It has been my experience that most  plugins to convert a photo to just don’t do a realistic job, lets not even talk about the sketch filters that come by default. If you want to do a really convincing job its is gonna take a little effort. This tutorial will show you the technique that I use and am very satisfied with. The thing I like most about this technique is that it looks better the more work you put into it. Although you can do a pretty convincing job very quickly.


Ok lets do this!
Open the image you want to sketch in Photoshop

Paper Layer
Make a new layer
Name that layer “Paper”
Fill it with a light gray, the color I used was #D3D4C6


Sketch Layer
Duplicate the original photo layer
Name this layer “Sketch”
Desaturate this “sketch” layer.
Goto – Adjustments > Desaturate (Ctrl/ Cmd+Shift+U)

Add Noise
A super crisp image is a dead giveaway.
Lets decrease this by adding some noise
Make sure you are still on the “Sketch Layer”
Goto – Filter > Noise > Add Noise
Noise Settings> 7%, Guassian Blur, Monochromatic

Add Contrast
Lets darken the gray areas just a tad
Goto – Image> Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast
Turn the brightness down to about -15 and the contrast up to +15 (this may vary depending on your image)


Note About Hair: If your sketch has hair you will want to use the blur brush on the hair on the sketch layer after you desaturate and add contrast. This will dull down the details a bit so it looks much better when you do the sketching.

Add Mask
Add a mask to hide the “Sketch Layer”
Goto – Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All


Setup Your Brush
Choose the brush tool
Click in the brush picker and sele”ct “Dry Media Brushes”
Choose the “Pastel on Charcoal Paper” (you can see the name by holding the mouse over the brushes.)
Change brush size to 10 and Opacity to 70-75%
You will also want to experiment with other brushes and brush sizes and even mix a few.

sketch1-brush pic

Below settings are for tablet users – mouse users should go the next step
Open Brush Settings: Goto – Window > Brushes
Check Shape Dynamics- Check Size Jitter set to 60% and choose Pen Pressure from the drop down
Check Other Dynamics- Check Opacity Jitter
If you change brushes remember to reset these options for each brush

Lets Sketch!!
You should still be on the “Sketch” layer
And your Layer mask should be selected – if you aren’t sure just simply click on the layer mask.
Now make sure your brush color is white and start sketching revealing the photo subtlety. I usually focus on the darker areas of the photo here.

If you make a mistake, do not use the eraser!! Simply change your color to black and go over your mistake. Change back to white and start again.

The key here is to vary the opacity of the brush strokes and scribble. You can also play around with brush size and other dry media brushes. The point is to imitate pencil strokes and reveal the underlying photo. You will soon see results!!


This technique turns out best if you have a graphics tablet, however mouse users can achieve the same results if you play with the opacity manually.

Thats it! Hope you like it and remember the more care you take in your strokes and brush choices the better this is!
Feel free to add some pizazz by overlaying textures etc…

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