Looking for a quick way to turn photos into a pencil sketch? This beginner tutorial will show you how you can use just three layers to create the effect and it’s all done nondestructively.

Preview of Final Results

Step 1

Here’s the photo that we’ll be using. For best results, you should use a photo around 6 megapixels or lower(3000×2000 px).

Image provided by ShutterStock

Step 2

We’ll be creating this effect using all nondestructive techniques which will minimize the layers and let you go back to readjust the settings at any time. Start by converting the layer into a Smart Object (Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Object). By converting your layer into a Smart Object, you can apply Smart Filters which are filters that you can readjust at anytime.

You can distinguish Smart Objects from regular layers with the Smart Object icon on the bottom-right corner of your layer thumbnail.

Step 3

Duplicate the layer twice then rename the layers to Outline, Left Diagonal Strokes, and Right Diagonal Strokes (from top to bottom).

Hide the top two layers and select the bottom layer.

Step 4

With the bottom layer selected, go to Filter > Filter Gallery. Select the Graphic Pen filter under the Sketch folder, set the Stroke Direction to “Right Diagonal”, then adjust the stroke length and light/dark balance. Click OK when you’re done.

Step 5

Unhide and select the “Left Diagonal Strokes” layer. Repeat the previous step but set the stroke direction to “Left Diagonal”.

Step 6

Change the opacity of the current “Left Diagonal Strokes” layer to 50%.

Here’s what the image looks like so far.

Step 7

Now we’re going to add an outline. Unhide and select the “Outline” layer then go to Filter > Stylize > Find Edges. Change the blending mode to Multiply. This will add some colors to your sketch but not in a very appealing way. So we’ll need to get rid of the color in the next step.

Step 8

You can’t use the Desaturate or Hue/Saturation filter directly on a Smart Object but you can add them as an adjustment layer by going into the Layers > New Adjustment Layer menu. There’s also another trick that uses the layer styles to desaturate the layer. I personally prefer this method because it doesn’t require adding another layer.

To desaturate using layer styles, add a Color Overlay layer style (Layer > Layer Style > Color Overlay). Set the color to white, gray, or black (doesn’t matter which one), then set the blend mode to “Color”. Click OK when you’re done and the color is removed!

We’re done! Here’s how the image looks like. The next step is optional but you should try it out if you want to create the sketch effect in color.

Step 9

To add the colors back, duplicate the “Outline” layer then remove all the layer styles and smart filters by going to Layer > Layer Style > Clear Layer Styles and Layer > Smart Filters > Clear Smart Filters. Change the blending mode to Color, rename the layer to “Color”, and you’re done!

Updating the Image

If at any time you want to change the image, you can double-click on the thumbnail of any layer. Update your image or make any adjustments you like, save and close, and your image will automatically be updated without having to redo all the steps. That’s the benefit of using Smart Objects!

Final Results

Download the PSD


Sketch Effect.zip | 78.6 MB