Turn Photo Into Sketch

Turn Photo Into Sketch Using Photoshop

Photo editing methods have gone too far that could be used to make the impossible possible. Nevertheless, converting or turning a form into another is truly magical and can give you a taste of uniqueness. Right now we are about to discuss the way to turn photo into sketch in Photoshop.

Adobe Corporation has made things soo simple and handy that you can only imagine. However, this tutorial of ours will help you to understand all of the steps to create your own sketch from any photo. The whole operation may seem long and difficult but they are actually simple line drawing and short if you do it practically.

Turn Photo Into Sketch

Turn Photo Into Sketch A Brief

The year 1685 was a remarkable time when the assumption of a portable camera was made. In 1816, the very first camera was used but before that people had to depend on huge-sized cameras for photography.

Well, before inventing the camera, rich people of ancient times used painting artists to create their portraits in exchange for a long time sitting or standing without moving. Pencil picture was also a remarkable part of that time’s portrayal.

There had been no method to archive the images created by these cameras before the emergence of photography procedures other than physically drawing them. “Turn picture into sketch” is the advanced operation of this age. The very first cameras were large enough to contain one or more persons inside, and they subsequently evolved into smaller and smaller variants.

Portable box cameras obscurely tailored for photography were broadly available by Niépce’s time. Johann Zahn anticipated the first camera which was also tiny and portable enough for it to be useful for photography in 1685, though it would have been over 150 years before it was eventually realized.

Today, in this information age, when we have advanced shooting gears to capture the most realistic and perfectly digitized photos, the classic sketch look returns that require turning the photo into a sketch. And, this is the artistic form of any portrait or photograph to have the feel of the combination of advanced and ancient age.

Step By Step Process To Turn Photo Into Sketch

With the help of Photoshop and some useful steps, we are about to perform the conversion to turn a picture into a drawing or similar to that. However, this is not the only way and there is no standardization issue that how far you should go or how you like the sketch.

You can stop at any point where you feel OK. Or, you can go thru the whole operation and follow till the end. We recommend you complete the tutorial. Who knows, you may like the last segment of the operation!

Turn Photo Into Sketch
Step by step

Image Source: freepik.com

In order to convert photos to drawings, we are using a photo that was downloaded from the renowned free stock photo website ‘freepik.com’. We have a beautiful girl with brownish-golden hair and an amazing expression. The image is over a solid colored background but that is not a fact.

To make things easy to understand we are using the background. You can use any image you like after learning the technique.

Step 1: Opening the photo in Photoshop

The very first thing you need to do is open Photoshop and load the image in that. The process is simple. Go to your explorer (Win) or finder (MAC) and click and drag the image over the Photoshop from the taskbar. Also, you can go to the Photoshop menu File>Open and browse your image from your local disk. Either way, you will have the image loaded in Photoshop.

Turn Photo Into Sketch
Opening the photo in Photoshop

We are using Photoshop CC2021 for this tutorial. You can use any closer version but not older than Photoshop CC2018. By the way, if you have any interest in learning about the history of Photoshop, you can check out our blog “What Is The History Of Photoshop”.

Step 2: Create a copy of the photo

It is pretty obvious to keep a copy intact so that the original image does not get damaged by accident. You may make unwanted changes and save that on the original photo. However, Photoshop contains several options to get back to the original but that could be painful for you. And, if you do not know the procedure to go back, that would be a mess.

Turn Photo Into Sketch
Creating a copy of the photo

The best way to create a copy of the photo is the keyboard command Ctrl/Command+J for Win/MAC. Or, you can click and drag the layer over the new layer icon and Photoshop will do the rest. Also, you can right-click on the background layer and select ‘Duplicate Layer’. The same option is available in Photoshop menu Layer>Duplicate Layer.

Step 3: Desaturation to Turn Photo Into Sketch

As we have made a duplicate layer, the original layer can stay idle. Click on the copy layer and desaturate it at this point. Well, why do we need to desaturate it? Because we are about to create a pencil sketch of the photo and pencils do not contain any color sketch.

Turn Photo Into Sketch

The best way to desaturate is using the keyboard command Ctrl/Comman+Shift+U for Win/MAC. Or, you can go to the Photoshop menu Image>Adjustments> Desaturate. Both ways you can take away all the colors present in the canvas.

Also, there is another way with the help of the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, the one we are using here. Just add this over the duplicated image layer and take the Saturation slider all the way to the left.

Step 4: Vanishing the photo

“Let’s vanish” is the famous movie dialogue from the MCU motion picture ‘Avengers’. We are also doing a similar touchup with the photo for the time being. Well, vanishing is important to take control of the pixels we are using for sketch creation in Photoshop.

