by Dave Habben

Digital Drawing From Pencil Sketch to Photoshop

Dave Habben, the man who taught us to sketch awesomelyget inkyconsider coloring choices and add texture to our art in Photoshop, is taking a step back to show us how to get started on a digital drawing with a traditional sketch. This tutorial demystifies what can seem like a complex process to demonstrate how pen and pencil fits just fine into a Wacom workflow. Read on for the tips you need to take your art to the next level:

Hello Stylus Devotees! I’m excited to once again share some useful tips for you to explore with your Wacom tools. As in my previous posts, I’ll be using a Wacom Intuos Pro and Adobe Photoshop CS6 on a Mac mini, but the method we’ll be using applies to a variety of image creating software. Also, this post is written with a somewhat advanced Photoshop user in mind, so we’ll be glossing over some basic terms. If you get lost or need help, feel free to contact me with your questions.

In previous posts, we’ve discussed using the Intuos tablet to sketch out concepts directly into Photoshop. This is a great method when you have access to your computer, but what about when you’re in a meeting or out to dinner and you get the greatest idea in the world? Just because your idea was put down on a restaurant placemat, doesn’t mean you can’t use it for finished artwork. What’s even better is that you can make adjustments digitally and save yourself a lot of time. Let’s take a look at how simple this process is.

First, we’ll start with a sketch. I did this quick drawing for us to use as an example:

Next, we need to scan in our drawing. There are several different combinations of scanners and software that we could discuss, so I’ll leave this process up to you. However, there are some things to keep in mind.

Remember, this is just a sketch, so you can save yourself time, hard-drive space, and memory, by scanning at a lower resolution. You can also scan the sketch in grayscale format to save further space. Below, you can see the image I scanned at 150dpi. It’ll be fine for our purposes here and for most of yours as well. When you move to a final image file, you can create the hi-res version with this as a base layer, as you’ll see further down.

Now that our image is scanned, we’ll make it easier to adjust our composition by using layers. I like to name my layers in order to find the one I need quickly. To do this, I simply double-click on the layer name and it becomes an editable text box. When you apply this method to a background layer, like we have here, it will not only rename the background, it will also create a floating layer out of it.


With the background converted to a layer, we cut out our characters to make our adjustments. I have two characters in this sketch, so I’m going to make a separate layer for each of them. To do this, I’ll first duplicate my "sketch" layer (Command+J for Mac, Control+J for PC). Now I have two identical layers. By clicking on the "eye" icon to the left of the layer, I’m going to turn one of them off. On the visible layer, using the Lasso tool, I’ve selected the boy character and deleted the area around him. To do this, I drew a loop around the character with the lasso tool and then inverted my selection by typing (Shift+Command+I). Once the selection was inverted, I could simply hit delete and I’m left with the cutout character on an otherwise empty layer.

I’ll do this again for my creature layer. Hiding the boy layer with the "eye" icon and then making the creature layer visible with the same method. Then, using the lasso tool, I select my character, invert the selection, and delete the area around it.

With my characters separated, I want to be sure to rename the layers by double-clicking on the layer names. Labeling them specifically doesn’t seem like a big deal when there are only two layers, but it can make a huge difference as we start to add more layers and create more complex compositions.


Our next step is to use the layers we’ve made to create our desired composition. Do I want the creature to be big or small? How close do I want them to be? Using the layers we can move them and scale them (using our Move tool) to any position we’d like. As you select the layer, it helps to have the "Show Transform Controls" box checked in order to adjust the layers size and scale with the provided anchor points.

After a little experimenting, I’ve decided I like the creature to be a little smaller. As a result, my composition looks like this:

I’ve also added a white background layer here to make seeing the image easier. Clicking the small "Create a new Layer" icon in the bottom of the layer palette instantly creates a new layer and we can use the method described above to rename it.

Finally, with my composition adjusted to my liking, I can move forward to create the final image. If you’re going to create an image for print, be sure to increase your resolution, or dpi, before moving forward to at least 300dpi. In previous posts, I’ve described my method of "inking" over a sketch layer. It looks like this:

You can see that I’ve created a new layer above my sketch layer for the ink. I also like to drop the opacity of my sketch layer down to around 20%, so there’s just enough for me to see the rough drawing as I draw over the top.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick tutorial for adjusting your traditional sketches with digital tools. Combining the artwork you’ve created from different methods can bring about great results and fresh new techniques, so be sure to keep exploring and sharing your ideas with the Wacom Community!

See you next time!