In this Photoshop tutorial you’ll learn how to turn a photo into a line drawing effect in Photoshop. By the end you’ll be able to turn any photo into work of art, just like the pros, presenting your photo in a newly artistic way.

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It’s best to use an image with a white background to get the best effect. If that’s not the case with your image, start with our tutorial that shows you the step-by-step process for removing the background.

Photo to pencil sketch

Duplicate background layer:

Begin by duplicating the background layer. If you’re not sure how to do this, start with our tutorial that teaches you all you need to know about layers in Photoshop.

Drag the background layer to duplicate

Convert color photo to black & white:

Convert the color photo to black and white by clicking on the duplicate background layer, choose Black and White, and then click the double arrow to close the panel.

Make a new black and white photo by clicking on lower portion of layer panel

Change blending mode:

Return to the background copy layer, click Blending mode and choose Color Dodge. This will give you a screen will more contrast.

Click blending mode to the color dodge

Invert the photo:

To reverse or invert the black and white of the image, similar to how you would view a negative piece of film, press Ctrl + I or go to Image > Adjustment > Invert.

Go to image, adjustment and invert

You will then see that everything disappears.

Convert the layer to smart object:

Right click on the layer converted black and white layer and choose Convert to Smart Object.

Convert black and white layer to smart object

Apply Gaussian blur:

Next, apply Gaussian Blur. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian blur to make the object.

Go to filter, blur, gaussian blur to make the object

Adjust Gaussian blur window:

By blurring the image you can begin to see the outline of the image’s subject, which forms the foundation of the line drawing. Set the radius at 6.4 and adjust it slightly to see which works best for you. Then click OK.

Select 3.4 pixel in Gaussian blur

Gaussian blur window is in the layer panel:

Within the layers panel you can see that the Gaussian Blur adjustment area if you want to tweak the level of blur to your desire.

Gaussian blur option to go back to adjust later

Simple line drawing effect:

You stop right here with this line drawing effect if you’re going for something simple, but we recommend you keep going to get a more detailed line drawing.

Simple line drawing effect by first step

Duplicate background copy layer:

From here, create another copy of the background layer by clicking the background copy box, then click Ctrl+J.

Copy the background image

Drag layer to top:

Click and drag the newly created duplicate layer to the top of the window.

Drag the copied layer to top

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Desaturate top layer:

Desaturate that layer by clicking Image > Adjustments > Desaturate.

Click on image, adjustment and desaturate

Apply filter gallery:

Click Filter > Filter Gallery, and then Stylize. This will create another negative looking effect and allows you to see the outline of the image in white.

Open filter gallery by clicking on Filter

Adjust style in filter gallery:

Now you’re getting closer to a pencil line drawing. You can adjust the edges to find the width of line that you desire. Next, work on smoothing out the edge and the brightness factor. We recommend using an Edge Width of 1, Edge Brightness of 4 and Edge Smoothness to 6. Click OK when finished.

Select the style on filter gallery and adjust

The image is still invert in negative form. Let’s change it back.

Invert the image:

Click Ctrl+I or go to Image > Adjustment > Invert to revert the image back black lines on white background.

Go to image, adjustment and invert

Change blending mode to multiply:

To remove the white pixels and keep the black pixels, you will use Blend Mode. This causes the white pixels to become invisible and the darker pixels to remain.

Select Multiply from blending mode

You have now just created the actual outline for your drawing.

Add shading to the existing line drawing:

To add shading to the existing line drawing to add more realistic depth and make it three dimensional, click on your background layer again and drag the duplicate drawing up to the top of the layers screen.

Copy the background image again and drag to top

Desaturate the image:

Desaturate the image like you did before clicking Ctrl+shift+U.

Press Ctrl+shift+U to desaturate the image

Apply filter gallery:

Click Filter > Filter gallery. A Sketch section window will appear. Select Charcoal. This will create an etching effect that is similar to the appearance of pencil drawings. Set the Edge at 1, Details at 4, and Light and Dark around 46 to 48. You can adjust these settings accordingly depending on your taste. Click OK.

Select charcoal style from filter gallery and adjust the area

Change blending to multiply:

In this last step you want to remove the white and get the final effect closer to a line drawing. Go back to the Blend mode and change it to Multiply.

Final line drawing image

You now have more defined the characteristics of a line drawing!

So there you have it, you now know how to create a line drawing in Photoshop. As you continue to improve your skill, you’ll get faster and better at this process.

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Rokaiya Yeasmin Munni

As manager and head of digital marketing at Clipping Path India, Rokaiya wants to help retailers and photographers use marketing strategies and tactics that will elevate their business. She has an 18-year background in graphic design, content management and digital marketing.

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