Photoshop Pencil Portrait

This tutorial will explain the techniques used to create digital pencil portraits in Photoshop. I have been doing these for a few years now and have searched the web for some techniques of how to do this. I have tweaked what I learned to give this tutorial a more accurate rendering. There are some things that can be done in advance before the photograph is taken to help give a more pleasing result. For instance, having a white background helps to have a cleaner separation of the subject. Also, having the subject wear white or some other light color clothing is a big plus as it helps draw the viewer to the person's face. Though these tips are helpful, they are not absolutely required.

  1. Open the image in Photoshop.

  1. Create a copy of the background layer by pressing "Control-J" on your keyboard. Now invert the new layer by pressing... "Control-I".

  1. Convert image to "grayscale" by clicking (Image)

  1. Set layer mode to "color dodge"... this will make the layer look almost completely white.

  1. Now bring out some of the pencil strokes by applying a Gaussian Blur-Filter.

  1. Now is the time to to use the brush [B] on your keyboard and start painting the unwanted areas of your image white. Make sure you lower the opacity of your brush to around 20% or so, have white selected as your foreground color, and are using a soft edge brush.

  1. Now let's add some subtle shadows to the face, chest and clothing. To do so, make sure that your foreground color is black by pressing [D] on your keyboard. Select your brush and lower the opacity of your brush (not layer) to 15%. Now start painting over all the areas, that you feel needs a shadow. Particularly, the face. There are really no rules here. Just bring out some shadows that you feel is right. This might take a little practice.

  1. Let's add some highlights to the hair. Select white as your foreground color and make sure that the opacity of your brush is 15%. Start brushing over the lighter areas of the hair to bring out some highlights. Notice that the changes are very subtle. You don't want to over do it.

  1. Now it's time to merge the layers and crop the image. Image-Mode-RGB Color and select merge. Select [C] on your keyboard to bring up the crop tool to crop the image. You can also add a color tint if you like by pressing... ( Control-U ) on your keyboard to bring up the Hue/Saturation window. Select colorize from the lower right window and play around with the sliders to get the color you want.