Turn Photo Into Sketch
Vanishing the photo

So, we are using the keyboard command Ctrl/Command+I for Win/MAC to invert the image. You can also go to Photoshop menu Image>Adjustments>Invert and you will have the same. However, the keyboard shortcut is commonly used by professionals for convenience.

Now, change the Blend Mode from Normal to Color Dodge to Linear Dodge. They do similar vanishing but for the time being, we are proceeding with Color Dodge.

Step 5: Gaussian Blur to Turn Photo Into Sketch

As we have vanished the image of the previous operation or step, it is time to reveal the details once and for all. For that, we are using the Gaussian Blur where the number of pixels determines the visibility and the primary recognition of a sketch. You can call this the basement of the prime objective.

Turn Photo Into Sketch
Gaussian blur

Also, we have mentioned that there is no standard for the amount you use for sketch creation, so you can select any percent of pixels here. We are using a Radius amount of 55.3 pixels which seems better. You can choose more or less if that pleases you. However, avoid using too high or too low as that may not be resembling a smart appearance. Press OK to apply and process to the next step.

Step 6: Decreasing Brightness

You will find the image too light and bright that needs to be fixed at this level. So, we are going to use the Levels Adjustment layer and decrease the brightness just a little bit. Remember, decreasing the brightness enough may be unnatural and could take away the artistic form of the image subject.

Turn Photo Into Sketch
Decreasing brightness

Add a Levels Adjustment Layer from “Create new fill or adjustment layer” and move the sliders as visualized in the above image. Keep the adjustments within the limit so that it does not get too dark on the canvas. Well, you can use the Curves Adjustment Layer to do the same.

There will not be much difference between any one of these you use. We see the adjustment is good enough and not go any further.

Step 7: Brightness & Contrast Adjustments

The Brightness & Contrast of a sketch could be one of the most important matters that you should take care of. If the brightness is high, you cannot highlight the details of the sketch. On the other hand, if the brightness is low, the sketch may look dull and gloomy. Similarly, for better sharpness, you need to do something about the contrast, just do not overdo it, that’s it.

Turn Photo Into Sketch
Brightness contrast

So, simply add a Brightness / Contrast adjustment layer from the same place where other adjustment layers are present. We believe that you already know the place and if you do not know that, go back to the previous step to find out more about it.

Here, we will decrease the Brightness a little bit and increase the Contrast a little as well. You can choose any amount you like. Just make sure not to exaggerate anything.

Step 8: Merging All The Layers Into One

At this stage, we need to merge all layers that we have created till now. Merging is important for various reasons from keeping the changes intact to further enhancements without harming other layers.

Well, this is just an additional option where the layers we have created before will remain below the merged layer. So, there is no chance of losing them so you might want to do some changes.

Turn Photo Into Sketch
Merging all layers

All you need to do is select the topmost layer from the layers panel, use Ctrl/Command + Alt/Option + Shift + E for Win/MAC and you will have a new layer containing all the characteristics you have applied. However, you cannot make changes like the layers below that but, you can definitely delete this layer, make changes to the below layers, and merge all of them again.

Step 9: Smart Object Making to Turn Photo Into Sketch

A smart object is an option that Photoshop provides in order to keep the details of a layer intact. So, whether you resize the layer to a smaller object, apply that, and go back, the details remain safe. Well, if you enlarge the object, it will lose details as the pixels are limited to the original size only.

Turn Photo Into Sketch
Smart object

As we are explaining things more precisely by mentioning all the options available, why not for this one? Pity, there is no shortcut for creating a smart object. However, you can right-click on the layer and select “Convert to Smart Object”. Or, you can go to Photoshop menu Layer>Smart Objects>Convert to Smart Object to do the same.

Step 10: Addition Of Noise

Now it is time to add some noise to create a realistic sketch so far. The smart objects allow us to work non-destructively with the availability of making changes if required. So, before we add noise, it is important. To make changes to the noise value, just double-click on the Noise layer and you will have the box to edit.

Turn Photo Into Sketch
Addition of noise

To add noise, simply go to Photoshop menu Filter>Noise>Add Noise. Also, you can select the first option of the Filter menu where you will see “Add Noise” directly. Well, there is another option which is the keyboard shortcut Ctrl/Command + Alt/Option + F to do the same. We are choosing a value that matches the best for our image. You can choose a different value if you like.

Step 11: Turn the Photo Into Sketch Sharpen Filter

Now, you need to sharpen the image a little bit where the noise along with other pixels may look more clear and significant. More like, this option will make the presentation a little ironic. However, here also, you should not randomly change the values as this may be disastrous. But, don’t worry, there is still the undo option.

