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How to Create Amazing Photoshop Sketches [Full Guide]

How to Create Amazing Photoshop Sketches [Full Guide]

Since the latest update of the app, many creatives are wondering if Photoshop has everything they need to create detailed sketches. That’s why we have created this in-depth tutorial. We can safely say that the software outperforms numerous apps when it comes to digital sketching.

Although many professionals prefer to sketch with a traditional pen and paper, digital sketching is becoming more popular every day. With an endless collection of colors, brushes, and other sketching tools, Photoshop offers an amazing sketching experience.

If you are drawing in photoshop, you will likely want to consider one of the following drawing tablets. They allow for pressure sensitivity and tilt recognition to work properly in photoshop:

Best of all, you do not need to use any physical materials and can edit your sketch until you are happy with the results. But, what’s the process you need to follow to create amazing Photoshop sketches?

Related: Best MacBooks for Photoshop & Photo Editing

Luckily, all you have to do is follow some straightforward steps. We have sketched in Photoshop using both a mouse and keyboard, as well as an external drawing pad. The software works perfectly whether you draw with the mouse or an active pen.

See the 7 Best Drawing Tablets for Photoshop & Illustrator (Get prepared)

So let us take a look at how to set up Photoshop for drawing.

How to set up Photoshop for Drawing Digitally

How to set up Photoshop for Drawing Digitally

Below, we will cover what you need to know in order to draw in Photoshop digitally. You may be using a pen tablet or a graphics tablet in order to draw or write in Photoshop. You may be retouching photos as a photographer or you are a digital artist or graphic designer creating artwork digitally.

Let’s see how to set up photoshop so you can draw amazing sketches and digital paintings.

1. Canvas, Canvas Size, Layering

1. Canvas Canvas Size Layering

This step is crucial for beginners and graphic designers who have little or no experience with Adobe Photoshop. When you open the app, the first thing you need to do is open a new file. In the control panel, you can select the size and resolution of your project/page.

We recommend that you create a new canvas with square dimensions (for example, 8 x 8 inches). The resolution is also very important. Most professional creatives choose a resolution of 300 dpi (pixels/inch).

This is by far the best resolution for Photoshop drawing and sketching, as it will allow you to print a detailed copy of your sketch when you are finished.

See the 7 Best Stylus for Photoshop & Adobe Illustrator

Once you have set your canvas settings, all you need to do is click ‘ok’. The next feature you should set before you start sketching is the layers panel. By default, Photoshop will only create one layer for your project called ‘background’.

You can see and edit your layers using the Layers panel at the bottom right of your screen. All professional creatives work with more than one layer, even when it comes to sketching.

Check out our post on How to fix Photoshop Pen Pressure not working if your having issues getting photoshop to work.

Creating a new layer in Photoshop is very simple. In the Layers panel, click the square icon (with the bent left corner) at the bottom and the app automatically creates your first layer.

This allows you to start sketching without affecting the background in any way. Of course, you can repeat this process and add more layers (for specific sketch details) along the way.

2. Brush Tools

2. Brush Tools

Brushes are arguably the most important feature in Photoshop sketching. Adobe is the most popular brand when it comes to creative software. And Photoshop brushes fully justify why.

Like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop includes a large collection of brushes to choose from when you are sketching. To access this collection of brushes, you need to click on the brush icon in the left bar of your screen.

Using Mac? See the 7 Best Drawing Tablets for Mac (Full Guide)

From the options icon, you can review the different brushes and choose the one that suits your needs. You can also easily change the size of the brush and its hardness/opacity (soft or hard edge). The lower you set the percentage, the softer the brush will be.

If you want to mimic an initial pencil sketching experience with light strokes, we recommend setting the opacity to a value between 20 and 30%. This way you can create a first sketch before you start drawing details.

Related: How to get the Procreate App on MacBook

3. Initial sketch

3. Initial sketch

Now that you have created your canvas, added a layer, and selected your brush, it’s time for the fun part: the actual sketching. From this point on, the process is pretty similar to drawing with a pencil on paper.

Whether you’re using a mouse or an active pen to draw, try to look only at the screen. This will help you become a better digital artist in the long run. However, if you are using a drawing pad, you can start with your active pen and experiment with its pressure sensitivity for a while.

