Photoshop Sketchy Technique

About: I love to stay home as much as as I love to travel, I've been to 49 states (missing Alaska) and 31 countries. I have two wiener dogs now and a cat. We all live together in a house in the woods. With no roaches.

I love all the potential for this sketchy technique I found by this very generous soul at but I couldn't follow along with his instructions so I came up with a different way of doing it. I give him all the credit though as even though I couldn't understand how he got from point A to point B he was my inspiration.

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Step 1: What You Will Need

1. A Basic Knowledge of Photoshop, but I am going to hold your hand so don't worry about this too much.
2. A Photograph That You Can Open In Photoshop

Step 2: Making a Layer

Open your photo in Photoshop (adjust the size and everything you would normally do but remember what you do - exactly), then click on Layers > New > Layer

Step 3: Make Another Layer

 Make a layer from the background - this time make the opacity low - like 60%.

Layer > New > Layer from background (adjust the opacity at this point)

Step 4: Make Another New Layer

Select Layer 1 then Layer > New 
Now the layer you are working with is called Layer2

The reason for this apparent redundancy in layers is so that the paint brush will paint in the color black, otherwise it will paint in the same 60% opacity as the rest of the image.

Step 5: Sketchy Part

In this step using what ever paintbrush you select, at what ever size you select, doodle all over the person or thing that you want to be sketchy. You don't need to feel like you can't lift up your pen, you can even erase mistakes, doodle, outline, sketch, shadow, it doesn't matter at this point as you are just learning the technique, after this you can run and play with any picture. 

See how the image is grayed out from setting the opacity at 60%? Well that lets you see the important parts but also allows you to see exactly what your paintbrush is doing.

Step 6: Select

So here you are going to select all those sketchy lines you just drew. Because they are so different than the rest of the photo they are easy to select using the magic wand. Just remember to catch them all. Hold down your shift key to grab anything that is not being selected. Because the lines are not connected necessarily you may miss some areas and that won't be apparent until you paste. Don't worry because you can always do this step over if you did indeed miss any.

Now this is important, go to edit and click on "copy" because this is what you are going to "paste" in a few more steps.

Step 7: Open a New Document

Yep, you are going to open a new document - it is the same document though, you are just going to open it again. Why? I don't know, this is just how it worked easier for me, I'm not so hot at layers but this works, maybe it's an unnecessary step to those of you Photoshop experts and I am sure you will let me know, it's OK, we are all this together aren't we?

You may have to close the document you have worked so hard on but that is OK, just save it with a new name. Remember you have the stuff you really want ready to paste onto the new document.

Step 8: Trace

Using the magnetic lasso tool trace all around the figure in the new document you just spent all that time doodling over in the last few steps, now delete it.

Step 9: Paste

Past onto that new document that you opened and magnetic lassoed the figure out of. You may have to "move to front" if the drawn lines are behind the colored area. You can select just that pasted part and move it all around to fit.

Of course none of this will work if you opened the document and forgot to make the same size adjustments you made on the first one - see, I told you to remember exactly what you did. This is a no brainer is you always set your photos to 300dpi for example, just thought I'd mention it though.

Step 10: Last Thoughts on This Technique

1. It works best if you leave something real; for example the soup bowl in which my son is eating from.
2. Don't limit yourself to the color black, shades or various colors would be fantastic.
3. Think about selecting the faded out picture ALONG WITH the sketchy part for a different effect so that there is color in areas.
4. Mouths and noses are best done very sketchy, don't spend  to much time here or you will have a figure that looks clownish (this one does a little bit). A scribble is best as our brains fill in what is not there. I personally think I did a better job on my son's photos than on myself, probably because I was making this Instructable and concentrating too hard. Talk on the phone and just doodle over the figure while you are not really thinking, that is how I did the one that starts this 'ible off.
5. Post your artwork in the comment section and rate this 'ible



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    27 Discussions

    it's very cool, but i've got to say you look FAB!!!! in your actually photo BTW, I can't find the monster quilt.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Here is my attempt, it's not great, I am not much of an artist.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice! The sketchiness adds to the effect.

    It appears that the drawing was added to an image without a cat in it originally, or is that just me?


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     It's just you, it just looks that way, try it yourself Kryptonite. If you don't have Photoshop download it for a free two week trial.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I think it's the 3D and the seemingly flat area playing off each other that give the photo a sort of tension.