Creating a sketch effect in Photoshop

Note: This post assumes familiarity with Photoshop.

In my previous post, I showed a sketch portrait of my granddaughter Anna, created in Photoshop. There are lots of applications for this kind of effect – for example, in this case, I might want to use the sketch to make a printed birth announcement. Sometimes, too, an artistic rendering of a photograph can allow you to save a photo that would otherwise be too technically imperfect to use. In the case of my photo of Anna, for example, I loved the shot, but I was shooting in very dim hospital room lighting without a flash, resulting in a 1/10 second exposure time. I didn’t have a tripod there, so the shot was handheld, resulting in a photo with motion blur. Here’s the overall shot:

And here’s a close-up that allows you to see the blur I’m talking about:

That double line along her nose is due to my shaking hands as I shot the photo at 1/10 second. To non-photographers, it may seem insignificant, but this amount of motion blur would be at least slightly visible in even a small print, and would certainly prevent the shot being used for 8×10′s or larger.

There are lots of ways to produce a sketch effect in Photoshop, but I’ll just describe what I did. First, I converted the image to black and white, using the Image menu:

This brings up a set of sliders which allows control of the conversion. Since my image had a lot of red, yellow, and blue (from the skin and clothing), I adjusted those sliders to give me a B&W image with the desired contrast and tone. Here are the slider settings, along with a portion of the resulting conversion:

Next, I wanted to add the art effect. I started out by using the Watercolor filter:

with these settings:

I experimented with other settings, of course, but what I found was that this filter deepens the shadows too much for any higher Shadow Intensity setting, and higher values for Texture gave me too much of a “spatter” effect. I kept the Brush Detail at 1 simply because that’s what it took in order to give a little of a non-photograph look. Here’s what I got from this filter:

You can see that not many of the details are yet being affected. I wasn’t happy with the sketch effect yet, so I moved on to the Dry Brush filter:

which gave me this:

Better, but still not enough. Next, duplicated the image into a second layer (Command-J on the Mac), and applied the Find Edges filter (Filter>Stylize>Find Edges), which gave me this:

Too much! So now I simply adjusted the Opacity of this layer in Photoshop, so that the previous Dry Brush-filtered image could show through:

and that gave me the effect I was looking for:

I should note a couple of points for those who may be trying to do something similar on their own: First, the details of the appropriate filter settings will depend in part on the size and resolution of the image file you’re working with. In my case, I was using a 12 megapixel image from my Nikon D300. You’ll have to adjust the various filter sliders to your own case. And second, note that I probably didn’t have to use all three of the filters. Since the Watercolor filter had such a small effect at the settings I chose, I probably could have skipped it. And finally, don’t take the settings I describe above literally – my original result show here was done just for this blog, and I didn’t write down my settings. When I decided this morning to write this tutorial, I went back and tried to re-create my work, but I probably was off a little. Experiment on your own, and have fun!

Great things

From the sketch pad last week:

I’m not sure about that attribution of the quote. I gave it to Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman) because we have some wallpaper that includes the quote, and the title of the pattern is something like Johnny Appleseed Prayer.

The great thing that has happened to me this past week is that I became a grandfather to little Anna. She seems so tiny, even though she’s probably slightly above average in size for a three-day old infant – how quickly we forget. Anita and I are enjoying our chance to get to know her, and she’s being quickly taught that her grandfather will have a camera in her face a lot of the time. Here’s her Photoshop sketch portrait:

The sketch was done by a black and white conversion (Image>Adjust>Black and White), followed by a couple of filters (Watercolor and Drybrush). I then duplicated the image in a second layer and used the Find Edges filter, and reduced the opacity of that layer until I was happy with the overall result.

Welcome to the family, Anna!