Sketchy Photos

with 32 Comments

Sketchy Photos
By Nannette Dalton

Do you like the look of photos converted into sketches?  I do too! There are so many interesting ways to use them on a layout. It allows us as digital scrappers to achieve a look that is hard to duplicate in the paper world.

However, I have struggled to find a sketchy look that’s realistic. The Sketch filters that come with Photoshop and Elements are a little too harsh for my taste. But, I think I have found the answer using the Minimum filter! Never heard of it? It isn’t a filter that we use too often, but it works perfectly for a lighter sketchy look.

Step One:  Open and Duplicate the Photo

  • Open a photo (File > Open) that you would like to turn into a sketch.
  • In the Menu Bar, choose File > Duplicate and click OK. (Photoshop: Choose Image > Duplicate.)
  • Close the original photo.


Step Two: Copy and Desaturate Photo

  • Press Ctrl J (Mac: Cmd J) to duplicate the photo.
  • Press Ctrl Shift U (Mac: Cmd Shift U) to desaturate the photo and turn it to black and white.
  • Press Ctrl J (Mac: Cmd J) to duplicate the black and white photo.


Step Three: Invert the Photo

  • In the Menu Bar, choose Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Invert and click OK. (Photoshop: In the Menu Bar, choose Image > Adjustments > Invert.)
  • Photoshop Elements Only: Press Ctrl E (Mac: Cmd E) to merge the adjustment layer with the top black and white photo.


  • In the Layers panel, change the Blend Mode of the top layer to Color Dodge.


Did the whole image disappear?  Perfect!

Step Four: Use the Minimum Filter

  • In the Menu Bar, choose Filter > Other > Minimum.
  • In the dialog box, set the Radius somewhere between 2–5 pixels. Click OK. I set mine at 2 pixels.


Step Five: Save the Layered Image

Note: In my next tutorial, I will show you how to change this sketch into a colored pastel drawing. So we need to save this image as a layered PSD File.

  • In the Menu Bar, Choose File > Save As.
  • In the dialog box, name the sketch, choose a location for the file, set the Format to Photoshop, and click Save.

Step Six: Save the Flattened Image

  • In the Menu Bar, choose Layer > Flatten Image.
  • In the Menu Bar, choose File Save As.
  • In the dialog box, name the sketch, choose a location for the file, set the Format to JPEG, and click Save.

You can now use this flattened image on your scrapbook page.

Here is my layout using my sketchy photo. I used one of Jen White’s photo masks to blend it a bit into my background paper.


Page & Photos: Nannette Dalton
Tutorials: Sketchy Photos Part 2 by Nannette Dalton, Stenciled Effect by Syndee Nuckles
Kit: Thankful kit by Karla Dudley
Extras: Water Color Paper by Nannette Dalton, Photo Mask Pk Vol 1 by Jen White
Fonts: Homestead, DJB Nann Script
Software: Photoshop Elements 12, Adobe Photoshop CC 2014

Download this Digi Scrap Tutorial



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32 Responses

  1. Elizabeth Ames
    | Reply

    bringing the old tuts back is a great idea – keep it up!

  2. Marie
    | Reply

    I LOVE this tutorial!!!
    Thank you so much 🙂
    It was very easy to follow and I love the results.

  3. Radha Iyengar
    | Reply

    Sorry . I was confused about the steps. I was not very sure which one of the layer you were specifying to do the steps. Mine did not come out as you say. When you said did the picture disappear. No . Mine did not. I am sorry.

    • Jen White
      | Reply

      Radha, did you have a question about a specific step?
      If you start from the beginning, by opening a photo, and follow the steps, you will always be on the correct layer.

      • Radha Iyengar
        | Reply

        Hi Jen, I was trying to the Skechy of me and daughter photos. It did not come out like you did for the baby picture u used. I don’t how to fix it. Too light.
        Radha Iyengar

        • Jen White
          | Reply

          Hi Radha. This technique will not work on all photos. You may need to try a different technique.

  4. Erika
    | Reply

    Thanks for sharing this technique and for sharing your pastel papers. Looking forward to using them to change this sketched image of mine.

