Create a Coloured Line Drawing with Layers in Photoshop

Many Photo Editors have filter effects which can create a line drawing or watercolour effect on a picture. The problem is that this has no flexibility to get the right look for your style and your picture.

This tutorial will show you another way. The tutorial is done in Photoshop but it may be possible to do it in other Photo Editors which have layers

The starting picture is a shot I took in Paris of the 2012 finish of the Tour de France. The objective for this image is a line drawing effect largely in mono but with a little colour on the riders so they stand out. Below is the starting image.

Line Draw1Brad1Original-1

The next few steps are quite important.

First duplicate the original background layer. Go to Layers – Duplicate layer.

Next convert the duplicate layer to mono. Go to Image – Adjustments –Desaturate.

Next duplicate the mono layer.

Note we still have the colour on the original background layer, only the 2 duplicate layers above are  in mono though as the top layer is mono that is how the picture appears.

Next you need to select the top mono layer and invert this. This means the shades are reversed so we get a negative look. Go to Image –Adjustments – Invert. The easy shortcut for this is Control and i or for Mac it is Command and i The image now looks like this.

Line Draw2Brad2Invert


Next on the Layers Panel on the bottom right of the screen under the Blend Mode which currently states Normal click the dropdown arrow and from the list select Colour Dodge. This will result in the picture turning white all over, no panic that is meant to happen.

Next go to Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur. Move the Radius slider to get thinner or thicker lines. Here you gain a lot of control over the final look.



Select the 2 mono layers, hold Control and click each layer. Then right click and select Merge Layers. Then go to Adjustments – Levels and use this to bring in more detail.

With the top layer selected change the layers blend mode to luminosity to get touches of colour. Bring down the Opacity slider to bring in more colour

Line Draw4Brad4Luminosity


The above is the final step.

For this particular picture thought to make the cyclists stand out more I made further adjustments in adjustment layers. This included saturation and Vibrance for the colours on the cyclists. This was followed by a saturation adjustment layer where saturation was reduced to mono and a layer mask was used to apply this to the background only. This resulted in the final image below.

Line Draw5 FinalBrad5PartMonoFinal

Edwin Jones




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