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.