We’ll start by learning how to convert the photo into a black and white sketch (and how to keep the effect fully editable with Smart Filters), then we’ll finish things off by learning how to colorize our sketch using colors from the original image.
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And here, with more subtle colors, is my final “portrait to sketch” result:
This removes all color from the photo, leaving it in black and white:
As soon as you select the Solid Color fill layer, Photoshop will pop open the Color Picker, asking you to choose your color. Don’t worry about choosing the wrong color here because, as we’ll see in a moment, we can easily come back and pick a different one. I’ll choose a shade of blue to see what that looks like:
We need to make a copy of the Background layer. To do that, go up to the Layer menu in the Menu Bar along the top of the screen, choose New, then choose Layer via Copy. Or, for a faster way to duplicate a layer, simply press Ctrl+J (Win) / Command+J (Mac) on your keyboard:
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If you find, as I do, that your sketch now appears too dark, you can fine-tune the amount of darkening by adjusting the opacity of the Levels adjustment layer. You’ll find the Opacity option directly across from the blend mode option at the top of the Layers panel.
It’s easy. First, to hide the gradient, click on the Gradient Fill layer’s visibility icon in the Layers panel. With all three colorizing layers (the “Color” layer, the Solid Color fill layer and the Gradient Fill layer) now turned off, you’ll be back to your black and white version:
Next, we need to invert the layer. Go up to the Image menu at the top of the screen, choose Adjustments, then choose Invert. Or, press Ctrl+I (Win) / Command+I (Mac) on your keyboard for the shortcut:
We’re going to be using the “Background copy 3” layer to colorize our sketch, so let’s give it more descriptive name. To rename a layer, double-click directly on its name to highlight it:
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.
Dragging the “Background copy” layer onto the New Layer icon.
We’re going to need this original image again later when we go to colorize the sketch, which means we’ll need to make sure we don’t make any changes to it. To keep it safe, the first thing we’ll do is make a copy of the image by duplicating the Background layer.
The “Background copy 3” layer appears above the original Background layer.
Changing the blend mode of the Levels adjustment layer to Multiply.
The controls and options for the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer appear in the Properties panel. To remove the color from the image, simply drag the Saturation slider all the way to the left to a value of -100:
To colorize the sketch with a gradient, we’ll use a Gradient fill layer. Click once again on the New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel:
This opens the Gradient Picker, showing us thumbnails of preset gradients we can choose from. To select a gradient, double-click on its thumbnail. This will both select the gradient and close the Gradient picker. For this tutorial, I’ll choose the Spectrum gradient (first thumbnail on the left, bottom row):
This will turn the document completely white, or at least mostly white (you may see a few scattered areas of black depending on your image):
For that, we first need to convert the layer to a Smart Object. With the Background copy layer still selected, click on the small menu icon in the upper right corner of the Layers panel:
As I mentioned a moment ago, one of the great benefits of applying a filter as a Smart Filter is that we can easily go back and edit its settings later if needed. If we look again in the Layers panel, we see the Gaussian Blur filter listed as a Smart Filter below its Smart Object. If at any point you feel your sketch effect could use a bit more fine-tuning, simply double-click directly on the words Gaussian Blur to re-open its dialog box and re-adjust the Radius value:
To convert the layer into a Smart Object, click on the small menu icon in the upper right corner of the Layers panel:
Changing the blend mode of the layer from Normal to Color Dodge.
Then, adjust the intensity of the colors if needed by lowering the layer’s opacity:
Here’s how it will look as the initial black and white sketch:
If you want to try a different color, double-click on the fill layer’s color swatch in the Layers panel:
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Turn a photo into a pencil sketch in Photoshop tutorialColin Smith
With your image newly opened in Photoshop, if you look in your Layers panel, you’ll see the image sitting on the Background layer, currently the only layer in the document:
How To Turn A Photo Into A Pencil Sketch With PhotoshopStep 1: Duplicate The Background Layer
Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur (You could actually use any filter, as long as it creates a difference between the 2 layers)
Learn how to turn any portrait image into a black and white or color pencil sketch using Photoshop CS6.
