Creating a stylish photo-realistic sketch used to require the skills of a talented illustrator. Later, if you knew tools like Photoshop inside and out, you could use filters to achieve the look. Now, thankfully for those of us with all the artistic flair of a broken etch-a-sketch, super talented people are creating photoshop actions—a way of automating Photoshop. This means formerly complicated techniques are now a few clicks away.
What You Need
If you’d like to follow the tutorial using the same images, you can download them for free here:
Before you get started, you need to install the pattern, brush and action files that come with the download.
Next, make sure your image is RGB and in 8-bit colour mode. Select Image > Mode, then select RGB Color and 8-Bits/Channel.
Using the Action
Choose an image with a subject that’s easy to separate from the background.
Step 1: Select Your Subject
The easiest way to select a subject for use like this, in my opinion, is the Quick Mask tool. Don’t worry about getting every bit of hair, when the action runs, the nature of it being ‘sketchy’ will hide any rough edges.
Step 2: Brush Over Your Subject
Create a new layer and call it brush. Make sure it’s all lowercase or the action won’t run. Brush over the quick mask which, will stop you colouring over anything else.
Step 3: Run the First Part of the Action
This action is split into two parts. The first bit you’ll need to run is PLAY, which you’ll find listed above the colour options.
When the action is finished running, you’ll have something that looks like this.
Step 4: Make Adjustments
The first thing I’m going to do is create a layer mask on Blots and brush out the lines over our model’s face, as they’re distracting.
Next, reduce circuit_grey to 30% which will reduce the white edges and give the features more definition again.
Next, turn on the layers sketch element_02 and 03, again to add some definition to edges.
Step 5: Run the Second Part of the Action
You could just leave your image like this, it looks pretty cool as it is, but the action comes with further options. There are a list of colours to choose from which you can run after you’ve finished with the previous adjustments.
Here’s ‘blue & red‘ as an example:
Once again, go through the layers and make adjustments to remove distractions from the face and to add more colour if needed.
Do More With the Action
This works really well on portraits, particularly those you can easily separate from their background. I was curious to see how it worked on a landscape and I was pleasantly surprised. The effect it gives is a bit like the posterization filter you can run in Photoshop, and it’s reminiscent of the old railway poster styles.
For this image, there was no sense in brushing over one particular part, so I tried brushing over the whole image and then running the action.
Add a fun font and you’ve got a homemade postcard!
It works really well on architecture, too.
You can tell I enjoyed playing around with this action. If you’d like to see some more great effects you can get from Photoshop actions then check these out.