The ability to make quick pencil-sketch graphics out of practically any photograph in minutes has been one of the most popular Photoshop features for years, and it is often one of the first filter transformations that budding artists master. Mastering the Photoshop sketch filter is trickier than it seems, though, because it takes more than just applying the stock filters that the program gives you for that purpose. While the built-in sketch transformation features work quickly and give the desired effect, they aren’t quite detailed enough to look like realistic pencil sketches, but there are techniques that will produce a fully detailed pencil sketch-style rendering of your photo.
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Detailed Sketch Filtering Explained
The first thing you will need to do is open your source photo. You can use both high-quality stock images or your own photo creations for this. To start with, you will want to duplicate the photo’s main layer. You can do this by dragging the background layer over the new layer box. Then, invert the colors in the new layer. You can do this by going to Images > Adjustments > Invert. After that, right click and select Convert to Smart Object. The next steps will clarify how to get the Photoshop sketch filter that will deliver detailed, realistic pencil sketch images from your photos.
The next step is to set up a Gaussian Blur in the Filter menu. Change the radius to about 40 pixels and remember to apply it as a Smart Effect. Doing that on a Smart Object will let you play with the effect after it is applied, rather than having to live with a one-and-done filter adjustment. Then change the blending mode of your duplicate background image to Color Dodge. The result will dramatically boost the graininess of the image, bringing out more of the sketch effect you are looking for.
Next, create a pair of adjustment layers. Click on the Adjustment Layer icon and move the sliders for shadows and mid-tones a little to the right. This will darken the image some, helping the contrast further. For the second adjustment layer, create a black and white layer. This will give the image the required sketch effect.
Adding pencil lines is a matter of copying the merged layer and then adding a Glowing Lines effect with a little blurring at the edges. You can also remove the black and white adjustment layer to create a colored pencil drawing effect. Your custom Photoshop sketch filter is now complete, and you can easily duplicate it while recording an Action to simplify the process for next time.