We’ve created our main sketch effect, but depending on how much blurring you applied, you may be finding that your sketch is looking too light. If that’s the case, we can easily darken it using a Levels adjustment layer. To add a Levels adjustment layer, click on the New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel:
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To reduce the intensity of the color, simply lower the fill layer’s opacity, keeping an eye on the results as you drag the slider:
At this point, we have our main sketch effect, but currently it’s in black and white. Let’s look at a few different ways to colorize it. We’ll start by using the photo’s own original colors. For that, we need to make another copy of the Background layer, so click on the Background layer (the original Background layer that’s sitting below the other layers) and, just as we’ve done a couple of times already, drag it down onto the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel:
Back in the Gradient Fill dialog box, I’ll change the Angle of the gradient from its default 90° to 135°, which will cause it to run diagonally across the image, creating a bit more interest:
Here’s the same sketch colorized with the photo’s original colors:
Click OK when you’re done to accept your setting and close out of the Gaussian Blur dialog box. Here’s my result:
We’re going to use this layer to colorize our sketch, so rather than putting up with Photoshop’s generic layer names like “Background copy 2”, let’s name the layer something more descriptive. Double-click directly on the words Background copy 2, which will select and highlight the name, then rename it Color. Press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) when you’re done to accept the new layer name:
Next, we need to remove all of the color from our “Background copy” layer, and we can do that quickly using Photoshop’s Desaturate command. Go up to the Image menu in the Menu Bar along the top of the screen, choose Adjustments, and then choose Desaturate. You can also use the keyboard shortcut Shift+Ctrl+U (Win) / Shift+Command+U (Mac):
To create our sketch effect, the first thing we need to do is remove all the color from our image, and we can do that non-destructively using a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. In the Adjustments panel, click on the Hue/Saturation icon (first icon on the left, middle row):
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When you release your mouse button, Photoshop makes a copy of the layer, names it “Background copy 2” and places it above the other layers:
The Multiply blend mode is one of the five most commonly used blend modes in Photoshop, and simply by changing the Levels adjustment layer to Multiply, we’ve managed to darken the sketch effect quickly and easily:
In the upper left of the Layers panel, change the blend mode of the Background copy layer from Normal (the default blend mode) to Color Dodge:
Also try running a gradient through a new blank layer at the top and change that to color blend mode.
Learn how to easily turn any photo into a black and white pencil sketch with Photoshop, and then learn three great ways to colorize the sketch! Includes both the video and written versions of the tutorial.
If I increase the radius value to something much higher, maybe somewhere around 45 pixels:
Photoshop adds a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer named Hue/Saturation 1 above the Background layer:
We need to move our Color layer to the top of the layer stack. To do that, click on it and, with your mouse button held down, drag the layer upward until you see a white horizontal bar appear directly above the Hue/Saturation layer:
This will turn the image white. As with my image, you may still see a few small areas of black remaining, but for the most part, it should now appear white (don’t worry about the dark border around my image in the screenshot. It’s just Photoshop’s gray pasteboard area and not part of the effect):
The Color blend mode tells Photoshop to blend only the color from this layer and ignore everything else, and just like that, the sketch is now colorized:
We have our main sketch effect, and we created it using a Gaussian Blur Smart Filter. As I mentioned earlier, Smart Filters remain fully editable, allowing us to easily go back and change the filter’s settings later if needed. How do we do that? Well, if we look again in the Layers panel, we now see the Gaussian Blur filter listed as a Smart Filter below the Smart Object we applied it to. If, at any point, you start thinking that your sketch could use a bit more fine-tuning, simply double-click directly on the words “Gaussian Blur” to re-open the Gaussian Blur dialog box and drag the Radius slider as needed:
Go up to the Filter menu at the top of the screen, choose Blur, then choose Gaussian Blur:
Click on the Background layer in the Layers panel to select it:
If we look in the Layers panel, we see the Gradient fill layer (“Gradient Fill 1”) sitting at the top. Just as we’ve done a couple of times already, to blend the gradient in with the sketch, simply change the blend mode of the Gradient Fill layer from Normal to Color:
When the white bar appears, release your mouse button to drop the Color layer into place:
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.
Clicking the arrow to the right of the gradient color swatch.
Once you have your perfect pencil sketch, why not try adding some color for a nice variation.
The effect you achieve will depend on how much blurring you’ve applied. Lower radius values will create a sketch with fine, thin lines, while larger values will give you a more photo-realistic result. For example, if I choose a fairly low radius value of around 10 pixels:
Changing the blend mode to Color Dodge turns the document temporarily white.
I’ll click OK to close out of the Color Picker, and now my sketch appears with my new color. You can go back and try as many different colors as you like until you find the one that works best:
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Once you’ve chosen a color, click OK to close out of the Color Picker. Your document will temporarily be filled with that color, and if you look in the Layers panel, you’ll see the new fill layer, named “Color Fill 1”, sitting at the top.
