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Tutorial 06: Pencil sketch

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Old 12-29-2002, 02:21 AM
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DannyRaphael DannyRaphael is offline
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Tutorial 06: Pencil sketch

In retrospect this probably should have been the FIRST of the basic skills series because it is such a frequently used photo-art technique. In addition it is among the few that can be converted to a Photoshop action that doesn't render the original image into something that looks like a three-year-old would draw.

Trivia tidbit:
It was discussion of this very technique, initiated by RetouchPRO member OhThatGirl2001 (aka: Lisa) that led to the creation of the RetouchPRO Photo-based Art forum in May, 2001. So thanks, Lisa (and to all who participated in that thread) for getting the photo-art ball rolling here at RetouchPRO.

I honestly don't know the origin of this method. I've seen it and variations of it written up as tutorials (none quite as good as this one will eventually be ), described in numerous Internet forums and translated many, many times into Photoshop actions.

Some will argue (and I would have to agree) that the result of this method doesn't look much like a true pencil sketch, but since "pencil sketch" is how this method is most often referred, we'll stay with that.

In all cases the methods are rooted in duplicating and inverting a desaturated layer, setting the blend mode to Color Dodge and applying some sort of filter (usually Gaussian Blur) to the Color Dodge layer.

In addition to the basic steps, there are several variations of this method that will be described (in the future) or which will be referenced (in the future) by links to corresponding tutorials.

Those attempting this tutorial have mastered basic Photoshop skills such as being able to create new layers, duplicate existing layers, rename layers, run filters, create adjustment layers, etc.

Layer names:
As you move through the tutorial there will be steps where the instruction will be something like, "A: Duplicate layer (New name 'C = B(copy), Inverted')" The reason for identifying layers with a preceding letter is that it makes it easier for me to specify a layer by its letter ID in subsequent instructions where reference is made to it.

B: IMAGE > Adjustments > Invert
Translation: To layer B, from the IMAGE menu, choose Adjustments and from that menu choose Invert.

I need your help:
By all means add questions, comments, suggestions to this thread, especially if you are new to photo-art. This will help me craft better tutorials in the future.

Also... Vote the poll to indicate the degree of usefulness of this tutorial. Voting does not reveal your identity and will help me tremendously. Thanks in advance.

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1. Preprocessing: Duplicate the Background (LAYER > Duplicate). DO NOT apply much (if any) sharpening. In fact in some cases application of the BLUR > SMART BLUR (normal) filter to smooth out bumps while retaining edges yields better results than sharpening. If necessary adjust image contrast with a Levels or Curves adjustment layer.

2. IMAGE > Duplicate. It's a good idea NOT to mess with the original.

3. If the duplicate image contains multiple layers, IMAGE > Flatten leaving a the Background.

4. Background: LAYER > Duplicate (New name: “A=BG Desaturated”)

5. To layer A: IMAGE > ADJUSTMENTS > Desaturate – or – convert the A layer to grayscale using your favorite method. (See THIS THREAD for various methods.)

6. A: Layer > Duplicate (New name: “B = A(copy)+Inverted”)

7. B: IMAGE > Adjustments > Invert

8. B: Layers palette blend mode menu: Change the blend mode from Normal to Color Dodge. (The layer will go nearly or completely white. Don’t Panic!)

9. Optional step. B: Try lowering the layer opacity until some of the underlying image starts to show through. It will take a little experimenting to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t here. (Note: For the image used in this tutoiral, opacity was not changed.)

10. B: FILTERS > BLUR > Gaussian Blur. The radius chosen for the Gaussian Blur filter depends on what you’re looking for. Try to get the maximum amount of detail and don’t worry if the image looks “too light.” The image can be darkened up in a subsequent step. (A radius of 8.0 was used for the example image.)

11. C: Optional layer. LAYER > New Adjustment Layer > Levels (or Curves if you prefer). Adjust for contrast. If you use the Levels adjustment layer, move the RIGHT slider towards the middle slightly. This will clean up some of the 'noise,' especially in portrait images. Move the RIGHT (and MIDDLE) sliders toward the center. How you make these adjustments is completely subjective. (See below for Levels settings used.)

12. D: Optional layer. LAYER > New Adjustment Layer > Brightness / Contrast. Lower Brightness and Contrast to suit. Doing so reduces the tonal range of the image.
(See below for Levels settings used.)

This step, by the way, was suggested by RetouchPRO member CollinF.

Try the image with layers C and D both on, both off. or one or the other on. Use the combination that works best for you.

