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

  1. Keep up the great work Colin – very many thanks. Do you remember the Extract filter in Photoshop 7? Now we have got the new Select features – wow!

  2. I’m watching your tutorials from Newmarket ,Ontario,Canada.
    As always , I find your tutorials very interesting.

  3. Thank you Colin, always enjoy and learn from your tutorials. Joined when I lived in Seattle, WA, USA and continue to subscribe while now living in Toronto, ON, Canada.

  4. Love your tutorials with video AND (just as important) written tutorial which allows one to really concentrate on what you’re doing in the video without being distracted by taking notes, and having that reference to try it out later. You make things easy to follow with your very concise explanations. Thank you so much for sharing!

  5. Rural SW Minnesota, USA. What a great tutorial! Not sure that I quite have the artistic eye to understand the subtle details. I could stop at the first blending. However, I will play with this technique with an upcoming project and see if I can upgrade my artistic sensibilities! Thank you for the tutorial.

  6. Fabulous Tutorial, Colin!!!!! You really do your homework and I really appreciate your Geat work. I’m sure the all the people watching every week, never get bored and always learn something great. Thanks!!

  7. Great tutorials . Im working on Photoshop cc19 and attempted to follow the latest tutorial on converting photos to pencil drawing ,but I’m having a problem Selecting both layers at once, I know its easy but not sure how to do it. Advise please

  8. Great Tutorial. I worked along with you. Your instructions are very easy to follow and execute. Thank you!!

  9. Hi Colin, really enjoy your tut’s, well explained and documented. Look 4ward to receiving them each week. South Aust, Australia

  10. Hi Colin,
    Thank you for your weekly tutorials, I find them very informative and more importantly, very easy to follow for a novice like me. I reside in the UK and use CS6 version of PS. Keep up the good work!!!!

  11. From Vancouver Canada. I don’t have a TV home and my best home entertainment is Photoshopcafe or working with something on PS.

  12. Thanks Colin from Brisbane Australia. Thanks to you and your fantastic tutorials I have gotten a reasonable and improving grasp on utilising Photoshop. Also you enthused me to buy a drone, DJI Spark, I really like to do panorama landscape images. Keep up the great work.

  13. Perfect timing of this video. I have just been asked by friends to create some sketch drawings from my images to hang in their new home. All the way from The Central Coast, NSW Australia.

  14. Am in Dallas, TX… a 25-year traditional-media artist who started using Photoshop(4) 20+ years ago, and have now become all-digital. I enjoy your tutorials!

  15. Great, Thank you, I have so many things to learn and you are generous to show us your experience & skills.

  16. Love this tutorial. I do have a problem when I try to use the brush tool and try to add the shading. Nothing seems to happen. Not sure what I am doing wrong. It looks good, but would look great if I could get the shading to work. Thanks!

  17. Thanks for the great tutorial – just one query – when I finish and save the PSD file and go back into LR, the pencil drawing effect gets lost. If I flatten the image or save as a JPEG, the same thing happens. I noticed this a while go with an image with one layer where I was using the Dissolve blending mode – the effect is visible in PS but not in the JPEG or in the PSD as seen in LR. Any ideas on how to fix?
    Working on a PC with PS CC 2019.

  18. Colin, following from California. There are tons of pencil sketch portrait effects all over the web, but none specifically for a landscape photo.

  19. good and interesting tutorial , I really enjoy watching your tutorials and I learn from them.
    I am in Redruth cornwall uk

  20. I have been teaching Photoshop since version 2 in the early 1990. Did beta testing for Adobe starting with Photoshop CS5. Am #87th member at NAPP. One of the very early birds. Teach Photoshop at the Colorado State University. Yet still learn from experts like you every day. Thanks for this wonderful and simple tutorial.

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