I’ll be using Photoshop CC here, but the steps we’ll be covering are fully compatible with any recent version of Photoshop so you can easily follow along no matter which version you’re using. Photoshop CS6 users may wish to check out the previous Photo To Pencil Sketch With Photoshop CS6 tutorial, while users of Photoshop CS5 and earlier can follow along with our original Portrait Photo To Color Sketch tutorial. Note, though, that the steps for colorizing the sketch with a single color and a gradient were not covered previously and are new to this latest version of the tutorial.
Step 12: Move The “Color” Layer To The Top Of The Layer Stack
Photoshop adds a Levels adjustment layer named Levels 1 directly above the Background copy Smart Object (and below the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer):
The new “Background copy 2” layer appears at the top of the layer stack.
If you find that your sketch is now too dark, you can brighten it back up by lowering the opacity of the Levels adjustment layer. You’ll find the Opacity option directly across from the blend mode option at the top of the Layers panel. By default, opacity is set to 100%. I’ll lower mine to around 60%:
Here’s what it will look like as a black and white pencil sketch:
We’ll also learn how to keep our pencil sketch flexible and editable, letting us go back and fine-tune things as needed, by taking advantage of Photoshop’s Smart Filters, fill and adjustment layers, and layer blend modes.
Either way desaturates the image, leaving us with a black and white version of our photo:
Dragging the Radius slider to apply a small amount of blurring.
The more you lower the opacity value below its default 100%, the more the layers below the Levels adjustment layer will show through, brightening the sketch back up. I’ll lower mine down to around 40%, but keep an eye on your image as you adjust the opacity to find the value that works best:
I end up with an effect that looks more like the original photo. The exact radius value you choose will depend both on your image and the type of effect you’re going for, so the best thing to do is keep an eye on your image as you drag the Radius slider and judge the results. In my case, even though I like both versions, I think I like this second, more photo-realistic version a bit better, so I’ll go with this one. Click OK when you’re done to close out of the Gaussian Blur dialog box:
Change to Linear Dodge blend mode and you should see a perfectly white image (Use Color Dodge for sharper edges)
Here’s the photo I’ll be using (teen portrait photo from Shutterstock):
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And there we have it! That’s how to turn a portrait photo into either a black and white or color pencil sketch using Smart Filters, adjustments layers and blend modes in Photoshop CS6! Visit our Photo Effects section for more Photoshop effects tutorials!
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.
Changing the blend mode of the adjustment layer to Multiply.
Here’s what my sketch looks like colorized with the Spectrum gradient:
If the color appears too strong, you can reduce it by lowering the opacity of the “Color” layer. I’ll lower mine down to 50%:
And now I’m back to my sketch being colorized with the photo’s original colors:
This opens the Gaussian Blur dialog box. To create our main sketch effect, all we need to do is apply some blurring to this layer. To do that, click on the Radius slider at the bottom of the dialog box and begin slowly dragging it towards the right to apply a slight amount of blur. Keep an eye on the image as you drag and you’ll see it beginning to look more and more like a sketch. Don’t drag too far, though, as too much blurring will make it look like a photo again. A little blurring is all we need.
In this tutorial, we’ll learn how to easily create a classic Photoshop effect, turning a photo into a pencil sketch! In fact, we’ll actually learn how to create four variations of the sketch effect, starting with a simple black and white version. We’ll then take our black and white sketch and learn a few different ways to colorize it, first using the photo’s original colors, then with a single color, and then with a gradient!
And now, the sketch appears colorized, in my case with blue:
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Let’s look at one more way to colorize the sketch, this time using a gradient. First, turn off the fill layer by clicking on its visibility icon in the Layers panel. This will once again return you to the black and white version of the sketch:
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Release your mouse button when your hand cursor is directly over the New Layer icon. Photoshop makes a copy of the Background layer, names it “Background copy” and places it above the original:
This version of the tutorial, fully updated from the original version, features a more flexible, non-destructive way to create the sketch effect by taking advantage of Photoshop’s Smart Filters and adjustment layers, along with some handy layer blend modes.