As most artists know, the details do not matter in your first sketch. Try to shape your drawing gradually by sketching some loose lines. A good alternative to Photoshop if you need 3d modeling instead of drawing is Sketchup. be sure to use a top laptop for Sketchup as Sketchup is a CPU demanding graphic design app.

There will be times, of course, when your lines do not look quite the way you want them to. That’s why you should know how to rotate, zoom and erase in Photoshop.

4. Zooming and erasing

4. Zooming and erasing

For many years, creatives preferred to draw on paper because it lacked zoom and rotate features. Fortunately, digital drawing programs have improved these features, and Photoshop is no exception.

If you press the R key, you can access the Rotate tool. With the app’s drag tool, you can easily rotate your canvas and find the angle you want. To zoom in and out, you’ll find the Zoom tool in the toolbar on the left side of your screen.

Alternatively, Photoshop allows you to zoom by holding on Alt key (Windows) or Option key (Mac) and clicking the + or – button.

But any comprehensive sketching experience should include an eraser, right? Absolutely. We really liked how advanced Photoshop’s eraser tool is. You can easily access the eraser from the main toolbar (11th from the top). Photoshop lets you change the size and shape of the eraser.

5. Exporting and sharing

5. Exporting and sharinga

Once you are happy with your Photoshop sketch, all you have to do is export it and share it. If you want to export your sketch as an image, all you have to do is navigate to File > Export > Quick Export. Alternatively, you can choose one of the many types of export files (doc, PDF, png, jpeg, etc.) that Photoshop supports.

Finally, Photoshop allows you to print your sketch. To do this, you have to:

  1. Go to File > Print
  2. Select your printer, number of copies and the layout orientation
  3. From the preview area, you can check if the position and scale of your sketch is calculated correctly. If not, you can easily adjust them.
  4. Click on Print. You’re all set!

Drawing in Photoshop With Tablet (Drawing Tips)

Drawing in Photoshop With Tablet Drawing Tips

Whether you draw with a tablet or your desktop PC, sketching in Photoshop is very easy. Above all, drawing in Photoshop with a drawing tablet is very satisfying. So to answer the question “Can you draw in Photoshop?”. In a nutshell, we have to say yes.

New to Drawing tablets? Learn How Drawing Tablets Work in our Complete Guide

All Photoshop versions and the Adobe Suite prove to be comprehensive tools for beginners and professional artists. But since sketching is usually just the first phase of a creative project, let us take a look at the brush settings Photoshop offers for drawing.

Photoshop Brush Settings for Drawing

Photoshop Brush Settings for Drawing

Photoshop is a very powerful software when it comes to brush settings. Using the brush panel, you can easily adjust the opacity, size, and hardness of your brush to suit your painting needs.

You can also edit the spacing, angle, and roundness of your chosen brush.

Although most professionals only use and edit one brush (the standard round brush), that does not mean you can not experiment with different brushes. After all, each stage of your drawing process may require a different brush.

Autodesk Sketchbook vs Procreate: Which is Better for Drawing?

For example, you can edit your brush to feel like a pencil during the sketching phase. On the other hand, for blending you can set the hardness to 0% and for detailing you can keep it between 70-100%.

Finally, you can choose one of the special brushes that Photoshop offers for special occasions, for example to add a specific effect.

Photoshop Draw Tutorial

Photoshop Draw Tutorial

The drawing experience with Photoshop is simply top notch. From drawing landscapes to characters, Photoshop will help you with any kind of illustration. After you download the software, the process is pretty simple. All you need to do is:

  1. Create a new file
  2. Choose the dimensions and resolution of your canva
  3. Create a new layer
  4. Access the Brush tool and adjust the brush settings to your needs
  5. Use the numerous additional drawing tools that Photoshop offers (zooming, eraser, color panel, drawing filters and so on)
  6. Once you’re done, export or print your project

Best Photoshop Settings for Drawing

Best Photoshop Settings for Drawing

Although Photoshop is a pretty infinite software, it has some advanced drawing settings that make a big difference. From an advanced brush collection to numerous sketch filters, Photoshop has everything an artist or designer needs.

Adobe has also developed an amazing illustration software, Adobe Illustrator. However, Photoshop proves to be an equally reliable solution when it comes to sketching and drawing. Therefore, it is fair to say that Photoshop is much more than just the best photo editor on the market.

