181. Make a Photograph Look Like It Was Drawn
Before You Start
149 Sharpen an Image
166 Frame a Photograph
176 Change a Color Photograph to Black and White
179 Make a Photograph Look Like an Oil Painting
180 Turn a Photograph into a Watercolor
Simulating a pencil sketch using a real digital photo is not so much a process of building a sketch composition based on that photo as it is undoing the photo in such a way that it unfolds, like layers of an onion, into a sketch. Photoshop Elements includes several sketching filters, but no single filter by itself simulates the composition of a pencil sketch. To pay some homage to the way professional artists sketch, a simulated sketch should be divided into three layers: the foundation, the fuzzy midtones, and the hard, dark details.
Remove Color from Image
Open the image in the Editor in Standard Edit mode and save it in Photoshop (*.psd) format. Using the process outlined in 176 Change a Color Photograph to Black and White, convert the image you want to render as a pencil drawing to a black-and-white image. When you're done, the image should have three distinct zones of intensity: heavy darks, middle grays, and lights, grouped unto themselves rather than scattered throughout the image.
Create Three Duplicate Layers
If you followed along with 176 Change a Color Photograph to Black and White, your image should have two layers, the uppermost of which is called Red but isn't red (anymore). In the Layers palette, choose the Red layer and rename it Basis.
To ensure that you're dealing with a black pencil on a white page throughout, in the Toolbox, click the Default Colors box that appears between the foreground and background color boxes. Then set the Foreground color so that its saturation (S) is 0%, and its brightness (B) is 54%. This is the graphite tone of a #2 pencil.
Create two more drawing layers by duplicating the Basis layer twice. Select Layer, Duplicate Layer to do so. In the Layers palette, from top to bottom, rename the first new layer Middle values, and the second one Dark details. When you're done, the Middle values layer should be on top.
Apply Texture to Basis Layer
For the foundation of the image, we want to apply some fuzzy zones of pigment that appear to be embedding themselves in the grain of the paper. In the Layers palette, choose the Basis layer. From the menu bar, select Filter, Sketch, Water Paper. In the dialog box, set Fiber Length to a medium-high value such as 35, Brightness to a medium value such as 58, and Contrast to a high value such as 80. The result should look like you used a very soft-lead pencil to zone in the basic areas of the drawing, and then perhaps smudged some of the larger zones with your finger to work them in. Click OK. You won't see the results in your main image just yet because they're obscured by two other layers.
Technically, if you were actually drawing the image, you'd apply the dark details last. But in this case, we're only simulating the final effects, so we'll do the dark details next.
Apply Outlines to Details Layer
In the Layers palette, choose the Dark details layer. From the menu bar, select Filter, Brush Strokes, Ink Outlines. In the dialog box, set Stroke Length to a low value such as 11, Dark Intensity to a low value such as 14, and Light Intensity to its maximum setting of 50. With the darks very dark and the lights very light, this filter will generate free, squiggly outlines without any middle grays. The Sketch category of filters generally presumes that the pencil moves in one direction throughout the entire image; few real sketches are ever produced that way. This is why we turned to the Brush Strokes category of filters, which allows for twists and turns. Click OK.
In the Layers palette, set the blend mode for the Dark details layer to Vivid Light and the Opacity to 66%. (You can hide the Middle values layer for a moment to see what's happening: click its eye icon in the Layers palette). These settings let some of the graphite grays from the Basis layer bleed through the Dark details layer.
Compose Smooth Grays for Midtones Layer
In the Layers palette, choose the Middle values layer (make it visible if necessary). The effect we're going for on this layer is to create the intermediate shades an artist achieves when drawing lightly with a soft lead pencil. Unlike pen drawing, which produces strokes with a uniform tone, pencil drawing enables variable tones, which some drawing filters tend to forget exist.
To accomplish this effect, we apply three filters on top of one another to the Middle values layer. For the first filter, select Filter, Sharpen, Unsharp Mask. In the dialog box, an Amount setting between 100% and 150% isolates the gray areas (surrounding them with overbrightened whites) without losing them entirely. Set Radius to 50 pixels to overextend the bright areas quite a bit, and Threshold to 0 so that no regions are exempt. By creating bright halos and isolated grays, you're setting up for a common sketch effect, where the artist tends to fill in an outlined area just close to the border but not quite there, leaving a little paper showing through. Meanwhile, the dark zones are becoming very dark, as well as losing detail. You don't need detail in the very dark areas; artists often apply dark tones broadly and aggressively. To apply the filter, click OK.
With the Middle values layer still chosen, from the menu bar, select Filter, Brush Strokes, Accented Edges. In the dialog box, set Edge Width to its minimum of 1, Edge Brightness to its minimum of 0, and Smoothness to a high value between 8 and the maximum of 15. We want the zones we've created to have a distinct, crisp edge. The only reason we want that is to make it easier for the next filter to decide what areas to sketch within, because it's about to "color" within borders that won't be there once this process is done.
To move directly from here to the Graphic Pen filter, in the dialog box, open the Sketch list from the center pane, and from the list of samples, choose Graphic Pen. Set Stroke Length to 12 (or more for higher-resolution images than 150 PPI) and Light/Dark Balance to 40. Click OK. This layer should now be entirely graphite gray. In the Layers palette, leave the blend mode set at Normal, and set Opacity to 40%. Now, the rich darks will show through the grays.
Because pencil sketching, even among masters, is a simplistic process, it's easier for the viewer's eyes to discern the methodology behind it than it is for a more complex process, such as oil painting. As a result, it's actually a lot harder to effectively pull off a simulation of a sketch than it is an oil painting. Photoshop Elements includes its own drawing tools, with which you could conceivably enhance the simulation effect considerably by doing some drawing yourself. But this method of applying filters on three layers will give you a foundation with which you can work.
Apply "Whitewash" Frame
In the Styles and Effects palette, in the Effects category, under Frames, you'll find that Photoshop Elements offers several automatic picture frame and matting styles, including variations of a simple, splashy, brushed, white border. I find the one that's most compatible with the effect we've just simulated is Strokes Frame. Double-click this frame thumbnail in the Styles and Effects palette to flatten all visible layers, and apply a jagged border to the image.
View the Result
After you're satisfied with the result, make any other changes you want and save the PSD file. Resave the result in JPEG or TIFF format, leaving your PSD image with its layers intact so that you can return at a later time and make different adjustments if you want.