Third Thursday Challenge: April

The Capitol Sketched

This month’s Third Thursday Challenge still finds me playing in my Photoshop sandbox – grab a pail, a shovel, your imagination and join in!

I am excited to share with you an amazing pencil sketch technique – and everyone needs a pencil sketch technique in their post-processing arsenal. I have collected several different sketch techniques over the years but was amazed at the detailed accuracy of this particular combination of steps.

The author of this technique is Jim Zuckerman, from his book, “Digital Photographer’s Guide to Dramatic Photoshop Effects“. (Many thanks to my daughter and future-son-in-law for the gift of this book.)

The tutorial below is for Photoshop – if you are an Elements user, let me know if these steps can be followed in PSE as well.

Pencil Sketch Technique

  • Make a duplicate copy of your image (CTRL + J)
  • With the duplicate layer selected, desaturate the image (CTRL+SHIFT+U or choose Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation from the Menu bar and move the Saturation slider all the way to the left)
  • Make a duplicate copy of this black-and-white image layer (CTRL+ J)
  • With the new duplicate layer selected, invert the image (CTRL+I or Image>Adjustments>Invert). Set the blend mode to Color Dodge. All (or most) of the image will now be white
  • From the menu bar, select Filter>Other>Minimum. Set the Radius slider to 3 (adjust to taste based on your particular image)
  • As the final step, group the two “pencil sketch” layers together and name the group Pencil Sketch
  • I recorded these simple steps as an action – thereby giving me the ability to run these steps with the simple press of a button on any image

From here, the sky’s the limit. To introduce color toning, Zuckerman recommends the addition of a Color Balance adjustment. You can also change the blend mode of your pencil sketch group to combine the sketch with the original color background layer for some interesting and artistic results.

In the image below, the toning was achieved by adding a Color Lookup adjustment layer (CS6) to the pencil sketch results.

The Expanse

I also experimented with adding textures, as you can see in the example below as well as the image of the US Capitol at the beginning of this post. (Textures by Pixel Dust Photo Art and me)

Column Sketch
Now it’s your turn. What are you building in your sandbox this month? What challenges have you set for yourself and your art? I so look forward to your TTC contributions. The link below will be open through the end of the month – so you have plenty of time to join the party.


Posted on April 18, 2013, in Third Thursday Challenge and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. I love the result you are getting with this technique! The colors in the second image are stunning! Love the two colors in the first. Excellent and interesting angles for both.

    • Anita – I love this technique as well. It really is the most effective pencil sketch technique that I have run across – I hope we can get it working in Elements so that you can take advantage of it also – would love to see your results.

  2. Wow, so magical, Brenda.

    • Lisa – yes, this was definitely a fun one. I am always amazed at the people who actually come up with these techniques – they are the true innovators.

  3. I’m not really much into post processing but this looks really interesting & quite a beautiful technique.

    • Leanne – I realize that not everyone is into post-processing but I couldn’t resist this latest technique. I just felt the need to share it with everyone. 🙂

  4. I really like the 2nd image. I did some colorized pencil sketches in my class, but haven’t done them since. The technique was similar to this. I’d have to look it up.
    I think as you mention it’s a good technique to have in the tool box.
    Thanks for having this link. I really like it-seeing what others are working on triggers ideas for myself.

    • Susan – I have collected a number of different techniques over the years but this is by far my favorite – the results are so detailed and true to the original image. And the TTC has become much more than I ever imagined – because of the great ideas that everyone has come up with. It is a privilege to host this monthly challenge – both what I learn myself and what I learn from all of you.

  5. OK. I’ve found something to include in the Third Thursday Challenge–a photo of the interior panels of a Japanese House. The challenge for me was going on a photo outing with a group from my camera club–something I seldom do. I find I concentrate better when alone. But, I stretched myself and am glad for it.

    • Anita – I feel the same way – photography for me has always been a solitary activity – I need that quiet to be able to “see”. But I think there is certainly much to be gained by participating with other photographers in a group activity. And your TTC results certainly express the benefits of doing so. I love your Japanese series – highlighting the minimalist beauty and lovely light. I’m glad you were able to find an entry for this month’s challenge – I always learn from your entries.

  6. Amazing!! Love the processing…and how you’ve created a whole other image out of the one from which you began. Nice work!

    • Marcie – sometimes you come across a technique that is so much fun you just can’t stop. That was certainly the case here – I try this out on every image now 🙂

  7. Beautiful processing! I love the first image. The processing highlights the lines and shapes of the architecture! I’m running a little late on my post for TTC, but I’m working on it!

    • Cathy – yes, this technique works wonders on architectural images – the more details the better. I was amazed the first time I used it. And don’t worry about TTC – you have until the end of April to submit your link – I look forward to your challenge topic.

  8. Each of these images is better than the one that came before–except then I find myself scrolling back to the top of the post in order to study the previous images again! Anyway I’m looking forward to a little playtime to try this out.

    Thanks again for hosting this challenge.

    • Wanda – I look forward to seeing what you can do with this technique! I know you will love it – just be forewarned that it is highly addictive!

  9. What a fabulous technique. I have one really old image done this way, but it happened accidentally so I must go back and take a look. I have learned a lot since that happy accident. Your images are just beautiful…works of art.

    So, to participate in 3rd Thursday, we choose a challenge on our own and post our “results” on the 3rd Thursday? I love everyone’s contribution and their comments on what they learned. This is such a wonderful idea!

    • Suzette – It is a wonderful technique! Here is a tutorial that provides the same result in Elements – you use Elements, correct? Would love to see what you come up with.

      And yes, that is the basic idea of the Third Thursday Challenge – each month, beginning on the Third Thursday, there is a link-up where you post your own personal challenge for the month. It can be anything – photography, post-processing, writing – however you want to play outside your own comfort zone. The link is open through the end of that month – so there is plenty of time to join in. I have had such fun hosting this feature – both in the challenges I have given myself and in what I have learned from the participants. I hope you will join in!

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