Pencil Sketch Effect

No Pencil Required GIF

With a little bit of Affinity Photo magic, you can turn ANY photo into a pencil sketch. And best of all, you don’t even need a pencil!


Pencil Sketch Before & AfterFinal Image


Step 0: Downloading the Image

For this tutorial, we’ll be using this gorgeous bridge photo

In addition to this written tutorial, you can also watch our video tutorial on creating a pencil sketch effect.


Step 1: HSL Adjustment

Alright, let’s do this.

With your photo opened in Affinity Photo, we’ll duplicate the photo layer by pressing Command J (Mac) or Control J (PC).

Duplicating the layer will make it easy to see our before and after in the end.

Duplicate the Layer


With the photo duplicated, press on the Adjustment icon.

Press Adjustment Icon


Apply an HSL adjustment.

The HSL adjustment lets you adjust the Hue, Saturation, and Luminosity of your photo.

Select HSL


Drag the Saturation slider all the way to the left to completely desaturate the photo, then exit from the HSL Dialog Box.

Decrease Saturation


Step 2: Blend and Blur

In the Layers panel, select the duplicate photo layer, and change the Blend Mode from Normal to Color Dodge.

Blend Mode to Color Dodge


Then press Command I (Mac) or Control I (PC) to invert the layer. At this point, your image should be almost entirely white.

Faint Outline, Mostly White


At the top of the screen, go to Layer, then New Live Filter Layer, then Blur, then Gaussian Blur Filter.

Layer - New Live Filter Layer - Blur - Gaussian Blur


In the Dialog Box, bring up to Radius slider. If you drag the Radius all the way up, you can see all of the picture again, which isn’t what we want for the pencil sketch.

Raise the Radius


Instead, we can give the picture a sketched look by keeping the Radius set to a low number. In this example, I’ve left it at 0.8 pixels, but depending on what photo you’re working on, you might need to make the radius slightly larger or smaller.

Radius 0.8 Pixels


Step 3: Level It Out

Now we’ll use a Levels adjustment layer to make our pencil lines thicker and darker.

Go to the Adjustment Studio, and press Levels.

Select Levels


In this Dialog Box, increase the Black Level slider. The higher the slider is increased, the more black and thick the lines will look.

If you bring the Black Level up too high though, then the whole picture becomes black. Yikes. Don’t do that.

Too High, Lines Too Thick


Keep the slider somewhere in the middle for a good pencil sketch effect.

Slider in the Middle


If you follow these steps again, this effect can work for any of your pictures. 🙂

Final Image


Nice work following along with this tutorial! By following all of these steps to the end, it’s clear that you take your photo editing pretty seriously.