Creating a Photo-Realistic Line Drawing, Part 2

Those of you who read Part 1 of this article will recall that we’re in the middle of converting a photographic portrait into a credible facsimile of a professionally rendered line drawing. Using a combination of the Photocopy filter, a bit of cleanup, and one layer each of solid black and solid white, we came up with the rather predictable effect pictured below. But this is just the base drawing. The truly amazing stuff starts now.

Progress so far

Step nine:To form the cross-hatch effect, you need to establish a couple of repeating diagonal line patterns. I created two simple images (magnified to 800 percent below) with the pencil tool. Both images are tessellating tiles, meaning that they repeat seamlessly when expressed as a pattern. Notice that one pattern is a flipped version of the other; the right lines are thicker than the left. To define the tiles as patterns, choose Edit > Define Pattern for each image. I named the left-hand pattern Thin Lines and the other Thick Lines.

Line patterns

(You can get the exact patterns I’m using for my effect by right-clicking on each of the two tiny images below, choosing Copy Image, and pasting each in turn into a new Photoshop file. For more information on creating your own custom tessellating patterns, check out my article “The Art of the Seamlessly Repeating Pattern” included here in dekeStuff.)

Thin lines
Thick lines

Step ten: Return to the layered photograph file and make sure the sold black layer (the one below the Photocopy effect) is active. Then go to the half-black half-white icon at the bottom of the Layers palette and choose the Pattern command. Select the Thin Lines pattern. If necessary, scale the pattern to better fit the image. For the best results, scale the pattern by an even fraction (50 percent, 25 percent, and so on) and keep the pattern as large as possible. Remember the lines have to print without filling in, so a bit too big is just right. (I scaled the pattern to 50 percent below.) Click OK when you’re done.

Pattern layer

Step eleven: To integrate the pattern lines into the artwork, double-click in the empty area to the right of the pattern layer’s name in the Layers palette. This brings up the Layer Style dialog box. Set the Blend Mode option to Multiply to drop out the whites and keep the blacks. Then use the Underlying Layer slider to taper the lines into the photograph. I dragged the white triangle so the right-hand value read 180. Then I pressed the Option key (PC: Alt) and dragged the right half of the white triangle so the values read 180 / 240 (see below). As a result, the lines gradually dissolve into transparency across the very lightest colors in the image. Click OK to accept your changes.

Underlying Layer 18/24

Step twelve: Press Option-left bracket (PC: Alt-left bracket) to move one layer down. (Or, if you prefer, click the solid black layer in the Layers palette.) Again click the half-black half-white icon at the bottom of the Layers palette, choose the Pattern command, and select the Thick Lines pattern. Scale the pattern by the same percentage as before (in my case, 50 percent) and click the OK button. The figure below shows my progress so far.

Thick lines pattern

Step thirteen: In the Layers palette, double-click to the right of the newest pattern layer’s name to bring up the Layer Style dialog box. As before, change the Blend Mode setting to Multiply. Then adjust the white Underlying Layer slider triangle to taste. I Option-dragged (Alt-dragged) the white triangle so the pair of right-hand values read 190 / 220. Then I clicked OK. Whatever your settings, Photoshop merges the opposite line patterns to create a cross-hatch effect, as illustrated below.

Underlying Layer 19/22

Step fourteen: You can stop now and leave the cross-hatching set against a lightened version of the color photograph. But presumably, you want to convert the entire graphic to black-and-white. It might seem like you could just set the Background layer to white and be done with it. However, thanks to the Underlying Layer settings, the behavior of the cross-hatching depends on the colors in the photograph.

Here’s the better way: Click the top layer in the Layers palette to make it active. Then click the half-black half-white icon at the bottom of the palette and choose the Threshold command. Adjust the Threshold Level value to create the ideal balance of blacks and whites, as pictured below. Then click OK.

