How to Convert to Line Drawing in Photoshop


Photoshop is a powerful image processor that is capable of adding stunning effects to photographs, graphics and other images. Because Photoshop has so many features, you may be unsure of how to create special styles, like line drawing. By using three Photoshop tools--High Pass, Note Paper filter and Threshold--and a bit of trial and error, you can transform your favorite digital photographs to attractive line drawings.

  • Open the image. Open the “File” menu and select “Open.” Navigate to the folder that contains the image, select the image and click “Open.”

  • Use the “High Pass” tool. Open the “Filter” menu, place your mouse pointer over the “Other” sub-menu and select “High Pass.” Adjust the “Radius,” using the slider below it, so the details of the images show as faint, but viewable, lines.

  • Use the “Note Paper” filter. Open the “Filter” menu, place your mouse pointer over the “Sketch” sub-menu and select “Note Paper” from the list. In the lower left-hand corner, open the menu that says “100%” and change it to “Fit in View,” so you can see a preview of the image. Adjust the “Graininess” and “Relief” to 0. Slowly move the slider under “Image Balance” until the preview displays the proper line drawing.

  • Adjust the line drawing. If necessary, press the “Ctrl,” “Alt” and “Z” keys simultaneously to undo the last change. To completely start over, press this combination twice. Experiment with both the “High Pass” and “Note Paper” filters until the resulting line drawing looks as you want it to. Each image will require a different value for the “Radius” and “Image Balance” options, so you may need to try several combinations before you find something that looks good.

  • Convert the lines to black using the “Threshold” tool. Open the “Image” menu, place your mouse pointer over the “Adjustments” sub-menu and select “Threshold” from the list. Adjust the threshold value up to darken the lines. A lower threshold will lose fine details, while a higher threshold will cause pixilation. If you like how the drawing looks without darkening the lines, you can skip this step.

  • Clean up the line drawing. Remove any distracting pixels that come from imperfections, like marks on cups or lens flare. You can use a number of tools for this, including the “Pencil, the “Eraser” and the “Clone Stamp,” all of which can be found in the Photoshop toolbar. You may need to experiment with all of them, or, if you’re satisfied with how the image looks, you can skip this step.

  • Save the line drawing as a new image. For use online or image printing, open the “File” menu and select “Save for Web & Devices.” Choose the “JPEG” format, which retains the most data, and save it to the desired location on your computer. You can also save it as a Photoshop Document (“PSD”) by opening the “File” menu, selecting “Save As” and choosing “Photoshop” in the “Format” drop-down.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the lines from the High Pass filter are too distinct, your selected radius is too large and the resulting image will be grainy. If they are too light, the radius is too small and the details will not be noticeable.
  • When using the “Note Paper” filter, remember that an “Image Balance” that is too high will result in a dark image, and one that is too low will cause a light image.
  • Do not “Save” or press “Ctrl” and “S” while editing the document, as this will overwrite the original image.

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