How To Draw & Sketch in Photoshop (advanced artists)

How To Draw Sketch in Photoshop advanced artists

There are a few ways to sketch and draw in Photoshop if you are a professional artist or aspiring to become one. You can use a mouse, a digital pen tablet, or graphics tablet from a reputable brand such as the Wacom, Gaomon, XP-Pen, or XenceLabs.

How To Sketch in Photoshop With a Mouse

How To Sketch in Photoshop With a Mouse

Many beginners and professional creatives buy a drawing tablet to sketch in Photoshop. Yet sketching with a mouse in Photoshop is not as hard as it may sound.

In fact, you can create great drawings in Photoshop without a tablet. All you need to do is understand how the app’s tools and keyboard shortcuts. After a while, you will feel very comfortable drawing with just the mouse.

Summing up, if you are a beginner in digital art, you should try drawing with the mouse before opting for a drawing pad.

Drawing in Photoshop With a Wacom Tablet

During our test, Photoshop proved to be an extremely powerful drawing software. Especially in combination with a Wacom drawing pad, the software offers an amazing drawing experience.

See the 7 Best Wacom Tablets for Photo Editing & Photographers to see which models are ideal to use with photoshop.

Since most Wacom devices have keyboard shortcuts and an eraser, drawing in Photoshop becomes even easier. In addition, Wacom’s active pens use advanced technology to mimic traditional pens.

Thanks to the many levels of pressure sensitivity, digital drawing and sketching with this combination is simply stunning.

How do you turn a photo into a sketch in Photoshop?

If you want to turn a photo into a pencil sketch, we have good news. You can do it easily in just a few minutes with Photoshop. Best of all, Photoshop has all the tools you need to do it. The process is pretty simple:

  1. Open the photo in Photoshop
  2. Convert it to grayscale (Ctrl+Shift+D for Windows, Cmd+Shift+D for MacOS)
  3. Duplicate the first layer (Ctrl+J for Windows, Cmd+J for MacOS)
  4. Then, invert the second layer (Ctrl+I for Windows, Cmd+I for MacOS)
  5. From the Layers panel, go to Layer>Layer Style> Blending options and choose the Linear Dodge blend mode
  6. From the Filter menu, click on Blur and choose one of the blur filters (we suggest you use the Gaussian Blur for a smooth result)
  7. That’s it! Your photo should now look like a great pencil sketch

Photoshop Drawing Tips

Photoshop Actions

Although Photoshop is by far the most powerful creative software on the market, there are third-party actions you can install to get a better editing or drawing experience. Installing a premium or free Photoshop action is very simple:

  1. Open the Window menu. Choose Actions
  2. Click the Menu Icon
  3. Press on Load Actions
  4. Open the Photoshop Actions folder and double-click your .ATN file
  5. The action is now installed and ready to be used.

Photoshop Sketching Brushes

Photoshop comes with many editable brushes that you can use. Of course, if you want to install a custom brush, you can do that too. In the Brushes panel, click the menu (upper right corner). Select Import Brushes and locate your brush. Once you double-click it, the brush will automatically be installed in Photoshop.

A good alternative to Photoshop is procreate on iPad if you are digitally painting. Typically you’d use an apple pencil 1 or 2 for this.

Related: How to Get Procreate on Windows (Alternatives)

Photoshop Sketch Effect Filter & Plugin

Adobe Photoshop is one of the most extensible applications we have ever used. With the numerous plugins available, you can do just about anything. Let us say you need a powerful filter plugin for sketch effects. Well, there are numerous actions you can use to add a sketch effect to an image.

Some of the most popular ones are:

  1. Pencil Sketch
  2. Da Vinci
  3. Architecture Sketch Art

Such actions add a beautiful sketch effect to your images in seconds. All you need to do is download them and import them into Photoshop.

How to Draw in Photoshop using a Stylus pen

Stylus pens have revolutionized the way artists and designers interact with digital canvases. These pens offer a more natural and intuitive drawing experience, closely mimicking the feel of traditional drawing instruments. When paired with powerful software like Adobe Photoshop, the possibilities are endless.

Drawing in Photoshop with a stylus pen provides a level of detail and precision that’s hard to achieve with a mouse or trackpad. The pressure sensitivity of the stylus allows for varied line widths and opacities, enabling artists to create intricate details and smooth gradients with ease. However, using a stylus pen depends on which device you use, be it a graphics tablet, pen tablet, touchscreen laptop, or other devices. The experience can vary based on the device and the custom settings set in Photoshop.

