How to Digitize a Drawing in Photoshop

Creating digital art is a skill that continues to grow in popularity and demand, as more and more artists are transitioning from traditional mediums to digital platforms. One of the most common ways to digitize a drawing is by using Adobe Photoshop, a powerful and versatile image editing software. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process of turning your hand-drawn sketches into digital masterpieces using Photoshop.

Preparing Your Drawing for Digitization

Before you can digitize your drawing, you need to ensure it’s properly prepared for the process. Here are some steps to follow:

  • Use a good quality paper with a smooth surface for your drawing. This will help prevent issues with texture and allow for easier editing in Photoshop.
  • Draw with a sharp, dark pencil or ink to ensure crisp, clean lines that will be easy to digitize.
  • Keep your drawing clean and free from smudges or marks that could cause issues when digitizing.

Scanning or Photographing Your Drawing

To get your drawing into Photoshop, you will need to either scan or photograph it. Here are some tips for both methods:


  • Use a flatbed scanner with a high-resolution setting, ideally 300 dpi or higher, to capture the most detail.
  • Place your drawing on the scanner bed, ensuring it is properly aligned and free from wrinkles or creases.
  • Preview the scan to make sure it’s properly focused and captures the entire drawing.
  • Save the scanned image as a TIFF or PNG file to maintain the highest quality.
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  • Set up your camera on a tripod, and position it directly above your drawing to avoid distortion.
  • Ensure there’s adequate, even lighting to prevent shadows and glare.
  • Use a high-resolution setting on your camera, and set the focus to manual to ensure the sharpest image.
  • Save the photo as a RAW, TIFF, or PNG file to maintain the highest quality.

Importing Your Drawing into Photoshop

Now that you have a digital copy of your drawing, it’s time to import it into Photoshop:

  • Open Photoshop and create a new document with a resolution of at least 300 dpi.
  • Go to File > Place Embedded, and select your scanned or photographed image.
  • Resize the image to fit your desired canvas size, holding down the Shift key to maintain proportions.
  • Press Enter to confirm placement, and then double-click the layer to unlock it.

Cleaning Up and Adjusting Your Image

Before you begin working on your digital illustration, you’ll want to clean up and adjust your imported drawing:

  • Use the Levels adjustment (Image > Adjustments > Levels) to increase the contrast and brightness, making your lines crisp and clear.
  • Use the Eraser tool (E) to remove any unwanted marks or smudges.
  • If needed, use the Lasso tool (L) to select and move parts of your drawing for better composition.

Using Layers to Create a Digital Illustration

Layers are essential for creating complex digital illustrations in Photoshop. Here’s how to use them effectively:

  • Create a new layer (Layer > New > Layer) for each element of your drawing, such as line art, color, and shading.
  • Use the Multiply blending mode for your line art layer to make it easier
  • to see your colors and shading underneath.
  • Organize your layers in a logical order, such as having the line art layer on top and the background layer at the bottom.
  • Use layer masks to non-destructively hide or reveal parts of a layer, allowing for greater flexibility and control over your illustration.
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Coloring Your Drawing

Now that your layers are set up, it’s time to add color to your digital illustration:

  • Create a new layer for each color or shading element you want to include.
  • Use the Magic Wand tool (W) to select areas of your line art that you want to fill with color, then expand the selection by 1-2 pixels (Select > Modify > Expand) to avoid gaps between the line art and color.
  • Fill your selection with your chosen color using the Paint Bucket tool (G) or by painting with the Brush tool (B).
  • Repeat this process for each color and shading element in your drawing, using separate layers for each.

Applying Effects and Adjustments

To further enhance your digital illustration, you can apply various effects and adjustments in Photoshop:

  • Use the Gradient Map adjustment layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map) to apply a color gradient to your drawing, creating a more cohesive color scheme.
  • Experiment with blending modes on your color and shading layers to create interesting interactions between different elements.
  • Apply filters (Filter menu) to add texture, blur, or other effects to specific layers or your entire illustration.
  • Use adjustment layers (Layer > New Adjustment Layer) such as Curves, Hue/Saturation, or Color Balance to fine-tune the colors and contrast of your drawing.

Exporting and Saving Your Digital Artwork

Once you’re satisfied with your digital illustration, it’s time to save and export your work:

  • Save your Photoshop file (File > Save) as a PSD to preserve all your layers and adjustments, allowing you to make changes later if needed.
  • To export your artwork for sharing or printing, go to File > Export > Export As, and choose a suitable file format such as JPEG, PNG, or TIFF.
  • Adjust the export settings as needed, ensuring that the resolution and quality are appropriate for your intended use.
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Digitizing a drawing in Photoshop may seem like a daunting task, but with the right techniques and a bit of practice, you can transform your hand-drawn sketches into beautiful digital artworks. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to creating stunning digital illustrations that showcase your unique artistic style. Remember to experiment with different tools, effects, and adjustments to find the methods that work best for your creative process.