Threshold layer

Step fifteen: At this point—at any point—you can adjust the Underlying Layer settings applied to the pattern layers to finesse the cross-hatching. In my case, I double-clicked to the right of the Thin Lines layer and dragged the two halves of the white slider triangle so the right-hand values read 225 / 255. After clicking OK, I double-clicked to the right of the Thick Lines layer and changed its slider values to 180 / 240 and clicked OK again. The point is, the cross-hatching settings remain forever editable. My modified line art appears below.

Last-minute tweaks

I finished things off by adding some text in back of the Threshold layer, so as to maintain the sharp transitions between black and white. I also threw in a vector graphic of a plate-glass bullet hole (courtesy of iStockphoto,, which I pasted into my composition as a shape layer. My final illustration appears below.

Final illustration

If you want more definition, add more line patterns. To achieve the effect below, I used a series of six line patterns, five of various widths at a 45-degree angle (that is, down and to the right) and one at a 135-degree angle (down and left). For the best results, make sure each pattern layer employs lower Underlying Layer slider values than the one above it. If you’re anything like me, once you sink your teeth into this technique, you’re going to have a field day.

Additional line patterns

Thin-lines.gif | Thick-lines.gif

Next entry:The Art of the Seamlessly Repeating Pattern

Previous entry:Creating a Photo-Realistic Line Drawing, Part 1

  • Wonderful guide Deke! I’ve

    Wonderful guide Deke! I’ve never been satisfied with the tutorials on how to make drawings in photoshop that are available on the internet. They never look convincing. The line shading is really the thing that makes this effect pop and stand out from the rest. Brilliant!
    If you keep posting tutorials of this quality I’ll make sure to stop by on a regular basis.

    / Johan

  • as a novice who finds

    as a novice who finds reading manuals and directions challenging, I can finally say that you are a fine teacher.  this is so exciting!

  • Excellent news

    Thanks for the comments. It’s good to know that the technique articles are helpful.

  • Wow, this is way cool Deke

    This is dekeKill, my term for killer Deke tips.  I truly enjoyed it.

  • Deke, this is groovy

    How does this fair?

    Email me if you want to get the full size image.

  • Oh God!

    Deke, maybe UR wondering why i reply now it’s just because i’m a new user

    & I gotta Q 4U: Why don’t include these fakes in dvd-videos… it’s the most amazing thing that i have ever seen…

  • Extremely helpful

    As someone who used to do this by hand, I can appreciate just how much time this saved me!...Excellent results (feel a little bad for the WSJ illustrator though, this could definitely put him/her out of biz in a hurry). Thx very much.

  • I came up with this technique

    Specifically for a Total Training video podcast a few years back. I plan on adding it to the library at some point. Just need to figure out where it goes. Possibly my Blend Modes series, if and when I get to it.

  • creating a photo-realistic line drawing

    I do etchings on granite, glass, marbel and I to see how this will work.
    Thank you,


  • This is so great!

    I just downloaded illustrator and photoshop and am excited to try this! Crossing my fingers that it works : )

    awesome stuff!

  • Excellent blog post!

    I look forward to reading more.

  • Great post, I look forward

    Great post, I look forward to reading more.

    Melbourne animal photography

  • Good Job, Thanks for

    Good Job, Thanks for explaining this process step by step!

  • thanks

    I definitely agree with your point here! I am a fan of the material you post and the quality information you offer in your blog!

  • So nice!

    Great! That was wonderful deke.. This is a great tutorial.. I love it! I’m looking forward for more interesting posts.. I’m excited to try this!!

    - Stephanie03

    Your Forex Robot enthusiast

  • creating-a-photo-realistic-line-drawing

    you are truly an “ingenious-creative-genius”

    love u big time ,)

    जीव अनुरज श्वसिहि मदेन

    live love breathe with passion

  • hi

    good post keep it up.

  • It was very well authored

    It was very well authored and easy to understand. Unlike additional blogs I have read which are really not good. I also found your posts very interesting. In fact after reading, I had to go show it to my friend and he enjoyed it as well!

