How to sketch awesomely in Adobe Photoshop

January 29, 2019

Note: This blog post was originally written in 2014 — some of the Adobe Photoshop functionality, including keyboard shortcuts and the placement of certain menus, may be slightly different in modern versions of the software. The basic ideas will still be the same, however! We post new tips and tricks all the time — click here to explore all the great recent content on the Wacom Community Blog.


“Sketch” and “paper” go together like peanut butter and jelly, coffee and cream, or Sonny and Cher (OK, bad example). But the modern generation of artists use a Wacom pen and tablet, like a Wacom Intuos, and software like Adobe Photoshop, instead of the traditional pencil and paper. The advantages? Digital sketching allows you to create your desired image and experiment with an endless variety of brushes, colors and styles, and do so easily, naturally, and without consuming valuable materials. Pretty cool, huh?

Just follow these simple steps, and you’ll be on your way to Photoshop sketching awesomeness just using the Brush Tool and the Layers palette.

Step 1: Start with a clean canvas

Open a new file in Photoshop, choosing the options that are right for you. I set my image size to 8 x 8 inches and the resolution at 300 pixels/inch or “dpi.” A resolution of at least 300 will ensure that we can print a nice clear copy of our sketch when we’re done. After you’ve made your selections, click OK, and a blank canvas will appear.

Step1

Step 2: Layer it on

On the right side of the Photoshop window, below the Color palette, is the Layers palette. Because the file has just been created, there is only one layer: the solid white “Background.” Click the icon at the bottom of the Layers palette that looks like a square with a folded corner to create Layer 1. Think of this new layer as a piece of clear glass on which we’ll be sketching.

Step2

Step 3: Brush up on brushes

Click on the icon that looks like a small paintbrush to select the Brush tool.

Step3

Choose a size that’s similar to your favorite drawing tool by going to the Options bar. I’m a big fan of ballpoint pens, so I’ll be using a brush size of 10.

Next, choose the brush’s hardness, which determines whether the edge of the brush is hard or soft, by clicking on the small down arrow next to the brush size. For sketching, I like to use a hard-edged brush, so I’ll leave this at 100%.

Now set the opacity, how opaque or translucent your lines will be. If you want to replicate pressing hard on a pencil, raise the opacity. If you want to mimic drawing lightly with a pencil, set it in the 20% range. Just like a pencil, you’ll be able to build up the line over itself and darken areas as you go.

step3b

Step 4: Make your mark

Start sketching! Just as you would with traditional media, keep your grip light on the Wacom stylus during sketching. By default, pressing down with different levels of pressure on the tablet will adjust your brush size, but not the opacity of the brush. Keep initial lines loose, exploring the shape. It may be tempting to look at the tablet as you draw, but with practice you’ll be able focus your attention on the screen.

How to sketch awesomely 4

Step 5: Take charge of the screen

Now, here’s one of the best parts of sketching in Photoshop with a Wacom tablet: You can zoom in and rotate the screen! Press “R” to turn on the Rotate tool, then click and drag the hand image to rotate to the desired angle. Click on the magnifying glass icon at the bottom of the toolbar to zoom in and hone those finer details.

Step5

Step 6: Embrace the erase

Here’s what I created once I rotated my drawing and zoomed in a bit:

Step6

Whoa, this guy is weirding me out! Good thing I can erase.

Click the Eraser tool (the 11th icon from the top in the tool bar—it looks like a box), select the size you want, and “draw” it over anything you want to get rid of. Or, do it the easy way and flip your Wacom stylus upside down (if it has built-in eraser functionality) — it will automatically become an eraser!

Step6b

Step 7: Admire your handiwork

Congrats! You’ve just completed your first sketch in Photoshop.

Step7

The next step is to add more details and color to really finish the drawing. Have fun exploring the endless possibilities in Photoshop. Good luck and keep sketching!