13. Create a new layer (E: Merge A, B).

14. ALT + CTRL + SHIFT + E: will merge the visible layers into layer E without collapsing them like a Merge Visible command does. Leaving the layers in tact offers flexibility later if you get to a point where you'd like to backtrack and start over.

An alternative to the keyboard shortcut above is to hold down the ALT key and choose LAYER > Merge Visible. Both work the same way.

Once the base image (Layer E) has been created, all sorts of additional modifications are possible. For example:

* Duplicate the original color Background layer and drag it to the top of the layer stack.

* Change the blend mode to Color.
Caution: On the example image, this will look AWFUL. On flowers or scenery images, it can give kind of a pastel effect. To vary the color effect adjust the Opacity of layer E and/or tweak the Contrast/Brightness settings in the D layer.

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USED IN THE EXAMPLE IMAGE (attached below)
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D=Brightness/Contrast (-6,-20)
C=Levels (85, 0.65, 248)
B=A(copy), Inverted + Gaussian Blur (8.0),
blend=Color Dodge, opacity = 100%
A=BG Desaturated
Background (original color image)

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* This is a fundamental technique with many, many variations – some of which will follow as this tutorial is fleshed out.

* Results will vary depending on the characteristics of the base image, Gaussian Blur radius chosen and whether or not layer opacity is lowered before applying the Gaussian Blur.

* WARNING: The settings used in this tutoral were selected to suite this particular image. These are provided to enable you to recreate this effect on this image -- to get a feel for the process.

When it comes to YOUR image, you'll need to make decisions on what settings look best. That's where where judgment and experimentation on your part come in.

Try different settings; decide what looks good on your image.

= = = = = = = = = = = =

OK. Another one to try.

Let’s see what you can do with this tutorial. By all means post before / after images in this thread.

Ask questions… Make suggestions…Have fun.

Attached Images
File Type: jpg pencil-sketch-ali.jpg (95.0 KB, 539 views)

Last edited by DannyRaphael; 03-11-2003 at 02:50 PM.
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Old 12-29-2002, 02:26 AM
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DannyRaphael DannyRaphael is offline
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The before image
CLICK HERE for the "before" image, used in Mini-challenge #69.

The after image
The color version of the "after" is attached at the bottom of this post.

A screen shot of the Layers palette is attached to the next post.

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As I bemoaned in the previous post, the basic so-called "Pencil Sketch" method yields results that (to me) do not resemble a pencil sketch. To me the absence of sketch lines is telling.

In this variation we'll add some "sketchiness" to the transformed base image.

Note on Layer Names:
The layer names below correspond to the snapshot of the Layers palette that accompanies this post. I use this convention because it makes it easier for me to understand (say, six months from now) exactly how an image was created, showing the genesis of each layer (normally a copy of another layer), which filters were applied to each, (if applicable) filter or adjustment layer settings, opacity settings (if different than 100%) or blend modes if not "Normal."

You are free to name layers any way you like. For the purpose of this exercise if you want to want to name the layers by their letter designation, that will work just fine. Do what works for you.

The first eight steps in this variation are very similar to the previous one with one major exception noted in the detail.

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* The specific settings used in these instructions for things like opacity, levels, unsharp mask, angled strokes, colored pencil work for the image selected FOR THIS tutorial. This specific combination will probably NOT look all that great on other images. So...

* Use these settings as starting place. With your own images make adjustments as you go. Be creative. Instructions like these are like "cooking recipes" - meant to be tweaked!

1. BG: Duplicate
(New name: "A=BG copy (Desat)")

2. A: CTRL + SHIFT + U (or IMAGE > ADJUSTMENTS > Desaturate)
Note: If you want to explore other methods of desaturation,
CLICK HERE. For this example I though the standard Desaturate command was good enough.

3. A: Duplicate layer
(New name: "B=[Color Dodge,95%],A(copy) inverted")

4. B: CTRL + I (IMAGE > ADJUSTMENTS > Invert image)

5. B: Blend mode=Color Dodge

6. B: Opacity = 95%
Note: In the traditional pencil sketch base method at this point one normally applies a Gaussian Blur. None was applied this time.

7. LAYER > Add New Adjustment Layer... Levels (or if PS7, click the "add adjustment layer icon" at the bottom of the Layers palette and choose Levels from the menu.
(New name: "C=Levels,62,1,249")

8. C: Set the values in the Levels dialog to 62,1,249.

9. Add new adjustment layer - Brightness/Contrast
(New name: "D=Brightness/Contrast(-7,-1)")

10. D: Set Brightness to -7, Contrast to -1.
Note: RetouchPRO member CollinF suggested this particular enhancement.

11. At this time you're free to tweak layers B, C and D (opacities, adjustment layer parameters) if desired. I chose not to in this case. You're the artist. Do what you think is right.

