I remember back when I was first starting off with Adobe Photoshop. I discovered these things called “actions” and from the moment I discovered them, that’s all I looked for online. Free actions, that is. I just thought they were the most miraculous things ever. I didn’t actually want to learn how to use Photoshop, mind you; all I wanted to do was search for these little pieces of magic that would allow me to take advantage of what others made. As you can well imagine, this didn’t last too long. When I had a project to complete that was goal oriented, random actions didn’t fit very well. I did learn a lot from using them though.
If you’ve ever used an action, you have probably noticed all the steps that are involved in their operation. I still have no idea what half of some of the steps I’ve seen do, but boy is it fun to watch these things fly through their routines. Layers upon layers, different filters and blend modes. All sorts of stuff to transform a traditional looking photograph or graphic into something completely different.
The reason I bring this up is because I have a short project I’d like to work through today that sort of reminds me of what I used to see in some of the Photoshop actions I used to work with. I’m going to be applying a sketch effect to a photo and then I’ll use an adjustment to round things out. This is exactly what those who create actions do. They layer, layer and then layer again and use blend modes in between to create some pretty wild effects. So, if you think you’d ever be interested in going further with Photoshop to create actions, this would be a good place to start off. There’s a lot of money out there to be made by creating all sorts of presets and the like. All you need to do is make up an attractive product and offer it to the marketplace.
In today’s post, I’ll be using two different filters to create a sketch effect on a traditional photograph. I’ll use the Graphic Pen and the Sprayed Stroke filters and then I’ll apply the Black & White adjustment to really make the previous effects look real. On top of all this, I’ll use two different blending modes to smooth out the effects of one of the filters as well as the adjustment layer. This is going to be a fun post and one I hope will open your eyes to the possibilities of Photoshop filters.
The Demo Photo
I thought I’d go with something very simple today. Perhaps an object that someone might actually sketch or draw. When I stumbled across these blueberries, I could’t resist. I think these would be perfect sitting on a table during art class.
Smart Object & Graphic Pen
I’ve said this a million times, but I’ll say it again. When working with filters in Adobe Photoshop, it’s highly advisable to first convert whichever layer you’re working with into a Smart Object. So, with that in mind, I’ll right click on the background image layer in the Layers panel and select Convert to Smart Object.
After that, I’ll head up to the Filter > Filter Gallery menu item and click.
When the Filter Gallery palette opens up, I’ll click the Sketch drop-down arrow and then the Graphic Pen thumbnail. Then, I’ll push the Stroke Length and Light/Dark Balance sliders until I see a result I’m happy with. My goal is to have the photo appear as close to an actual sketch as possible.
When I’m finished, I’ll click the OK button to return to the regular workspace. This is the result of the Graphic Pen filter I just applied.
I know it doesn’t look all that great, but these filters are rarely meant to stand alone. That’s why I’m going to take advantage of another filter as well as blend modes down below.
Adding Some Sprayed Strokes
Since I’d like some sort of color in my sketch output and since this Graphic Pen output doesn’t appear overwhelmingly pleasing, I’m going to add another filter to the mix. To do this, I’ll click on the image layer in the Layers panel and then drag it down to the Create New Layer button at the bottom of the panel. I could do that or I could simply use the keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+J. That would create a copy just the same. Either way, I’ll end up with a Layers panel that looks like this.
Currently, both of these layers are identical, but that will change in just a moment.
Okay, I’ll go ahead and double-click on the bottom filter layer.
Doing this will open the Filter Gallery palette again, where I’ll click on the Brush Strokes drop-down and then the Sprayed Strokes thumbnail. After that, I’ll push the Stroke Length and Spray Radius sliders until I see a result I’m happy with.
When I’m finished, I’ll click on the OK button to return to the regular workspace.
Here’s the result of this filter.
While I’m very pleased with the look of this, I’d like to make things look even more “real.” To do so, I’ll need to apply a blend mode to the Graphic Pen layer, which will sort of merge the two filters together. Since I’ve already played around some this morning to see which blending mode looks best, I’ll just go ahead and click to select the top Graphic Pen layer in the Layers panel and then I’ll click on the blending mode drop-down that sits at the top of the panel and select Soft Light. There were a few other options that did the job, but I’m happy with this one.
Let’s see the result of my efforts.
If you look at the photo above closely, you can see elements of both filters.
Adding an Adjustment Layer
Since the goal for this project is to transform an image into something that looks like an actual sketch, I have decided to add a Black & White adjustment layer above the two other layers. To do this, I went up to the Adjustments panel and clicked the Black & White icon.
When I clicked that icon, a new adjustment layer was added to the Layers panel. While that did remove any saturation from the image, it did so in a way that was too harsh for my liking. What I wanted was a more blended adjustment, so I returned to the blend modes drop-down and applied the Lighter Color option.
Here’s the result from that.
I’ll also give you two more blend mode options that look good, just so you get an idea of how these things can affect an image.
Here’s the Color Burn option.
And here’s the Lighten option.
I think all three of these blending modes look good, so it’s really up to the editor to decide. Also, as you may have guessed, you can absolutely get creative with which filters and blend modes you’d like to add to your image. The sky really is the limit and there’s no right way to do things. Think of a goal and start clicking. That’s the way I do it.
This sort of reminds me of the a-ha – Take On Me video. Almost.
I hope I clearly explained how to go about adding different filters to an image and then how to add an adjustment layer as well as two blending modes. The goal was to transform a regular photo into something that looks like a sketch and I think I met that goal. If you have any questions regarding this post, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!