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Design

How to Create an Ink Sketch Photoshop Action

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:MediumLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Create an ink sketch Photoshop action and Photoshop inking brushes to convert any photo to an ink sketch. I will explain everything in so much detail that everyone can follow it, even those who have just opened Photoshop for the first time.

What You Will Learn in This Adobe Photoshop Action Tutorial

  • How to create an ink Photoshop brush
  • How to create an ink Photoshop action
  • How to save a Photoshop action
  • How to create a pen and ink portrait in Photoshop

The effect shown above is the one I will show you how to create in this tutorial. If you would like to create the even more advanced Photoshop ink effect shown below, using just a single click and in only a few minutes, then check out my Ink Pen Sketch Photoshop Action.

action final result

What You'll Need

To recreate the design above, you will need the following resources:

1. How to Get Started

First, open the photo that you want to work with. To open your photo, go to File > Open, choose your photo, and click Open. Now, before we get started, just check a couple of things:

  1. Your photo should be in RGB Color mode, 8 Bits/Channel. To check this, go to Image > Mode.
  2. For best results, your photo size should be 2000–4000 px wide/high. To check this, go to Image > Image Size.
  3. Your photo should be the Background layer. If it is not, go to Layer > New > Background from Layer.
checking image size and mode

2. How to Create a Brush in Photoshop

Step 1

In this section, we are going to create a scribble brush we'll need. Take a pencil and paper and draw a scribble. Then, scan the scribble that you drew. Here is my result:

drawing scribble

Step 2

Now go to Edit > Define Brush to define this scribble as a brush, and name it Temp Brush.

defining brush

Step 3

Press B on your keyboard, Right-click anywhere inside the canvas, select the Temp Brush brush, and hit Enter. Then go to Window > Brush and, in the Brush window, use the settings below:

adjusting brush settings

Step 4

Now, to define this brush with new settings as a new brush, click on the icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the Brush panel, and name it Ink Sketch Brush.

defining brush

3. How to Start Recording a Photoshop Action

In this section, we are going to start recording the action. Go to Window > Actions, and in the Actions panel, click on the menu icon in the top right-hand corner, choose New Set to create a new set, and name it Ink Sketch. Then, click on the same menu icon again, choose New Action to create a new action, and name it Ink Sketch.

creating new action

4. How to Create the Background

Step 1

In this section, we are going to create the background. Go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color to create a new solid color fill layer, name it Background Color, and choose the color #f3f3f3 as shown below:

creating new solid color fill layer

Step 2

Now select the Background layer and press Control-J on your keyboard to duplicate this layer. Then, drag this layer to the top of the Layers panel.

duplicating layer

Step 3

Go to Filter > Filter Gallery > Sketch > Photocopy and set the Detail to 2 and Darkness to 5.

adding photocopy filter

Step 4

Now change the Blending Mode of this layer to Multiply and the Opacity to 65%. Name this layer Outline Sketch.

changing blending mode and opacity

5. How to Create an Ink Sketch Effect

Step 1

Go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer and name it Ink_Sketch_1.

creating new layer

Step 2

Because we want to give users the freedom to brush where and how they like, we are going to pause the action recording. Go to Window > Actions, and in the Actions panel, click on the rectangle icon in the bottom left-hand corner to stop recording the action. Then, in the same panel, click on the menu icon in the top right-hand corner and choose Insert Stop to add the Stop command.

Set the foreground color to #000000, choose the Brush Tool (B), pick the Sketch Brush brush, and brush over the subject where you like. You don't have to brush over the whole subject—you can focus on a specific area.

brushing into layer

Step 3

Go to Window > Actions, and in the Actions panel, click on the circle icon at the bottom to resume recording the action.

Then, go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All to add a layer mask that reveals the whole layer. After that, hide the Ink_Sketch_1, Outline Sketch, and Background Color layers, go to Image > Apply Image, and use the settings below:

applying image

Step 4

Now go to Image > Adjustments > Levels and enter the settings below:

adjusting levels

Step 5

Go to Image > Adjustments > Threshold and set the Threshold Level to 50.

adjusting threshold

Step 6

Now show all the layers in the Layers panel. Then, press Control-I on your keyboard to invert the layer mask. After that, in the Properties panel, set the Density of the layer mask to 70%.

adjusting density

Step 7

Change the Opacity of this layer to 80%.

changing opacity

Step 8

Now press Control-J on your keyboard to duplicate this layer. Drag this new layer just below the Ink_Sketch_1 layer in the Layers panel. After that, Right-click on the layer mask of this layer, and choose Delete Layer Mask to delete it.

duplicating layer

Step 9

Go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All to add a layer mask that reveals the whole layer. Hide the Ink_Sketch_1, Ink_Sketch_1 copy, Outline Sketch, and Background Color layers. After that, go to Image > Apply Image and use the settings below:

applying image

Step 10

Now go to Image > Adjustments > Levels and enter the settings below:

adjusting levels

Step 11

Go to Image > Adjustments > Threshold and set the Threshold Level to 75.

adjusting threshold

Step 12

Now show all the layers in the Layers panel. Press Control-I on your keyboard to invert the layer mask. In the Properties panel, set the Density of the layer mask to 35%.

adjusting density

Step 13

Change the Opacity of this layer to 100% and name it Ink_Sketch_2.

changing opacity

6. How to Reveal the Subject Details

Step 1

In this section, we are going to reveal the subject details. Select the Background layer and press Control-J on your keyboard to duplicate this layer. Then, drag this layer to the top of the Layers panel.

duplicating layer

Step 2

Press Control-Shift-U to desaturate this layer. Then, go to Filter > Other > High Pass and set the Radius to 10 px.

adding high pass filter

Step 3

Change the Blending Mode of this layer to Overlay and name it Reveal Details.

changing blending mode

7. How to Make the Final Adjustments

Step 1

In this section, we are going to make final adjustments to the design. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves to create a new curves adjustment layer, and name it Overall Brightness.

creating new curves adjustment layer

Step 2

Now Double-click on this layer thumbnail and, in the Properties panel, enter the settings below:

adjusting curves

8. How to Crop an Image in Photoshop

In this section, we are going to save the action for future use and crop the image to keep only the focus area. Go to Window > Actions, and in the Actions panel, click on the rectangle icon in the bottom left-hand corner to stop recording the action. Then, in the same panel, click on the menu icon in the top right-hand corner and choose Save Actions to save the action.

Now choose the Crop Tool (C) and transform the Crop Box as shown below:

cropping image

You Made It!

Congratulations, you have succeeded! You've learned how to create an ink effect Photoshop action. Using this abstract ink Photoshop action, you can now convert any photo to an ink sketch and create amazing pen and ink portraits. Here is our final result:

final result

Take It to the Next Level!

If you would like to create the even more advanced Photoshop pen and ink effect shown below, using just a single click and in only a few minutes, then check out my Ink Pen Sketch Photoshop Action.

Using this modern ink Photoshop action, you can convert your photo to an ink drawing quickly and easily! Simply open your photo, brush over your subject, and run the action. It’s really that simple! 

action final result

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