photoshop creative

How to use Photoshop to create a sketch effect

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by The Photoshop Creative Team
February 3, 2012

Learn how to use Photoshop’s High Pass filter to make a digital drawing in this tutorial

Before image

Start pencil sketch image

After the technique has been applied

The final pencil effect


Unless you are blessed with artistic talent, chances are that the thought of making a digital drawing from scratch doesn’t appeal.

But Photoshop has a few tricks up its sleeve to make the task easier. When it comes to making a digital sketch, your new best friends will be the High Pass filter and the Threshold command. While these two are fairly innocuous on their own, when brought together they seek out the outline of a photo and then turn it into a sketch.

Here’s how it is done.

sketch step 1

Find the edges

Open up your photo in Photoshop. If your image is lacking contrast, use Levels or Curves to do some boosting. Now go to the Filter menu, down to Other and pick High Pass.

sketch step 2

Edit with the slider

Your image will turn a peculiar colour – do not panic! The High Pass filter is for you to seek out the edges of your image. Use the Radius slider to adjust this – the higher you go the thicker the lines will be. Go for something like 3.0.

sketch step 3

Pencil effect

Click OK to exit the High Pass filter. Next stop is the Image menu and then Adjustments>Threshold. This will turn your image to black and white and once again, there is a slider to edit the effect. In our image, a setting of 58 worked well, and the higher the setting the more intense the effect. Click OK when you are happy.

  • A. Kyritsis

    Excellent! The beauty of the simplicity!

  • Great technique. I have played with it and carried it even further to make other effects and enhancements.
    Thank you, Jo

  • murray houston

    I’ve tried this on a few pictures and they work great quite impressive and as write above comments Excellent! The beauty of the simplicity. I do agree whole heartly.

  • Eleanor

    Great idea! Is High-Pass available on versions before CS6? It would be nice to know what the least numbered version that could be used to do this.

  • Would you mind if I quote a couple of your articles as long as I provide credit
    and sources returning to your site: http://blog.
    I will aslo be certain to give you the appropriate anchor-text hyperlink using your website title:
    How to turn a photo into a sketch | Photoshop Creative.
    Please let me know if this is ok with you.
    With thanks

  • Simon Skellon

    Hi Rebbeca, Permission granted, thanks for commenting. So long as you link back 🙂

  • thanks,, great sketch effect..

  • Juma


  • Fine way of explaining, and nice article to obtain information on the topic of my presentation subject matter, which i am going to convey in college.

  • Such an informative article. Very nice tips to use photoshop. It’s an interesting way to add different effects on photos. I like these sketching effects.

  • Tazevinder KaurRayat

    i will try this one. Seems like a simple process!

  • Finally I get tutorials for create sketch effect in PhotoshopCC

  • fantastic .. . i’ll try later, thank you

  • 243/4Bob Carter

    like this… works and is simple.

  • Mia

    Very extraordinary photo manipulations, cool style! I wanted to retouch in this genre, but image manipulations are not my strong points. I send my works to online photo retouching services if I need

  • While these two are fairly innocuous on their own, when brought together they seek out the outline of a photo and then turn it into a sketch.

  • Amazing, being a photo editor I found this tutorial utmost helpful for me. I am highly pleased to get it here, Thanks.

  • thanks for sharing……………….

  • Awesome tutorial. Thanks for giving us an opportunity to learn how to create a sketch effect In Photoshop. Sound good. Easily understand all steps.

  • Apparently, Photoshop Cs2 can’t add Gaussian Blur to smart objects making the blur adjustment at the end impossible I had to redo the whole process more than twice. Lol, I think I need an upgrade.
    Great tutorial btw.

  • It is quite a effective point! I appreciate you penning this post and also the rest of the site is really good.

  • I followed your instruction and finally I successfully created a beautiful sketch effect. Thank you so much.

  • photoshop has changed the entire game of the digital world.

  • Joy Shawn

    Wounder full!Suburb topic, thanks.

  • Nearly every graphic designer has used Photoshop tutorials to bolster their design skills; in fact, there perhaps no better way to become a better graphic designer than to follow Photoshop tutorials. This is an extremely awesome tutorial.

  • My goodness nice to see this image very interesting ..

  • yes i also successful done it.