Transform a photo with hand-drawn effects in Photoshop

Make sure your images are striking, not blurred -- this Photoshop tutorial show a quick way to transform a photo.
  • Fabio Sasso (Digital Arts Magazine)
  • 23 April, 2009 09:56


We’ve all witnessed the horrors of overenthusiastic use of Photoshop filters – it’s all too easy to mutilate an image beyond recognition and then add a layer of cheese if you get carried away.

However, that doesn’t mean you have to steer clear of filters completely: when used with skill, imagination and a light touch they can be a quick, easy way to transform photos, and can have some creative, unexpected results. In this tutorial, you’ll learn a simple way to transform an ordinary photo into a cool, Bond-inspired illustration – in under 20 minutes.

We’ll use a stock photo that can be downloaded for a small cost and custom brushes to achieve an effect that is both straightforward and versatile.


01. Download the image from (or use a similar image of your own), and place it into a new A3 Photoshop document. Delete the spy’s background so that we’re left with just the spy.

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02. Duplicate the Spy layer (Cmd/Ctrl + J) and go to Filter > Noise > Dust & Scratches. Set the radius to 10 pixels and the threshold to 0. This filter gives the image a smooth, slightly stylized feel and is great for creating illustration styles.


03. Next, select Image > Adjustments > Shadow/Highlights. Set the Shadow values as follows: Amount – 100%; Tonal Width – 0; Radius – 0 pixels. For the Highlights, select the following values: Amount – 0%; Tonal Width – 0; Radius – 0 pixels. In Adjustments, set Color Correction to 100, and Midtone contrast to 11. This will bump up the shadows and reduce the image’s highlights.

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04. Go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All. Then, using the Brush tool, select a small and soft brush set to 0% hardness. Then choose black and paint over the areas you want to erase. Paint over the hair, eyes, eyebrow and lips.



05. Duplicate the layer you have just masked and change the blend mode to Multiply. Then select Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation. Set the Hue to 1, the Saturation to –75 and Lightness to 55.

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06. Now duplicate the first photo layer – the one without any filters or modification – and select Filter > Others > High Pass. Set the Radius to 5 pixels, and change the blend mode to Hard Light.


07. Go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All. Then, again using a soft black brush set to 0% hardness, paint the areas you want to hide – in this case, all the skin, except the hair, eyes, lips and eyebrow.


08. Duplicate the original photo and go to Filter > Stylize > Glowing Edges. Set the Edge Width to 4, the Edge Brightness to 9, and Smoothness to 3.

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09. Now go Image > Adjustment > Hue/Saturation, reduce the Saturation to -100. Then select Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast. Set the Brightness to 4 and the Contrast to 94. Select Image > Adjustments > Invert.


10. Again, select Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All. Use a soft, black brush to delete the face and hands, but leave the hair, eyes and eyebrows. Use this image for reference.


11. Now we’ll tackle the background. For this, you can use your own custom pen brush, or download the brush I used for free from (although once you’ve downloaded it, remember that this brush can’t be used for commercial work without the creator’s permission). Use this brush to paint a scratchy, impressionistic rectangle onto a new layer, placed behind all the other layers.

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12. You can now add extra textures to the background – to download the one I’ve used here, go to To use this texture, open the file, place it in the document above the others, then select Image > Adjustments > Desaturate. Change the blend mode to Hard Light.


13. With the Eraser tool (E), delete some areas that were on top of the spy photo. Then if you want to, you can add more elements, such as text. The idea for this tutorial was to transform a regular photo to a composition combining vector-style images and elements that appear to be hand-drawn. It’s a very simple process and it won’t take you more than 20 minutes to create that, but it’s a nice trick to have in your arsenal.