Then choose Convert to Smart Object from the menu that appears:
The Multiply blend mode is one of a group of blend modes in Photoshop that darken the image, and right away, we see that my sketch now appears much darker:
If you like the way your sketch effect looks using the photo’s original colors, you can stop here. Otherwise, let’s look at a second way to colorize it, this time using a single color. Before we do, let’s turn off the “Color” layer by clicking its visibility icon (the “eyeball” icon) in the Layers panel. This will bring back the black and white version of the sketch:
The controls and options for the Levels adjustment layer appear in the Properties panel, but we don’t actually need them. Instead, to darken our sketch effect, all we need to do is change the blend mode of the Levels adjustment layer from Normal to Multiply:
There’s no specific Radius value to choose here since it will depend both on the size of your image and on what you think looks best. For me, I’ll set my Radius value to around 12 pixels:
At this point, the basic sketch effect is complete, but if you want to bring back some of the photo’s original color, you’ll want to continue on with these last few steps. First, click on the Background layer (the original one, not the copy) to select it and make it active once again:
We’ve created so many copies of our Background layer at this point that our Layers panel is becoming cluttered with them, and they all have names (“Background copy”, “Background copy 2”, “Background copy 3”) that don’t tell us anything about what the layer is being used for. Let’s break the cycle and rename the layer we just created.
Now that we’ve colorized the sketch with a gradient, what if you like one of the previous colorized versions better (the one using the photo’s original colors or the one using the single color)? Or, what if you don’t like any of the colorized versions and want to go back to the black and white version? How do you switch back?
Once again, nothing will seem to have happened, but a small Smart Object icon appears in the lower right corner of the layer’s preview thumbnail letting us know it’s been converted into a Smart Object:
One thing I like to do whenever possible is take advantage of Photoshop’s Smart Filters, which keep the filters we apply to an image fully editable in case we want to go back later and change some of the settings. In a moment, we’re going to apply the Gaussian Blur filter, but before we do, let’s make sure we’ll be applying it as a Smart Filter.
To blend the color in with the sketch, simply change the fill layer’s blend mode from Normal to Color:
The Color blend mode hides all the tonal information (the brightness values) on the layer and allows only the colors to show through, creating our colorizing effect:
Click OK to close out of the dialog box when you’re done. Your document will temporarily be filled with the gradient:
The effect after changing the Levels blend mode to Multiply.
Nothing will seem to have happened with the image, but if we look in the Layers panel, we see that a copy of the Background layer has appeared between the original and the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer:
Next, we need to change the blend mode of the layer. You’ll find the Blend Mode option in the upper left of the Layers panel. By default, the blend mode is set to Normal. Click on the word “Normal” to bring up a menu of other blend modes and choose Color Dodge from the list:
To use this layer to colorize the sketch, we need to move it up to the top of the layer stack; in other words, move it above all the other layers. One way to do that would be to click on it and simply drag it up above the other layers, but there’s a faster way. To jump a layer directly to the top of the layer stack, first make sure it’s selected in the Layers panel. Then, press and hold Shift+Ctrl (Win) / Shift+Command (Mac) on your keyboard and press your right bracket key ( ] ). This will instantly jump the selected layer straight to the top:
Here’s the image I’ll be using (stylish beauty portrait photo from Shutterstock):
Here’s the same sketch again, this time colorized with a single color (you can choose any color you like):
Then choose Solid Color from the top of the list that appears:
Start with a Photo that has some decent edge detail, here is one I got from Adobe Stock
And here’s the same effect after adding back the colors from the original photo:
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We need to invert the brightness levels in this layer, making light areas dark and dark areas light, and we can do that using Photoshop’s Invert command. Go up to the Image menu at the top of the screen, choose Adjustments, and then choose Invert (keyboard shortcut: Ctrl+I (Win) / Command+I (Mac)):
With the “Color” layer now the top-most layer in the document, your original image will re-appear, blocking the other layers below it from view, which is obviously not what we want. We want to blend the color from the original image in with our sketch. To do that, simply change the blend mode of the “Color” layer from Normal to Color:
With my image newly opened in Photoshop, we see in my Layers panel that the photo is sitting all by itself on the Background layer, currently the only layer in my document:
Then, just as we did back in Step 4, duplicate the Background layer by going up to the Layer menu at the top of the screen, choosing New, then choosing Layer via Copy, or by pressing Ctrl+J (Win) / Command+J (Mac) on your keyboard:
Photoshop adds a Levels adjustment layer, names it “Levels 1”, and places it above the other layers in the Layers panel:
With the name highlighted, type in the new name. Let’s name it “Color”. Press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) on your keyboard when you’re done to accept the name change:
In a moment, we’re going to create the main part of our sketch effect by blurring the layer using Photoshop’s Gaussian Blur filter. But rather than applying it as a normal filter, let’s apply Gaussian Blur as a Smart Filter.