12. Add a new layer to the top of the layer stack.
(New name: "E=Merge A,B,C,D")

13. E: Be sure layer E is the active (selected) layer and that the 'eyeball is on' next to layers A, B, C and D. While simultaneously holding down ALT, CTRL and SHIFT, hit the E key. This will merge layers the visible layers (without collapsing them) into the active layer, "E." Alternatively, hold down the ALT key and choose LAYER > Merge Visible.

14. E: Duplicate layer
(New name: "F=[Multiply,]E(copy)+Colored Pencil (4,8,50)")

15. F: Set blend mode to Multiply
This darkens the image a bit.

16. F: Filters > Artistic > Colored Pencil with settings of 4, 8 and 50.
Note: The "fineness" of the Colored Pencil filter strokes is a function if image resolution. For course strokes (like you get in this image), 72 ppi is fine. For finer strokes increase image resolution to, say, 300 ppi.

The Colored Pencil filter works best on "non-black" portions of an image. Large black sections are typically rendered as ugly blotches. One way to get around this known irritant is to apply some "noise" to the image (FILTER > NOISE > Add Noise) before running Colored Pencil. The noise gives the filter "something to transform." Since there are no significant areas of black in the image used for this exercise, it's not a problem here. Just keep this in mind for future uses of the Colored Pencil filter.

17. E: Duplicate layer again and drag to the top of the layer stack.
(New name: "G=[Multiply,]E(copy)+Angled Strokes(65,10,10)")

18. G: Apply Angled Strokes filter (65,10,10)
The idea here is to get some strokes of a different character going in a different direction than the ones rendered by the Colored Pencil filter.

19. G: Set blend mode to Multiply.

20. G: Duplicate layer
(New name: "H=[Darken,]G(copy)+USM(220,100,70)")

21. H: Apply the Unsharp Mask filter with the settings shown above. This gives the layer a little more texture.

22. H: Set blend mode to Darken.

23. Create a new layer at the top of the layer stack
(New name: "I=Merge E, F, G, H")

24. I: ALT+CTRL+SHIFT+E (to merge E,F,G and H into I)

25. I: Duplicate layer
(New name: "J=I(copy)+Gblur(4.0)+Layer Mask")

26. J: Apply Gaussian Blur filter, radius 4.0. (Don't panic!)
The purpose of this step is to blend areas in the background that have become a little blotchy due to the angled strokes and unsharp mask steps.

27. J: Click the "Layer Mask" icon at the bottom of the Layers palette.
Note a white thumbnail image will appear next to the layer thumbnail.

28. Choose the airbrush tool (or P7 equivalent) and select a large (150 pxl or so), soft-edged brush. Be sure the tool blend mode is Normal; set tool flow and opacity to about 50%.

29. Set foreground color to black (click the D key) and start airbrushing areas of the image where you want to restore detail... like the birds and the branches! Adjust the brush size as needed as you go by clicking the left or right bracket keys, [ to make the brush smaller, ] to make it larger.

Switch to white to restore "blurriness" if you over correct any areas.

The purpose of layer masks is to restrict (or enable) the effect of the layer on layers below. In this case we "disabled" (or hid) areas of blurriness, enabling the sharp areas of the birds and branches from the I layer to show through.

30. Duplicate the (original) Background and drag it to the top of the layer stack.
(New name: "K=BG(copy) for eye detail restore")

31. Create a new Levels adjustment layer.
(New name: "K1=Level(25,4.0,125)")

32. Layer > Group with Previous (or CTRL + G).
Note how the Levels adjustment layer thumbnail is now "indented."

Grouping a layer has the effect of restricting its effects to the layer with which it is grouped. In this case the K1 Levels adjustment layer only effects layer K. Had K1 not been grouped, it would affect ALL layers in the layer stack.

I should mention the reason for the K1 layer is to "brighten up" the copy of the Background layer, making the birds' eyes sharper. Don't worry that it washes out the rest of the image.

31. Back to layer K: Create a layer mask (white thumbnail appears).

32. K: CTRL + I. This will invert the layer mask thumbnail to black and (apparently) hide the effect of the K1 Levels layer.

33. Repeat step 29 EXCEPT start out with a very small brush (about the size of the birds' eyes) and foreground color of white.

