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Create a Sketchy Work of Art in Just 10 Steps


After the hand-drawn blogging icon set that I posted recently was well received, I’ve decided to write a Photoshop tutorial on just how I achieved this sketchy, hand-drawn effect. Arguably this effect works better with smaller, simpler images such as icons, but I thought that I’d try my hand at a more complex image – a sketchy portrait.

Hand Drawn Icon Set:

Final Image

This is the final image that we’ll be creating:

Step 1

Open up your document. I made my image 500px wide, as this is the final size that I want it to be. However, for this technique you must resize your photo to 5 times its original size, so in this case 2500px wide. To do this go to image>image size and change the proportions. It doesn’t matter that your image will be worse quality after doing this.

Step 2

Now with your image suitably resized, create a new layer called ‘sketch lines’. Select your paintbrush tool, and a paintbrush of a dark brown color, 2px in size, 100% opacity. Now reduce your original photo layer’s opacity to around 75% so that you’ll be able to see your sketch lines more clearly.

Now return to your ‘sketch lines’ layer and use your paintbrush tool to brush roughly lines over the lines of your photo. The trick here is to be fairly rough, and keep brushing roughly over the same areas to build up your image. If some of your lines mess up then don’t delete them! This all helps build up the sketchy effect that we’re trying to create. Also, try to pay attention to the textures of what you’re drawing over. For instance, you can make your sketch lines for hair messier and more random than the detailed lines for the man’s eyes. A great tip is to just hold down your mouse button whilst using the paintbrush and drag your cursor back and forth over the same lines, rather than keep clicking each time you need to make a new line. The images below show some stages of this process.

Step 3

Ok, things are looking good so far. You’ve laid out your rough sketch lines over every part of your photo (just sketch over the man, not the photo’s background).

Now you want to give a little variety to your lines, as well as capturing part of the shadowing of the original photo. To do this, zoom in to actual size, and use your paintbrush to brush over any line that looks like it is darker in the original photo. Do this on your ‘sketch lines’ layer still.

Step 4

You’re now done with line drawing. Your image should be looking very messy, but have all of the details of the original photo pretty well covered. To see how your image is coming along be sure to keep hiding your original photo layer, leaving only your ‘sketch lines’ layer showing.

Now comes the stage to fill in the color of the image. Select a watercolor brush set such as this one.

Create a new layer called ‘paint’ beneath your ‘sketch lines’ layer and above your photo layer. Select a brush from your watercolor brush set and make it’s size around 150-200px and it’s opacity around 40%. Then proceed to fill in parts of your image with color. Use your eyedropper tool to select the colors to use from your original photo, so for instance for your face just eyedrop an average skin shade from the man’s face. Repeat the same for the man’s hair and clothes. Also, be sure to use various brushes from your brush set to create a more random effect.

The image below shows part of the image after filling it with color. The photo layer beneath it is still visible, so you’re actually seeing a photo, covered with a 40% opacity brush. Your final product won’t be this bold.

Step 5

Now create a new layer above your ‘paint’ layer called ‘paint dark’. Paint in shadows very roughly using a large watercolor brush. The opacity will mean that any areas of existing paint on your ‘paint layer’ that you paint over will be darkened simply through layering your brush strokes. Just like your line sketching, be very rough with your painting. If you go over lines this doesn’t matter at all, just be really free with your mouse movements.

The image below shows the image after shadows have been added, with the original photo layer still visible.

Step 6

Create a new layer called ‘paint light’, and you guessed it – paint in the highlight based on data from the original photo. This time just use a watercolor brush at 10%, color: white. Again, just be very free and rough. With both your dark/light layers if you want to make a particular area more intense just brush over it several times to build up it’s opacity.

The image below shows the addition of highlights, with the original photo layer still visible.

Step 7

Now hide your photo layer, and duplicate your ‘sketch lines’ layer 3 times in order to build up the boldness of the sketched lines. Then merge the duplicate sketch line layers with the original.

