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Turn a photo into a pencil sketch in Photoshop tutorial

Hi CAFE Crew, here is a brand new tut for you all. This is an old favorite of mine. How to turn a photo into a pencil sketch in photoshop. This is actually really easy to do and it gets quite good results too. As usual, I’ll provide a few creative jump off points at the end for your own experimentation.


Start with a Photo that has some decent edge detail, here is one I got from Adobe StockAdobe Stock

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.08.44 PM



Covert the photo to grayscale (Ctrl+Shift+D / Cmd+Shift+D)

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.08.54 PM


Duplicate the layer by dragging into the new layer icon, or press Ctrl/Cmd+J

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.09.05 PM


Invert the layer Cmd/Ctrl+I

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.09.18 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.09.13 PM


Change to Linear Dodge blend mode and you should see a perfectly white image (Use Color Dodge for sharper edges)



Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur
(You could actually use any filter, as long as it creates a difference between the 2 layers)

As you adjust the blur you will get a different result.


Here are some variations using Color Dodge, you will notice that Linear Dodge produces a softer result that Color Dodge. Try different blending Modes for different results.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.09.41 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.10.01 PM


Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.10.14 PM


Here is the result on a different image




Once you have your perfect pencil sketch, why not try adding some color for a nice variation.

In this first example, I added a solid color Fill adjustment layer. Change the blend mode to color, so only the color shows through. Adjust the opacity to suit your tastes.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.10.50 PM



Color Dodge result

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.10.56 PM

Also try running a gradient through a new blank layer at the top and change that to color blend mode.


Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.11.18 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.11.40 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.11.35 PM



As you can see, the effect itself is quite simple and there are a number of variations that you can try to get very different looking results. Add a comment at let me know how you are using this effect.

Thanks for checking out this tutorial. See you next week with another new tutorial!




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31 responses to “Turn a photo into a pencil sketch in Photoshop tutorial”

  1. This turns out very nice! I wish there was some way to make the remaining ‘lines’ to look more sketched. Maybe I will experiment. Thank you so much!

  2. Because the picture had to be converted to grayscale it will not now allow the color fill to be anything other than gray. How do you get the fill adjustment layer to be a color?

    • Create a color Fill adjustment layer on top. If it’s at the top of the layer stack, it will add color to everything (in Color blend mode)
      If you converted it to grayscale mode it wont work, redo it and use the desaturate command ctrl+Shift+U

  3. For gals and guys who don’t know well, an adjustment fill layer can be found on:
    Layer > New Fill Layer > and choose one option.

  4. I have watched many different videos on how to turn a photo into a sketch, and I need to say this is the best and the easiest one! Thank you, it was a real pleasure to learn this new technique from your tutorial!

  5. I have a very detailed photo…(my intent is to transfer my drawing to a canvas using graphite paper so I can paint it.) I went thru the steps and used the curves to make it more contrasty….looks good however I would like to add maybe 15% of the original color back into my sketch to help me identify some of the shapes. How can I do that? Thanks so much!!

  6. i got it but nw i need also the tutorio about how to turn it lyk an effect of dispersion or disintergration as f some parts of e photo are dispersed
    thz good with motion lyk images

  7. Hi this was posted a long time ago so I might not get a response, but is it possible to only convert part of a picture to a sketch?

  8. well this is one for all. thanks for share this tutorial with us.
    If you can share another tutorial for buildings also. instead of a human. I have building photograph (Heavy black stroke without white color). how can i make it like a sketch.

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