Sharpen Filter
Sharpen filter

We are making a few changes here and not too much. If you see closely, you will find the Sharpening layer is under the Smart Filters and can be modified later. So, if you think that you may need to tune up the slider later, no problem. It is accessible at the point where you left.

Step 12: Merging All The Layers Into One Again

Now we will do the merging all the layers into one once again. I believe, you already know the shortcut for both Windows operating system and MAC. so, there won’t be a problem. Still, if you forget that by chance, go back to “Step 8: Merging All The Layers Into One” and follow that to implement.

Step 13: Poster Edges

We are close to the end but one important task is still pending. And, that is the posterization effect on the image. Well, this is very important to create some harsh and impure effects so that you may find this as it is created not edited. However, if you like the smoother effects of the canvas, this won’t be necessary and you can stop at this point.

Poster Edges
Poster edges

To apply the poster effect, go to the Photoshop menu Filter>Filter Gallary and you will reach another window where a variety of effects is present. Choose “Poster Edges” and change the values with the help of the sliders or putting numbers. We are using some values for our image that may look catchy.

Step 14: Turn Photo Into Sketch Masking

Masking is one amazing feature of Photoshop to show and hide areas in a photo. This option is also usable in new fill and adjustment layers. Well, this is something that allows you non-destructive editing and you can return to the original form anytime you want. So, we will mask the image here to hide some areas and show some.

To learn more about Image Masking, you can visit our blogs;

  1. What Is Image Masking And What Common Uses Of It
  2. Image Masking In Photoshop, How And Why
  3. What Is The Difference Between Image Masking And Clipping Path

So, we have added a mask and taken the brush tool with the foreground color black. The Flow and Opacity should be 100%. We are brushing over the whole canvas except for the hair and pupils of the eyes. The reason is, if you make that smooth, that won’t represent an artistic form of the image.

However, leaving them as it does not mean good enough as it is your choice. We are mentioning the steps to make the sketch more artistic.

Step 15: Changing the Blend Mode

You can change the Blend Mode to make the sketch more natural. Well, this is not mandatory as the view is already looking amazing. Still, this option can make the portrait a little darker.

Changing the Blend Mode
Changing the blend mode

So, change the Blend mode from Normal to Overlay. You can choose other options that seem the best for your image. Make sure to choose one of the darker blend modes because naturally, sketches are dark and not bright.

Step 16: Turn the Photo Into a Sketch Finalizing

We are done with the process. There is actually nothing more to highlight. But, you can decrease the opacity of the image a little bit to reduce extra harsh effects.

Photoshop Tutorial

Simply, select the layer that contains the mask and decrease the opacity to 50-60% or the much you feel better. We are using 65% opacity for this image and that looks great.


Turning a photo into a sketch that may look created by pencil and the hand of an artist. The original art form is truly expensive if you hire someone to create a sketch of you. Moreover, you cannot move a bit while creating the piece of sketch otherwise the impression could be disastrous.

Also, in this busy life, it is too difficult to free some of your time for artistic sketching. So, the alternative way to have a taste is possible with the help of Photoshop and a simple method. We created Photoshop Action while creating the sketch out of scrap.

You can download the Action here and use it to create a sketch in no time. Well, for better results, you need to follow steps 14, 15, and 16 by yourself. That’s it.

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How to Photoshop a picture?

Ans: Photoshop is the most advanced photo editing program with a lot of advanced tools, features, and combinations. So, you need to be precise about what you want to do with your picture in order to Photoshop it. Here, the word ‘Photoshop indicates photo editing of your images.

How to draw a line in Photoshop?

Ans: You need to select the line tool from the tools panel and click and drag on the canvas to draw a line. As this is a vector line, you can modify it anytime you want without losing details. Also, you can make it large, thick, and rotate as you want. One mentionable part is if you want to erase or divide the line, you need to rasterize it first.

How to outline an image in Photoshop?

Ans: How to outline the subject of an image in Photoshop should be more appropriate because you cannot see the difference if you outline an image.

So, you need to isolate a subject, go to the layer style, and select ‘Outer Glow’. Here you can make the outline and modify that at will. Make sure to press OK to apply otherwise you may lose any modifications.

How to turn a picture into a drawing?

Ans: In the above tutorial, we have tried to give you simple instructions to turn a picture into a drawing. Well, there are other ways to do that you can try them also.

Furthermore, some websites offer free photo-to-sketch conversions with limited options or just give you converted files. But, if you need to do it as you want, better to use Photoshop and do it yourself.

How can I turn the photo black and white?

Ans: You can use Ctrl/Command+Shift+U for Win/MAC to desaturate an image instantly. This will take away all the colors present and make your image black and white.

Or, you can take the Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer over your image layer and input the Saturation value ‘0’. Also, you can go to Photoshop menu Image>Adjustments>Desaturate for the same.