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How to Create a Photoshop Action to Turn a Photo Into a Drawing

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Photoshop offers many filters, but the most powerful photo effects come from combining various tricks. In this tutorial, I'll show you how to create a Photoshop action to turn a photo into art, creating a cool photo effect of a transition between a photo and a drawing. You'll learn how to create a photo art effect that works like a photo filter—you'll be able to turn a photo into art with a single click!

If you want to save time, you can find various Photoshop actions and filters on Envato Elements and Envato Market.

Follow along with us on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube Channel:

How to Turn a Photo Into a Drawing

Step 1

Open your image (I used this photo). Create a New Layer and mark the area that you want to be affected by the action. You can select it and fill it with color, or use a soft brush to paint it. Name this layer Mask. Click somewhere outside of the layers to deselect them. Also press D to reset the background and foreground colors.

Make sure your first layer is named Background. If not, go to Layer > New > Background from Layer.

draw a mask for selection

Step 2

Open the Actions panel (Window > Actions) and click the white card icon to Create a New Action. Give it a name and press OK. All your actions from now on will be recorded and saved.

how to create photoshop action

Step 3

First, let's make sure that the image is big enough, because drawing effects look better at a high resolution. Go to Image > Image Size and make it exactly 7000 px wide. This will allow us to work in a bigger resolution, even if the original size of the image is smaller.

how to change image size photoshop

Step 4

Hide the Mask. Hold Control and click the thumbnail of the mask to create a selection. Then go to the Background layer and go to Layer > New > Layer via Copy (or press Control-J).

new layer from selection

Step 5

Create a New Layer over the Background and go to Edit > Fill to fill it with white.

fill layer with white

Step 6

Duplicate (Control-J) Layer 1. Go to Filter > Blur > Smart Blur. Change the Mode to Edge Only. Adjust the settings to capture mostly the outlines, not the shades. Click OK.

photo to lines effect

Step 7

Go to Image > Adjustments > Invert to invert the colors. Then go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation and increase the Lightness to make the lines as light as typical pencil strokes. This is our first drawing layer. You can stop here if you want, but if you want the effect of a transition, we'll need a few more layers.

how to turn photo into sketch

Step 8

Duplicate Layer 1 again and drag it over the previous copy. This time, go to Filter > Filter Gallery. Go to the Sketch tab and select Graphic Pen. Adjust the settings to create a light sketch.

sketch photo effect

Step 9

Do the same again, this time making the strokes denser.

photo into sketch filter

Step 10

We have all the layers that we need for the transition now, so it's time to create the actual transition. Duplicate one of the layers and double-click it to open the Layer Style panel. Check Gradient Overlay. Change the angle to about 14 degrees.

create gradient mask

Step 11

Open the black and white gradient and drag the markers to keep the dot between them at about one-third of the length. The black part marks the area that will reveal the original photo. The closer the markers are to each other, the sharper the transition will be.

asjudt gradient

Step 12

Duplicate the layer, open the Layer Style panel, and drag the markers to the right, this time aiming the dot at about 60% of the length.

change black and white gradient

Step 13

Repeat it once more, this time aiming for about 75% of the length. The white part marks the place where the line art will be visible.

create mask with gradient

Step 14

Select all three layers, right-click them, and select Rasterize Layer Style. Organize the rest of the layers to keep the beginning of the transition on top. Then go to the Channels panel and Control-click the RGB channel to create a selection.

how to make selection from channel

Step 15

Select the first layer of the transition and add a Layer Mask to it from the selection.

add layer mask from channel selection

Step 16

Do the same with the two other layers by hiding the previous mask to show the other one as the RGB channel. When you hide the last mask, you'll see that the transition has been nicely applied to your image

create transition with masks

Step 17

We can do one extra thing to make the drawing more realistic. Duplicate the layer with the line art, and change the Blend Mode of the original to Multiply.

multiply the line art

Step 18

Right-click its Layer Mask to remove it, and then hold Control to select the lowest mask on the list and click Add Layer Mask.

add new layer mask from selection
new layer mask

Step 19

Additionally, we can change the colors to grayscale to make the whole effect more convincing. Select the original layer and go to Image > Adjustments > Black and White.

colors to black and white

Step 20

Now simply click Stop Recording to save your action for later.

stop recording action

Step 21

Now you can use this action on any other photo, to apply all these effects with a single click. Just open your photo, draw the mask, and click Play!

"Photo to Art" Photo Effects

Glowing Artwork Photo Effect

Do you like this photo effect? Photoshop is capable of creating much more complex effects, but they're also quite time-consuming. If you want to save time, you can download actions created by other people on Envato Elements

For example, this action turns a photo into art by combining a painterly look with glowing accents. It's all done automatically—just press Play and let the action do the job.

glowing artwork photo effect
Glowing artwork photo effect

Charcoal Photoshop Action

Here's another cool photo effect. This action contains five styles of photo art effects that turn the photo into a charcoal drawing. The action comes with its own custom brushes, but you don't have to draw anything manually except the mask to select the area as we did in our action.

Charcoal Photoshop Action
Charcoal Photoshop action

Hand-Drawn Photoshop Action

This Photoshop action works like a perfect drawing filter. It changes the colors, adds a paper-like background, softens the shading, and adds some texture that brings pencil strokes to mind. This photo effect will work great for a retro style.

Hand Drawn Photoshop Action
Hand-Drawn Photoshop Action

Watercolor Sketch Photoshop Action

If you want something simpler, this action turns the image into a watercolor artwork painted in the loose style of a miniature painting. Everything is simplified, and the outlines in the photo become much more organic and natural. Because of this, the final effect is very convincing!

Watercolor Sketch Photoshop Action
Watercolor Sketch Photoshop Action

Good Job!

Now you know how to create your own Photoshop action to create a transition between a photo and a drawing. If you liked this tutorial, you may also be interested in our other tutorials about creating and using actions:

how to turn photo into drawing with photoshop
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