34. K: Paint white over the eyes only, revealing their sharpness. Switch to black if you go too wild with this step and need to paint over some over some over brightness.

This last step is optional. If you like the grayscale effect, stop now. If you want to add some color, keep going.

35. BG: Duplicate layer and drag to the top of the layer stack. (Yikes! We're back to where we started!)
(New name: "L=[Color,46%],BG(copy)"

36. L: Change blend mode to color; set opacity to 46%.


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* Layers of pseudo-brushstrokes were added to the basic "pencil sketch" image. I believe the result has more of a pencil sketch look than a direct application of any of the artistic or drawing filters such as colored pencil, crosshatch, angled strokes, etc.

* We used layer masks in layers J and K to selectively control the application of blurring and lightness.

* The last layer, L, provides the opportunity to see what the image looks like in color. It's easy to turn off or on.

* I think the ALT + CTRL + SHIFT + E keyboard shortcut, used to merge without collapsing individual layers, is among the slickest around. Once you get over the initial slight awkwardness, it becomes second nature. I use it all the time.

Well, it's almost time to watch Dick Clark bring in another New Year.

Happy 2003, everybody!

Attached Images
File Type: jpg pencil-sketch-birds-final.jpg (96.4 KB, 601 views)

Last edited by DannyRaphael; 01-01-2003 at 05:11 PM.
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Old 12-29-2002, 02:27 AM
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DannyRaphael DannyRaphael is offline
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Layers Palette - Variation 1

A screenshot of the Layers Palette is attached.
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File Type: jpg pencil-sketch-birds-layers-palette.jpg (61.8 KB, 203 views)

Last edited by DannyRaphael; 12-31-2002 at 09:56 PM.
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Old 12-29-2002, 02:30 AM
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DannyRaphael DannyRaphael is offline
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Another one for future use.

Don't bother to open the attachment. It's just a placeholder for the time being.
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File Type: txt do-not-open. nothing here yet.txt (431 Bytes, 36 views)
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Old 12-29-2002, 02:39 AM
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DannyRaphael DannyRaphael is offline
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And another placeholder for future development.
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File Type: txt do-not-open. nothing here yet.txt (431 Bytes, 18 views)
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Old 12-30-2002, 03:25 AM
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collinf collinf is offline
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Danny - Thanks for another decent tut! I'm still learning my way round all the different effects and figuring what works for which type of picture.

Just one Q though, at step six it says to go to "IMAGE > Duplicate". Is this correct? I didn't think it was and just created a new layer from layer "A: Desaturated" and it still worked for me.

Attached is the completed tutorial using a picture from Mini Challenge 69.

Thanks again

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File Type: jpg waxwing-drawing.jpg (55.2 KB, 259 views)
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Old 12-30-2002, 05:00 AM
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DannyRaphael DannyRaphael is offline
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Good eyes.

You are correct: Step 6 should have read LAYER (not image) Duplicate.

I updated the tutorial to include what the Layers palette should look like when finished. Hopefully that will make it clearer.

Thanks for giving this a test flight and asking for clarification.

As noted in the other thread, your interpretation came out great.

Here's a bonus lesson (reward for feedback) to give you a head start on an extension of the tutorial I haven't written yet. Try the following:
* Create a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer on the top of th layer stack (don't worry about the values just yet)
* Make a copy of the original color BG layer and drag to the top of the layer stack. Set the blend mode to "Color" and lower the Opacity to 40%-60% or so.
* Back to the B/C adjustment layer: As you slightly decrease the Contrast and/or Brightness values note the subtle, pastel-like colors that appear.


Last edited by DannyRaphael; 01-02-2003 at 02:34 PM.
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Old 12-30-2002, 05:11 AM
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collinf collinf is offline
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Oh, wow!

how simple, yet how effective

Danny, thanks.

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File Type: jpg waxwing-pastel.jpg (51.1 KB, 212 views)

Last edited by collinf; 12-30-2002 at 09:32 AM.
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Old 12-30-2002, 05:16 AM
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collinf collinf is offline
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I carried on playing, and switched the top colour layer off. Playing with the brightness/contrast layer just takes the edge off and makes it "feel" even more like a pencil sketch.

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Old 12-31-2002, 10:31 PM's Avatar is offline
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Looks like another keeper

I agree that some of the tutorials labeled as sketchs although wonder effects do not look like sketches.
You certainly have captured the sketch appearence here.
I have spent the whole day on the computer, I spend so much time gleening things I never have time to do any actual work with my knowledge, guess I have to change that soon.
Happy New Year Danny !
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