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Then, to bring back the single color version, click on the Solid Color fill layer’s visibility icon (the empty square where the eyeball used to be) to turn it back on. Or, to bring back the photo’s original colors, click the “Color” layer’s visibility icon. I’ll turn my “Color” layer back on:
Finally, if the color looks too intense, you can reduce it by lowering the Opacity value of the Color layer. I’ll lower mine down to 65%:
To colorize the sketch with a single color, we’ll use one of Photoshop’s Solid Color fill layers. Click once again on the New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel:
This opens the Gradient Fill dialog box. I covered everything you need to know about drawing and editing gradients in Photoshop in our How To Draw Gradients With The Gradient Tool and How To Use The Gradient Editor tutorials so I won’t go into detail here. Instead, let’s look at how to quickly select one of Photoshop’s preset gradients and how to apply it to our sketch.
The options and controls for the Levels adjustment layer appear in Photoshop’s Properties panel, but there’s nothing here that we need to do with them. Instead, to darken the sketch, all we need to do is change the blend mode for the Levels adjustment layer from Normal to Multiply:
It may not seem like anything has happened, but if we look again in the Layers panel, we now see a small Smart Object icon in the lower right corner of the layer’s preview thumbnail. This tells us that the layer is now a Smart Object:
To colorize the sketch with the colors from the original image, change the blend mode of the Color layer from Normal to Color:
Turning off the “Color” layer by clicking its visibility icon.
Photoshop makes a copy of the layer, names it “Background copy 3” and places it directly above the original Background layer:
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Next, we need to make a copy of our desaturated layer. Click on the Background copy layer in the Layers panel and, just as we did with the original Background layer, drag it down onto the New Layer icon:
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.
And there we have it! That’s how to easily turn a photo into a black and white pencil sketch, along with a few different ways to colorize it, in Photoshop! If you found this tutorial helpful, please consider supporting Photoshop Essentials by downloading the PDF version! Check out our Photo Effects section for more Photoshop effects tutorials!
In this tutorial, we’ll learn how to easily turn a portrait photo into a pencil sketch, both in black and white and in color, using Photoshop CS6. If you’re using Photoshop CC, check out the updated Photoshop CC version.
So how do we apply Gaussian Blur as a Smart Filter? For that, we first need to convert the layer to a Smart Object. Why do we need to convert it into a Smart Object? It’s because, when a filter is applied to a normal layer, it remains a normal, static filter. But when the exact same filter is applied to a Smart Object, it automatically becomes a Smart Filter!
And finally, here’s how the sketch will look after colorizing it with a gradient. At the end of the tutorial, we’ll see how to easily switch between all four versions so you can choose the one you like best:
This inverts the image, giving it a film negative appearance:
To do that, click on the Background layer and drag it down onto the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel (second icon from the right):
What’s a Smart Filter, and how is it different from a normal filter? Well, Smart Filters are just like normal filters in Photoshop, only smarter! What makes them “smarter” is that while normal filters produce static results (that is, they make permanent changes to the pixels on a layer), Smart Filters are non-destructive and remain fully editable. They allow us to easily go back at any time and make changes to the filter’s settings without any loss of image quality. By applying Gaussian Blur as a Smart Filter, we’re giving ourselves the option to go back and fine-tune our sketch effect later rather than locking ourselves in with our initial filter settings.
Duplicate the layer by dragging into the new layer icon, or press Ctrl/Cmd+J
Double-clicking on the Gaussian Blur Smart Filter will re-open it for further editing.
This opens the Gaussian Blur dialog box. To create our main sketch effect, all we need to do is apply some blurring to the layer (the Smart Object). We control the amount of blurring using the Radius slider along the bottom of the dialog box. The further we drag the slider towards the right, the more we increase the radius value and the stronger the blurring will appear.
We’ve created our main sketch effect, but it’s a bit too light. Let’s darken it, and we can do that using a Levels adjustment layer. In the Adjustments panel again, click on the Levels icon (second icon from the left, top row):
After lowering the opacity, the overall brightness is now looking better:
This re-opens the Color Picker, allowing you to choose something different. I’ll try a pinkish-purple this time:
To choose a gradient, click on the small arrow to the right of the gradient color swatch at the top of the dialog box. Don’t click on the color swatch itself or you’ll open the Gradient Editor which is beyond the scope of this tutorial. Make sure you click on the arrow to the right of the color swatch:
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Now that we’ve converted the layer into a Smart Object, let’s apply the Gaussian Blur filter. Go up to the Filter menu in the Menu Bar along the top of the screen, choose Blur, and then choose Gaussian Blur:
Double-clicking the Gaussian Blur Smart Filter will re-open its dialog box.
This tutorial is from our Photo Effects series. Let’s get started!
Changing the blend mode of the Gradient Fill layer to Color.
A second copy of the Background layer, this one cleverly named Background copy 2, will appear directly above the original: