One of the classic Photoshop tutorial topics is the creation of a pencil drawing effect from a photograph. It’s one of those quick and simple techniques that produces a satisfying result, which makes the tutorial great for beginners. Throughout its history, Photoshop has featured lots of built-in filters that produce various sketch and artistic effects, but they don’t exactly produce a realistic outcome. In this tutorial I’ll show some clever steps that will transform a photograph into a hand drawn pencil sketch, which can even be fine tuned to find the most authentic look.

How To Create a Realistic Pencil Sketch Effect in Photoshop

The effect we’ll be creating in this tutorial mimics the lines and shading of a pencil drawing. Producing this style of artwork for real would take hours of work for even the most talented artist, but the power of Photoshop gives us the ability to replicate it pretty well in just minutes. This makes it much more feasible to use the sketched look within your designs that might require an ‘artsy’ theme. If you don’t fancy creating this effect manually, you might be interested in my free Artistic Paint, Sketch & Ink Photo Effect Actions.

Begin by opening up your chosen source photograph in Adobe Photoshop. The effect works best with images that have a clean background in good lighting and focus, so working with a professional studio shot like this stock image from Shutterstock provides the best results.

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  1. This was a useful tutorial. But what if we use plugins for Photoshop that can do the same job but with a single click. What are the drawbacks of that?

  2. Hi Chris!! you did a creative sketch effect in photoshop, also your tutorial help to improve my skill. thank you so much for your tutorial.

  3. love the effect, i saved my file as a psd, but when i try to create a jpeg the result is slightly different.

  4. Thank you Chris. It works wonderful on all sorts of images. I’ll bookmark this and use it when I need it. I love how just with a few simple steps, these effects can be achived. Thanks.

    • My pleasure Naomi! I love writing tutorials because it also documents the techniques for me to refer back to. There’s been many times where I’ve Googled something and ended up reading my own guide!

      • thank you so much, i never have the chance to go to college and i have learned so much with your blog! <3

        you are awesome!

  5. Thought that I saw a lot of “Find edges” and “High pass”, “Low pass” filters going on there. Maybe I should finally upgrade from CS4. But I’m also not a frequent PS user. Illustrator is my main tool of the trade.

  6. Thank you for the tutorial it helped me a lot in my photography class. By the way, you look like one of my teachers and he agrees. I think you guys would get along.

  7. Being a veteran pencil and colored pencil illustrator of 30+ years, I was skeptical of how realistic the effect would appear. All I can say is hats off to you, sir. Excellent work and always fun to learn a new technique.

  8. I have tried several techniques to turn a photo into a sketch. Some have been pretty good. This makes only the second one I have seen that uses ‘Glowing Edges’ filter. The other one made a difference. But, I wasn’t that satisfied, overall, with the results. I think maybe this may work. I’m going to give it a good go!
    Thank you very much!

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