert / Color Dodge

Once Grayscale has been added make a copy of the layer by pressing CTRL/CMD + J. Next Invert the top layer by Pressing CTRL+I. Now we need to change the Blending Mode, for this tutorial we will use Color Dodge mode. You can also use Linear Dodge Blend Mode for a softer end result. This will make your image white for the most part.

Color Dodge
Step 3: Gaussian Blur

Next will add a Gaussian Blur to the photo, Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and adjusting this blur will begin to let your pencil sketch show.



Optional: Levels Adjustment

From here you can adjust the photo to your liking. You can use the Levels adjustment layer to pronounce the photo more and that’s all there is to it.