For those new to the digital art realm, starting with a stylus pen in Photoshop can be a game-changer. The tactile feedback and ergonomic design of the pen make the transition from paper to screen smoother. Whether you’re sketching, painting, or retouching photos, the stylus pen enhances control and creativity.

How to draw shapes in Photoshop

Photoshop offers two main avenues for crafting custom shapes: the Custom Shape Tool and the Shapes panel.

The Custom Shape Tool, nestled within the toolbar alongside other geometric tools, provides a selection of pre-defined shapes. After choosing a shape, users can customize its fill, stroke, color, and more before placing it onto their canvas.

On the other hand, the Shapes panel acts as a visual catalog of shapes, allowing users to pick and directly draw onto the canvas, while still offering the flexibility of adjusting design elements like fill and stroke. Both methods are designed to give users a seamless experience in shape design and integration.

How to Draw in Photoshop using a Xencelabs Pen Tablet

XenceLabs is a Company that creates pen tablets that are tailored for professional artists. They typically bundle their products and provide two wireless battery free pens. These work well for drawing, retouching, and digital painting in Photoshop as well as other graphic design softwares.

Exploring the Digital Drawing world with the Xencelabs Pen Tablet, Quick Keys, and Adobe Photoshop.

Photoshop is primarily harnessed by professional photographers and graphic designers for their photo-editing purposes. However, since Adobe’s latest update, it has also become a very powerful software for sketching when paired with a Xencelabs pen tablet.

Drawing in Photoshop with a pen tablet can significantly increase precision compared to the traditional mouse or trackpad. From graphic design to photo editing, both seasoned and beginner artists of all types can benefit.

See the 7 Best Stylus for Photoshop & Adobe Illustrator

In this next section, we are going to highlight how to use the Xencelabs pen tablets for sketching, writing and drawing in Photoshop. We will also provide guidance on setting up and optimizing the drawing tablet for Photoshop. By the end of this next section, you’ll know exactly how to draw in Photoshop with a Xencelabs tablet.

Setting up the Tablet for Drawing

The first thing you should do when using a drawing tablet for photoshop & lightroom is to connect to your device, install the PenTablet drivers, and customize the Quick Keys Remote if needed.

  • First, you’ll connect your Xencelabs to your drawing laptop or PC via USB cable or Wireless dongle.
  • There are three shortcut buttons at the top of the Pen tablet. If you need more shortcut keys, you can utilize the Quick Key remote and customize the buttons as well as the names of the shortcuts.
  • There are drivers for Mac OS, Windows, and Linux. ​​When you have found your driver, click download to begin downloading the Driver to your computer.

Once the download is complete, open the driver installer, follow the setup instructions, and begin your new photoshop project!

Also see our post on 8 Best Digital Writing Pads (Electronic Notebooks)

Create a New Project in Photoshop

If you have done everything right, Photoshop will immediately recognize your Xencelabs device. So you do not need to do anything other than create a new drawing project!

To draw in Photoshop, you can use a square canvas with a resolution of 300 dpi (pixels/inch).

This resolution will allow you to share or print a detailed copy of your drawing. Click ‘ok’ and your canva will be created automatically.

Learn the Brushes and Drawing Tools

Accessing Photoshop’s brush settings and drawing tools with Xencelabs Pen Tablet is straightforward. If you are used to drawing in Photoshop with a mouse+keyboard combo, take your time.

With the Xencelabs software, Artists can set up customizations for a specific software and save the settings for a customized experience.

Once you get comfortable with the features of your stylus pen, tablet, and remote, you’ll be able to design new projects in Photoshop with ease. The customizable shortcut keys on the remote and pens will allow you to quickly access specific drawing toolbars in seconds.

Zooming and Rotating with Xencelabs Pen Tablet in Photoshop

Aside from the eraser and the other Quick Keys, Artists may find themself utilizing the Xencelabs remote to quickly zoom and rotate our drawings in Photoshop.

In fact, the Quick Keys have upgraded drawing experiences and made everything easier. This is one of the main reasons why we consider the Xencelabs pen tablets to be extremely user-friendly devices.

