Drawing is an incredible skill that takes years to perfect. But you can create a masterpiece easily in Photoshop. In this tutorial, learn how to create a photo sketch effect using preset brushes in combination with the Graphics Tablet of your choice. Let’s get started!

Software: Adobe Photoshop CC and a Graphics Tablet

Difficulty: Beginner

Completion Time: 1 hour

Images Used For This Tutorial

1686152 © Oleg Kozlov

Setup Your Reference

Step 1

Open your photo into Photoshop. For this cool effect I’ll be using this great tiger reference. Double click the background layer to unlock it and rename it Layer 1. Set the Foreground Color to white and fill a New Layer with white using the Paint Bucket Tool (G). Make sure that this new layer is positioned underneath the photo.

sketcheffect_1Step 2

If your photo is in color, change it to black and white. To do this, select the photo layer and go to Image > Adjustments > Hue & Saturation, bringing the Saturation down to -100.

sketcheffect_2Creating the Sketch Effect

Step 3

Now it’s time to start the sketch effect! With the photo layer still selected, add a new Layer Mask to the layer. Click the Mask and fill it with black using the Paint Bucket Tool (G)

sketcheffect_3aNow set the Foreground Color to White and the Background Color to Black. Using your Graphics Tablet, select the Brush Tool (B) and use it to begin drawing strokes of white over the blacked out Layer Mask. For that traditional feel, use a brush that resembles pencil or paintbrush strokes. In this case, we’ll be using the Flat Blunt Short Stiff Brush from Photoshop’s Brush Presets.

sketcheffect_3bStep 4

Continue adding more strokes of white onto the Layer Mask. This process will help to reveal the photo underneath with that traditional texture. Try to keep the brush strokes in a hatching or cross hatching pattern to resemble traditional techniques. If you need to, study some pencil drawings to emulate them.

sketcheffect_4Step 5

Clean up any areas with the Eraser Brush (E). You can stretch the brush strokes across the entire picture or leave some white areas around it to help the effect. Drag the tiger towards the center using the Move Tool (V). Continue adding more strokes until you’re satisfied with it. When you’re finished, hit Control-J to duplicate the layer.

sketcheffect_5Step 6

Let’s intensify the sketch even more. Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels and adjust the settings as follows to intensify the contrast and bring out the brush strokes for the RGB Channel. Now Merge the layers together.

  • Shadow Input Level: 0
  • Mid tone Input Level: 0.79
  • Highlight Input Level: 255

sketcheffect_6Step 7

You can leave the effect at this stage if you’d like or make it look a little more like paper. To do this we’ll add a slight gradient to make it appear like a photo of a drawing.

sketcheffect_7aRight-click the sketch effect and go to Blending Options. Place a check mark next to Gradient Overlay, and add a dark blue to light blue Linear Gradient making sure that the Blend Mode is set to Exclusion. Adjust the Opacity to 40% and the Scale to 150%.

Here’s what the sketch should look like once this step is done.

sketcheffect_7bStep 8

Finish up this effect with another adjustment using Levels. This time we’ll set the RGB Channel levels to 18, 0.73, and 248. Add a quick signature and you’ve completed this awesome project!

sketcheffect_8If you never thought you could draw before, think again! I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial, have fun turning all your photos into drawings!