How to turn a hand drawn sketch into digital art
Design Tutorials

How to convert a hand-drawn sketch into digital art

June 4th, 2016

How to turn a hand drawn sketch into digital art

In this guide, I show you the process of turning a pen drawn sketch into digital artwork. You’ll need two programs to follow this guide: Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. I use Photoshop to adjust the tones in the image and Illustrator to convert the flat image into a vector. A vector is useful because then the image can be scaled to almost any size and it keeps the clarity.

Since writing this post, I began using Adobe Capture CC phone app to convert hand drawn typography and art into vector illustrations. The results form the app can be a little crude but are much quicker. You need Adobe CC to use the app, so if you don’t have that version or prefer a much more actuate render of your illustration then continue reading this post.

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

The Tools

Either: Scanner / Digital Camera / Smartphone with a Camera
Adobe Illustrator & Adobe Photoshop

The best way to capture your artwork is with a scanner, and set to a high DPI (1200 is excellent). If you don’t have a scanner you can use a digital camera instead. When using the camera method, you’ll need to find a well-lit area (natural light is best) with a flat surface to lay your work onto. I take my photos without a tripod, but it can be better to use one to steady the camera. If you don’t plan to use a tripod, I recommend taking a few photos, just to make sure that one is perfectly focused. The load your photos onto your computer.

In this example, I used a camera and the photo came out very blue, so to prepare the photo I open it in Photoshop and turn the image black and white.

Prepare in Photoshop

1-2 The adjustments needed will depend on the photo, this photo came out blue and so I need to turn the blue white. First, I add an Exposure adjustment layer. I then 3 increase the Exposure, 4 reduce the Offset, and 5 increase the Gamma Correction.

Turn the background white

6-7 Add another adjustment layer, this time, select Black & White.

Change the writing to black

Save your image, a JPG or PNG are fine (Click File in the top menu, and choose Save As).

Open the edited image in Illustrator. Now you are going to convert the flat image into a vector.

Change the image to a vector in Illustrator

8 First, click the little arrow next to “Live Trace” then 9 select from the drop down menu the “Photo High Fidelity” option. I like this option as it can retain the texture in the drawing.

Expand vector

10 Click the “Expand” button. The sketch will turn blue because the software is letting you know that the drawing is selected.
You can also see blue specs outside of the text, which is probably dust the camera has picked up.


Double click on the white space around the words, and press the delete key on your keyboard to remove the white background.


11 Click and drag your cursor to select the dots around the words, delete these (or you can keep these if you wish to have a rougher looking design).

To see where there may be extra specks hiding, create a color block, and place the layer behind your artwork. To do this, 12 click the color block and choose your color. 13 Click the Rectangle Tool, click and drag, to create a colored background. Lock the layer, by clicking the padlock symbol next to your new color block layer. Now select the Selection Tool again (the black arrow).


Select and delete these areas. Exit your group, by double clicking on the area surrounding your artboard. Unlock the colored layer and delete it. Don’t worry about the thin white area around the words; we can fix that in Photoshop.


Once you’re happy, go to 14 “File”, and click 15 “Save As”, save your graphic as an EPS file.

Close Illustrator and open Photoshop.


I now set the size I’d like piece to be, click 16 “File” and choose “New”.

Setting up your artboard in Photoshop

17 I set mine to 300 DPI and a size of 38″ high by 26″ wide. 18 Click ok.


19 Go to “File” and choose 20 “Place”.

Place your vector esp into your artboard in Photoshop

Find and 21 select your new EPS file and click 22 “Place”.


Hold down your shift key and alt key at the same time, and while holding them, 23 drag a corner of your selected artwork until you get it to the size you want it. Click the enter key to accept the size and position. You may want to keep resizing and moving it until your happy.


Click your 24 background layer, 25 select a contrasting color and then using the 26 bucket fill the background layer with the color.

27 Click the fx button, choose 28 blending options.



29 Drag the arrow below the white section towards the black section. The further you drag it the rougher your typography will be. 30 Click OK to apply.

Finished digital artwork

Save your image, I save it as a PSD and a JPG. That way, if I wish to edit it again in the future I can edit the artwork with the PSD file. When you save the JPG, make sure you choose the highest quality.

Now you have your digital artwork!

What can you do with your digital artwork? You could sell it on a platform like, that’s where I sell my artwork, you can read about the Society6’s platform here.

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How to convert a hand-drawn sketch into digital art

written by Tamsin
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