  5. Mary (cheerio54)
    | Reply

    Oh Nann . . . another winner! It was soooooo much fun to do and your instructions are always super easy to follow. I wanted to get right at it, but waited to do it as a treat after I finished my other ‘homework’ for the month. 🙂

  6. Bonnie Cuddihy
    | Reply

    Very nice! I hope to use this right away.

  7. Mungo
    | Reply

    A fantastic effect, thank you

  8. Tammy
    | Reply

    This was awesome! Thank you so much!!

  9. Terri
    | Reply

    Nann: You are so awesome coming up with so many great ideas and easy tutorials that seems so hard before. I have to try this right now!!

    • Nann Dalton
      | Reply

      Ahh your are so sweet, thank you Terri

  10. Carolyn
    | Reply

    Have I missed a Sketchy Photos part 1? Did a search and did not find one…

    • Nann Dalton
      | Reply

      Hi Carolyn, This is part one. You haven’t missed a thing!

  11. dawn
    | Reply

    Nann… I can’t thank you enough! I’m a nature photoartist, birds are my passion and as you said, most ‘sketch’ tuts are so heavy which just doesn’t do justice to the feather patterns. Just did one of a red shouldered hawk I caught flying this morning. OMG… I’m sooooooo excited. Hope the ripples of my joy and gratitude reach you!

    Blissings and Blessings.

    • Nann Dalton
      | Reply

      Yep, I’m feeling it! This makes me so happy.

  12. Glorie
    | Reply

    LOVED this tutorial!! Got my LO done using it and I might just have to say, I loved how it turned out!! Thank you for a GREAT tutorial!!!

    • Nann Dalton
      | Reply

      Yes I saw it. Oh my goodness it turned out great!

      • Glorie
        | Reply

        Thank you!!! 😀

  13. Lidia
    | Reply

    Your tutorial is awesome! So simple and easy to follow. Thanks for sharing it with us, Nann! Can’t wait to try it! 🙂

  14. Anne-Marie
    | Reply

    Thank you for this tutorial. I must try it sometime.

  15. Theresa G
    | Reply

    Love this tutorial, Nann! It seems I always have trouble with PSE sketch filters and your method makes it soooo easy – I’m finally getting the effect I want. THANK YOU!!
    By the way, I can’t wait for your next tutorial where you’ll show us your colored pastel drawing method. Looking forward to it…

    • Nann Dalton
      | Reply

      Theresa, thank you so much for the kind words, and I am looking forward to seeing your work in the galleries!

  16. Vivian
    | Reply

    I absolutely love this tutorial and cannot wait for the second one. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    • Nann Dalton
      | Reply

      Oh good! Thanks so much Vivian

  17. Sheila King
    | Reply

    I’m having a lot of difficulty getting enough contrast to show lighter hair and the like after having tried about 4 different photos. I love the effect, if I can just get it! Is there a particular pic shot we should be looking for? I notice yours has darker hair which may make the difference?

    • Nann Dalton
      | Reply

      Hi Sheila,
      I am sorry to hear you are having difficulties with this tutorial. You are right that a photo with more contrast will work better. I just tried it with a photo with less contrast here is what I did a bit different. I applied a levels adjustment layer to the original photo. I played with the sliders until I had more contrast. Than I merged the adjustment layer and the photo together. When I got to Step Four I changed the Radius to 6. It worked great, in fact I liked it better on the photo above too, so thank you for asking the question!

      • Sheila King
        | Reply

        thanks Nanette. I did as you suggested and got a little better result but still not what I wanted. I went to another picture which hd a simpler background and better contrast “naturally” and got a much improved version. I’m figuring a lot of the issue the first 5 tries was too complicated of a background even though I had cropped some. Looking at your example AGAIN, I realized it is quite simple and had a much better result this last time. Thanks so much; I love this technique and this is so easy it can be done quick when I don’t have the time to fight with other ways to sketch!

  18. Morgaine
    | Reply

    Dear Nannette
    I was wondering if you can tell me where I can find your Water Color Paper, since there is no link I can follow 🙂
    Thanks for the tutorial, it’s great!

    • Nann Dalton
      | Reply

      Hi Morgaine,
      Thanks for asking about the papers I made.This is part one of a two part tutorial. In the next tutorial I will show you how to make a pastel sketch and I will also share my watercolor papers with you. Look for it around the 13th of February.

      • Morgaine
        | Reply

        Thank you very much, Nann!

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