Related posts:

Drawing confidently: Why Sam Yang always draws with references

Drawing confidently: Why Sam Yang always draws with references

How to draw a dragon, with Monika Zagrobelna

How to draw a dragon, with Monika Zagrobelna

Three ways to use your Wacom One pen tablet, with Joli Noelle David

Three ways to use your Wacom One pen tablet, with Joli Noelle David

Artist and animator Joshua Leonard on his career, why diversity matters, and advice for young artists

Artist and animator Joshua Leonard on his career, why diversity matters, and advice for young artists

Connect with Wacom on social media

WACOM HACK UNLOCKED 🔓

Learn how to customize your pen and change the brush size in just two  steps ✍️

Discover all the amazing features about your Pen in the link in bio!

#WacomOne #WacomPen
249 0
For a creative professional team like @parasolisland , efficiency and productivity is key to deliver the best results to their clients 🚀

For years they were using pen tablets and pen displays in combination with high-end monitors, and today they can reduce all of that into one single device: the New Wacom Cintiq Pro.

Thanks to the excellent colour accuracy of the Cintiq Pro 27, this makes a big difference on their workflow.

Get in touch with our enterprise team in the link in bio.

#WacomCintiqPro #Animation
145 4
Exciting news for all creatives! 🚀

💫 Join Wacom at Playgrounds for a celebration of design, animation, and gaming craftsmanship! @tad.playgrounds @weareplaygrounds 

💡 Dive into artist talks, demos, screenings, and live sketching sessions.

✍️ Swing by our booth to test out our cutting-edge pen-displays and tablets, meet Wacom experts, and pick up some pro tips!

Meet us in:
📅 Eindhoven (April 18th-19th)
📅  Berlin, DE (May 25th-26th)

For more info visit @tad.playgrounds 💫

#Wacom #Playgrounds #CreativeCommunity
146 2
🌀 City Doodling: Amsterdam edition 🚲

This time creativity strikes us directly from the Amsterdam canals in the hands of @fragileart 💫

#Doodling #Creativeinspiration #MadeWitjwacom
446 0
Two ways of scrolling in the same display ✍️👀

Which one is your favourite move? 👇

Customize your Wacom One and see where it takes you!

#WacomOne #WacomPen #CreativeInspiration
457 3
We chat with @adansilvart, illustrator and artist who has been working in branding & illustration projects for different brands. 🚀

Join us while Adan shares insights into his creative journey and the vital role Wacom products has played in his career. ❤️

#ArtistInterview #illustration #DigitalArt
335 40
Today, we celebrate World Pencil Day 🎉

Wacom has been at the forefront of innovation, creating a digital pen that allows you to bring all your creations to life and have thousands of colors and textures in a single pen. ✍️

One of the features we love most about our Wacom One is that you can use any Wacom pen or any compatible pen with it.

Have you tried any of these? Let us know in the comments. 👇

Check out our special offers in the link in bio!

#WorldPencilDay #WacomOne
573 15
Friday with F like Finished work 💫

We want to see your finished pieces, feel fry to join our artwork chain using the hashtag #MadewithWacom 🚀

How are you ending the week?

#MadewithWacom #CreativeInspiration
321 1
Bedtime stories by @nlanzillo 📚😴⁣
⁣
It’s so cool to see all you can do in 3D and animation using the #CintiqPro27 🚀⁣
⁣
#MadebyWacom in a #CintiqPro27
193 4
At @parasolisland , where innovation is key to provide professional excellence as a high end studio, the Cintiq Pro family stands out for its design & ergonomic excellence. 🚀

The Cintiq Pro’s adjustable design optimizes workspace, offering a productive workspace where professional creatives can improve their workflow . 🌟
Invest in the best tools for your team. 

Go to the link in bio to connect with our enterprise team.

#WacomCintiqPro #EfficientDesign #CreativeWorkspace
154 0
It’s not often that we find a poet making visual art. 

Enjoy this beautiful piece by the talented @mackboross

“Kids at Play”

We dance.
because we’re happy.
We dance because we’re free.
But when.
We dance together.
We are as happy.
As can be.

Follow @mackboross on Instagram to see more of this beautiful series and the rest of their work. 

#addictivescribbles #ArtistsOfInstagram #madewithwacom #WacomCintiq #madeinaffinity #Blender
180 9