The image below shows the result. As you can see the lines are much bolder, and the paint marks are fainter due to the photo being hidden.

Step 8

Now resize your image back to it’s original 500px width. Reducing your image to a fifth of it’s size means that your rough sketch lines now appear incredibly detailed. They are still sketchy, but the fact that you applied them to a much bigger image means that you have captured an extraordinary amount of detail without too much effort.

The image below shows your image so far at 100% zoom (actual size).

Step 9

The painted areas are not looking quite intense enough, so I duplicate my ‘paint’ layer. However, this is too intense, so I reduce the opacity of the duplicate to 50%. I leave my dark/light paint layers alone.

Step 10

To finish up I add a paper texture as my background. The yellow tone of the background allows the white of the man’s clothes stand out more than against a white background.

And We’re Done!

I hope that you enjoyed this tutorial. Despite being quite a basic technique, this tutorial can be used on virtually any image and create some really cool effects. It may take a while to sketch over an image as complex as this one, but hopefully you can see that for something as similar as an RSS icon it’s as simple as resize (larger)>sketch>paint>resize (smaller). It’s a great way to create grungy elements for your designs, or just wow someone with a ‘hand-drawn’ portrait of them.

Download Source File for this Tutorial

About the Author:

Tom is the founder of PSDFAN. He loves writing tutorials, learning more about design and interacting with the community. On a more interesting note he can also play guitar hero drunk with his teeth.

Leave a comment


  1. Andrew Houle says:

    Tom, this tut rocks! Great job!

  2. Tom says:

    Thanks a lot Andrew, I appreciate the comment as always. I should have a lot more time now to keep up with your posting as my uni workloads calmed down a bit.

  3. RUGRLN says:

    It’s a cool tut alright, but unless you ain’t good with the mouse, a graphics tablet is my only hope.
    But nonetheless a cool tut, i’ve been relying on Ai’s live trace feature so far.

  4. Tom says:

    Hey Rugrln. I’m not particularly good with the mouse myself, but the beauty of this technique is that you don’t have to be! Even if your lines are very messy, the fact that you’re resizing your image back to 1/5 of it’s size means that it will just appear sketchy and details, rather than shaky.

  5. Tom says:

    Thanks :) Your website is proving a great resource as ever btw.

  6. aamira says:

    thanx man………. thats wat i hav been tring 4 months but finally u tote me…….. thanx again thats wonderfull

  7. TextureWell says:

    Tom, this is my new favorite tutorial in a long (LONG) while. Awesome job.

  8. Tom says:

    I’m really glad that you guys enjoyed this tut so much. Would you like to see more tuts like this one in the future?

  9. [...] 3. Create a Sketchy Work of Art in Just 10 Steps [...]

  10. TomTwo says:

    Wow!!! ive been looking for something exactly like this for ages, but wasnt exactly sure how to do it. thanks kindly.

  11. misterfayruz says:

    Hi great Tom u r really really geniues that was my dream to do art like this

  12. Dana says:

    amazing tutorial, I’m kinda digging the fact the end product turned out looking slightly like harvey keitel (along with looking absolutely incredible) ;)

  13. Tom says:

    Thanks for the kind words everyone! Simply great community we have going here :)

  14. CgBaran Tuts says:

    Great work thanks

  15. Guilherme says:

    Hi Tom!!
    What a f**** awesom tut!
    I really really enjoyed working with sketch!
    On the beggining I was all discouraged cuz I dont know how to draw, but this tut made it so easy, I’m impress with my own abilities …. Io/
    Good vibes always!
    Keep rockin the PSD!!

  16. Tuto says:

    Its interesting artwork. I think people think it artwork, not digital artwork. I should have to start sketch first.

  17. Abbe says:

    Hi Thanks for tutorial

  18. Shelley says:

    Wow this is great! The sketch looks like Sean Penn! I am impressed at how easy it looks!

  19. bashir says:

    Wow!!! ive been looking for something exactly like this for ages, but wasnt exactly sure how to do it. thanks kindly.

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