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How to Make a Sketch Inside a Photograph

This is one of those tutorials that’s great to play around with, maybe do it once or twice. But in the end, the thing they are great for is that they always teach you something. It may not be much, but it might help you think in a different way, or learn a skill you didn’t know about. This one is about how to make a sketch inside a photograph.



This is a simple tutorial that can help you learn how to use layers, and combine images. There are so many things you can do with layers, but  in this example, we are going to work on putting a drawing of a scene in front of the photograph. Of course, it isn’t a real drawing, but one that is created from the image using the artistic filters in Photoshop.

The image

Deciding which image you are going to use can be harder than you think. It could take a while to find one that will work well, one with lots of contrast is good. You want an image that will stand out when you put the drawing over the top of it.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph

Open the image and process it normally to get it ready. If you have several layers flatten or merge all of them, and copy that new merged layer so there are two. To copy the layer press Ctrl/Cmd+J.

Turn off the top layer by clicking on the eye icon next to the thumbnail. That will make it disappear, or turn off temporarily.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph - hide layer

Click the bottom layer to select it as the one that you will change into a drawing.

Making the drawing

Go up to the Main Menu and click Filters > Filter Gallery, or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl/Cmd+F.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph - filter gallery

If you can’t bring up the Filter Gallery or click on it in the menu, it may be because your image is either 16 or 32 Bits, so you will need to change it to 8 Bits.

To change the image to 8 Bits select from the top menu bar: Image > Mode > 8 Bits/Channel. You should now be able to use the Filters Gallery.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph - 8 bits

There are loads of options in the gallery to give you an artistic look. Select the one you like. For this example, I used the Graphic Pen found in the sketch section. If you don’t like any of the ones that Photoshop has to offer, you can look for artistic actions (google search) that may give you a better drawing.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph - sketch filter

Adding the hand

I took several images of my daughter holding a piece of paper. It’s good to get a large variety, and if you have the time, shoot in different lighting conditions as well.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph - hands

Choose an image of the hand holding the paper. Open it in Photoshop and use the Quick Selection tool to select the hand and paper. It doesn’t have to be exact, as long as everything you need is selected. Once you have the hand on the image you can fine-tune it.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph - selection of hand and paper

Press Ctrl/Cmd+C, then Ctrl/Cmd+V. This will copy and paste the selection onto a new layer (in the same document). However, if you go back over to your original image and pressCtrl/Cmd+V it will paste the hand onto your image as a new layer. Use the move tool, the top one in the tool bar.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph

Size and position the hand

If you are lucky the hand will be the correct size, however, if it isn’t you may have to resize it. You might also have to change the angle. Free transform will allow you to do that, press Ctrl/Cmd+T to activate it. If you click on the corners you can make it bigger or smaller (hold Shift down to keep the proportions the same!). If you hover around the corners you will see a small curve appear with arrows on either end, this will allow you to rotate it to the desired angle.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph - transform tool

The hand looks a little odd because it needs a shadow. Take note of your original image and how the shadow was placed. You also need to look at the main image, it will look a bit off if the light is coming from a different direction than the image of the hand.

Creating the drawing on the paper

To get the image on the piece of paper you need to ensure the layer that is the photograph is still not visible. It should still be invisible from when you did the drawing.

Add a mask to the layer with the hand and paper. At the bottom of the layers panel click on the mask icon, looks like a white rectangle with a round black circle in it. It should be down in the bottom right corner.

Next, make sure the layer mask is selected. If there are white lines around the outside of the mask (not the image thumbnail, it means the mask is selected.

Select the Brush Tool and make sure the foreground colour is set to black. Go down the tool bar and find the foreground and background colours. If white is on top click on the arrow above it to make it black (if other colors are showing hit D on your keyboard to set to the defaults of black and white).

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph

You could mask out the whole sheet of paper, or leave an edge around the image. For this tutorial, I left a border intentionally. Once you think you have gotten the whole image, press Alt (PC) or Option (Mac), and click the mask. You should then be able to see what you have masked – the black areas are the mask, so make sure there are no white spots left. Brush over any white bits and remove them. If you realize that you are painting white, then the foreground color is wrong. Press X and it will reverse the color so you can go back to painting with black.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph

Putting the photograph back

Once you have the drawing showing through the paper, you need to make the photograph appear again. Click on the eyeball icon next to the image so it is visible. You will notice the whole drawing has disappeared, it is now behind the photograph. You will need to do another mask so you can see the drawing on the paper again.

The beauty of this image is that you can use the same mask that you used for the paper layer.

If you go to the layer mask that you used to show the drawing, press Ctrl/Cmd and click on the mask you will see it make a selection (marching ants around the selected areas). Press Ctrl/Cmd+C, to copy that selection. Then, make sure the photograph layer is selected and click the layer mask icon to create a new one. You should get a new layer mask the same as the other one. (Alternately you can click and hold Alt/Opt, and grab the layer mask from the paper layer and drag it over to the image layer. That will copy the same mask over for you).

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph

It is time to remove the parts that don’t really belong. You can use the mask that you had for the hand layer. Use your brush tool and remember to make black the foreground colour. You can now mask out the parts of the hand that you didn’t mean to select when you did the quick selection (zoom in close, you can also use the refine edge function).


Fine tuning

The hand can look a little weird, so next you need to add a shadow that the hand would have created. This will make it more believable looking.

Add a new layer by clicking the icon at the bottom of the layers panel. It is the square outline with the folded corner, usually located next to the trash can. Alternatively, you can go to Menu > Layer > New Layer.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph - new layer

You will need to use the lasso tool. It is also helpful to zoom in so you can see what you are doing. The zoom tool is also in the tool panel, or you can press the letter Z which will make it appear. Click the image to zoom in, or to zoom out press the Alt or Option key and click the image. (Note: Press B to get the brush back.)

On the new layer, draw under the hand with the lasso tool to get the shadow. You don’t have to be exact as it is not going to be really dark. Go up to Menu > Select > Modify > Feather. In the popup window enter the amount of feathering you want. 5 pixels was the setting selected for this image. Alternatively you can press Shift+F6.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph

Add in the shadow area

Fill the selected area with black using the Paint Bucket Tool. Make sure that the foreground colour is black.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph

You may need to add a mask to remove any parts of the hand that you don’t need. You can also change the opacity of the layer so the shadow isn’t as dark. The opacity slider is located at the top of the layers panel near the blending modes. Adjust to where you think the shadow looks natural.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph

To deselect hit Ctrl/Cmd+D.

How to Make a Sketch inside a Photograph

The image is now done.


I don’t know how many of these you would do, but some of the techniques used to create it can be used for many other things. Try doing this tutorial a few times, then see how you can use some of the processes in different ways. Don’t forget to share your images so we can see what you have done.

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Leanne Cole
Leanne Cole

graduated from the VCA with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Melbourne, Australia. She has since been working as a practicing artist and teaching people how to be Fine Art Photographers. She also teaches long exposure photography and runs workshops around Melbourne. Click here to download her 10 tips for Long Exposure Photography in the City. You can find her on her website.

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