Easy Way to Create Sketch Effect in Photoshop

Easy Way to Create Sketch Effect in Photoshop

Photoshop is a versatile tool which can be used for a variety of design and photography related task. In this tutorial, I will explain to you how to convert continuous tone images to sketch using filters and adjustments in a non-destructive way. Non-destructive means that you can adjust and tweak the final result even after saving and reopening the file.

Steps to create a sketch effect

In this tutorial, I will work with an image downloaded from unsplash. You can use the convenience of Libraries panel to search for an image on Adobe Stock or alternative use Free Stock Search extension. It is not the ultimate requirement to use exactly the same image, you can use your own similar image or download free image from the internet.
Images which will work for sketch effect
Images which will work for sketch effect. Any image above displayed will work for sketch effect. On the left is image from pixabay while on the right side are listed images from Adobe Stock. I am usually choosing images with textured background per my likeness.


Are you ready? Ensure that your image is not too small. It should have at least 2000 px on the wide side. Here are the steps:

 Step 1  Open image in Photoshop.

 Step 2  Convert Background layer (or any amount of layers which are creating the image) to Smart Object layer. This step is required because flexibility to change settings later for the better final result. To convert Background or multiple layers to Smart Object layer use right-click on layer(s) > Convert to Smart Object or go to Filter > Convert for Smart Filters.

 Step 3  Go to Filter > Filter Gallery. Apply the Photocopy filter. Which exactly settings to use differ from image to image. I will use Detail 11 and Darkness 14. Click OK to confirm and return to Photoshop.
Photocopy filter in Filter Gallery
The very first filter in this process is Photocopy from Sketch group. Settings for detail and Darkness are not fixed, experiment till you think you have good result.  You can always change settings since filter is applied to Smart Object layer.

 Step 4  The next step in my tutorial is to apply Threshold adjustment layer from Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Threshold. Exactly same adjustment is available from Window > Adjustments and from Create new fill or adjustment layer at the bottom of Layers panel. Play around with threshold slider and watch on the image. You can skip using this adjustment or turn it off if you think it is not adding to effect. The main reason to use Threshold is the ability to quickly and easily manipulate the final result by making it more prominent or by removing some details.
Threshold layer
Threshold adjustment is optional. I am using it to quickly tweak and manipulate effect by removing some tiny and not necessary details. You can always change settings but also to hide this layer at any time.


 Step 5  It is time to colorize optionally your sketch. I will use a Gradient Map adjustment layer. This adjustment is available as all other layers of this type from the Layer > New Adjustment Layer menu, from Adjustments panel and from Create new fill or adjustment layer at the bottom of Layers panel. It is up to you which colors to use. I will use blue and white to get a blue lines on white background.
Gradient Map layer
You can use Gradient Map adjustment layer to colorize sketch. In this case I am using blue and white but you can use any other color combination or to entirely skip colorization.

 Step 6  One more optional step is to apply a Gaussian Blur filter to the Smart Object layer. You can reduce the number of small details or garbage which is not adding to effect. By increasing Blur size you can also get thicker sketch lines.

 Step 7  The last step is to manually improve sketch if needed. Use Stamp Layers command to create a single merged layer and place it on top of the layers stack. Turn off merged layer then change settings either on Threshold or Filter Gallery to get details where they are missing or for any other reason which can improve the final result. Stamp layers one more time, move merged layer on top. Add a layer mask to the topmost merged layer and start hiding undesired pixels by painting on the layer mask. If you paint with black on layer mask that will show pixels on the merged layer below. If you make any mistake do not worry, everything is non-destructive and you can change just anything. If you are tired or you do not have time save as PSD file and open it anytime that you have time and mood to continue working.
Final composition with Layers panel visible
Here is almost finished composition with all layers in the Layers panel visible. I have added layer named fix on the top of layers stack to fix some imperfections.

 Step 8  Since we have involved Threshold adjustment in this process your edges will be hard. If you want to soften edges then use a small amount of Gaussian Blur to add anti-aliasing effect.


Product used in this tutorial:
Adobe Photoshop CC 2019 

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