Export and Share your Artwork

When your drawing is ready, all you have to do is export it. To do this, you need to follow a simple procedure:

  1. Go to File and Export
  2. From the options given, choose Quick export.
  3. If you want to export your artwork as a specific file type, you can also do it manually. Photoshop offers numerous export types (doc, PDF, png, jpeg and more).

That said, let’s explore the exciting customizations that Xencelabs pen tablets allow when drawing in Photoshop.

Xencelabs Pen Tablets – Features that benefit Photoshop projects

The Xencelabs Pen Tablets work not only with Photoshop, but with numerous graphic design and digital art softwares such as Illustrator, Krita, Lightroom, and many others. Optimizing the wireless remote and active pens for drawing in Photoshop was also very easy via the Xencelabs software.

In a few words, the pros and cons of Xencelabs pen tablets for drawing in Photoshop are:

  • Natural drawing experience with pressure sensitivity technology inside of Photoshop (8192 levels)
  • Ergonomic designs, very comfortable when drawing
  • Numerous accessories included (adaptors, 10 extra nibs, drawing glove, USB cables, and more)
  • Portable (and wireless) devices
  • Includes two pens
  • Customizable shortcuts buttons on the Pens and with the Quick Keys remote

How to Set Up a Xencelabs Tablet for Photoshop?

Xencelabs tablets are fully adjustable. This means that the brand has included hardware and software that work together to enable a natural experience for drawing software that allows you to manipulate the shortcut keys. But how can you set up the device to draw with Photoshop? Well, after our test, we can safely say that the process is pretty simple:

  1. Connect the Xencelabs pen tablet to your computer. The device supports Windows, MacOS and Linux operating systems.
  2. Visit the drivers page
  3. Choose the software that matches your operating system.
  4. Download and install the Xencelabs drivers.

Once you have downloaded the drivers, all you need to do is connect the device via a USB cable (or wirelessly).

For example, you can fully customize the pen pressure, eraser, and buttons on both pens to suit your drawing needs in Photoshop. You have the option to choose different corner colors (on the tablet) for each software.

Where the Xencelabs software really shines is when it comes to setting up the Quick Key remote. In fact, Xencelabs allows you to create different sets of quick keys depending on the software or task you are working with. The wireless remote also has an OLED screen that comes in handy when using quick keys.

A Digital Artist opinion on utilizing a XenceLabs Pen Tablet for photoshop

As a graphic designer myself, it is clear that Xencelabs pen tablets are specifically designed by creatives for creatives. When that’s the case, things rarely go wrong. After our test, we can safely say that the combination of a Xencelabs Pen Tablet and Photoshop provides an experience that feels truly customized for the artist.

To be precise, Xencelabs devices include all the essential and advanced features that a professional requires. For example, the Xencelabs Pen Tablet Medium Bundle is not only a wireless drawing tablet, but provides a premium Quick Keys remote device control and two pens.

The pressure sensitivity levels of the two pens (8192) and the innovative technology behind the remote control ensure an extremely smooth, precise drawing experience in Photoshop. In fact, we really enjoyed using the numerous shortcut keys the device offers, and optimizing it for Photoshop was relatively easy.

You can also see the best 7 Best Drawing Tablets that Dont Need a Computer (Standalone) if you don’t want to use a XenceLabs; which requires a secondary device to work.

When we received our first Xencelabs pen tablets, it was immediately clear to us that these were devices designed for professionals. During our testing, we were able to connect the devices to our Windows and MacOS devices without any problems.

In fact, the software integrates one of the most powerful (and customizable) hardware available today. The advanced technology increases pressure sensitivity and, combined with the ergonomic design of the device, provides an unmatched drawing experience.

Do not forget that Photoshop has numerous drawing toolbars and features that you can utilize and customize as per Photoshop. That’s why it’s important to have plenty of easily accessible shortcuts.

After testing Xencelabs devices with a few Photoshop projects I’ve taken on, there is no doubt that the Xencelabs Pen Tablet Medium Bundle will empower the next generation of creatives appropriately.

About the author:

Photo of Paul Michael, Founder of MediaPeanut

Paul Michael

Paul Michael is a media and technology expert whose research reveals how technology and media are being used in the world today. He has expertise on computers, the internet, streaming, Roku, electronics, and education. He also enjoys graphic design & digital art. Paul has his Bachelors of Arts and Science(s) from Rutgers University-New Brunswick, NJ