  • Good Picture

    I agree with you, it is easy lecture.



  • i like your work its awesome

    i like your work its awesome tutorial It was very well authored and easy to understand web banners. Unlike additional blogs I have read which are really not good. I also found your posts very interesting. In fact after reading, I had to go show it to my friend and he enjoyed it as thanks for sharing it.banner design

  • I appreciate these type of

    I appreciate these type of instructions and guidelines for the beginner and sometimes it useful fr professionals as well.

  • Sadly, Step 8 precisely where this trick no longer works in Photoshop Elements. Elements lacks a Layer Style dialog box, and there’s no way to achieve this effect without it.

    So you have to own the full version of Photoshop to work thru this project.

    That said, I have a Deke’s Techniques (currently slated to go live in April) in which I demonstrate how to turn a photo into an ink drawing (as pictured in this post). That technique can be made to work in Elements, altho you’ll have to jump thru a few hoops.

  • tried but

    So I tried this out until way too late at night and I am hoping that the problem is that I only have PS Elements 7 (pc). Is this my problem? Is it possible to pull this off with only Elements 7?

    At step 8 I was gone. There is no ability to double click to the right, at least not that I could get to work, and when I pull up “layers” on the top menu it gives no options such as the ones you are mentioning (underlying layer) - which seems to be a big deal in pulling this off.

    I would be grateful if you would be willing to help. It’s a very nice effect you have developed. Wish I could pull it off :)

  • thank you

    oh, sad. I am not one with that kind of money (to buy a full blown PS copy). And I will not use the pirated versions. So I suppose I am just out of avenues.

    I read your post and was very hopeful because, as you stated, all the other effects I have been able to find have been cheesy, Photoshopy conglomerations. The depth of the cross hatch technique you developed is very effective and non-cheeseball. :)

    The “ink drawing” that you mentioned “as pictured in this post” is a vastly different look right? From the picture posted there it looks more like a Sherlock-Holmes-end-credit-illustrator-deal, if you follow my allusion.

    Back to the point, is this effect something that could be done effectively with The Gimp? Is it worth the effort for me to give it a try?

    Thank you again for the timely response and for the answer - even if it is a painful answer i.e. spend a truckload of money :)

  • good afternoon,  blog owner

    good afternoon,  blog owner , I am real thankful to you for offering this quality of incredible content for your   visitors . Today I am doing bookmark your incredible site for   coming surfing since it could be   fabulously useful to search on my dream project . Me and my squad mates are trying for such content search for our concerning matter college assignment and I am from my heart happy that you did help up by giving slight excillent content on your website . Thanks man

  • Thank’s!

      With those elements, I think I can create a new image of me. The new image who make me a different person, and in fact, the image of what I wanna be.

      I would like to see how I look like a rockstar. When I was young, I wished to have a long hair, and with photoshoop this it can be possible!



  • Thanks for sharing

    Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon. gyro bowl reviews

  • One of the best tut I have ever met..

    Thx Deke! are the Guru’s of photoshop….

  • Great tutorial

    Thanx Deke for an awesome tutorial!

  • using GIMP

    Thanks for this - it’s great!
    Is there any equivalent in GIMP for the “underlying layers” sliders used in steps 11 and 13?

    Would be really helpful to know :-)

  • Underlying layers in GIMP

    I think I can speak for both Deke and I that we have no earthly idea. But our friend, Justin Seeley has a course on GIMP at and it looks like there is a substantial chapter on layers:

  • In my case, I double-clicked

    In my case, I double-clicked to the right of the Thin Lines layer and dragged the two halves of the white slider triangle so the right-hand values read 225 / 255.

  • ; the right lines are

    ; the right lines are thicker than the left. To define the tiles as patterns, choose Edit > Define Pattern for each image. I named the left-hand pattern Thin Lines and the other Thick Lines. Ungagged

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