Drawing on Technology

Drawing can seem intimidating.  When I first started to sketch, I had a hard time ‘editing’ the image in my head. The full color object in front of me was too overwhelming!  How do I recreate this in pencil or pen to a black and white representation?  I couldn’t figure out which lines were more prominent or what things to edit out instead of trying to render everything. 

I imagined wearing a pair of sunglasses that would effectively filter out the colors and enhance the edges.  Somebody? Invent those…. Go.  For the rest of you, here is what I did to train my eyes to see what I wanted to draw.

I would scout out locations of things I would really like to draw, in advance. Take pictures. And then I used Photoshop Elements, creating this method to help me to train my eyes to see what I wanted to create.  Once you train your eyes, they learn to start seeing these things on their own.  Here’s how to get started…

Open a photograph in Photoshop Elements.

C.H. Booth Library in Newtown, Connecticut.

Choose File, Duplicate… and name your file with a -bwsketch or keep the filename that is given.  This is the file we will work with.  Keep the other one open so you can refer back to it when we are done.


Double click the ‘Background’ layer in the Layers Panel in order to make it a Layer.

Right click and Duplicate the Layer.


Choose the blending mode drop down and select ‘Color Dodge’.


Invert the image, by holding down Ctrl (Win) / Cmd (Mac) and the letter I.  This will make your image to appear almost completely whited out.


Choose Filter, Blur… Gaussian Blur and adjust as you like.  Anything from 12 to 18 is my usual choice.

Choose the Adjustment Layer for Hue/Saturation. Slide the Saturation to ‘0’ to remove all colors


Hold down the Alt key as you choose Layer, Merge Visible. This allows you to keep your original intact and put together everything you’ve done up to this point into a single layer for further manipulation on top of the stack.  This can be a bit of ‘mouse olympics’ – you typically have to hold down the mouse button the entire time you are navigating the menu, unlike normally when you aren’t holding down the Alt key.


Change the blending mode for the new uppermost layer to Multiply.


Adjust the Opacity for this layer as desired.  Anywhere from 50% to 65% is typically a good range.

Save your image.  Now you will have both the original image and this modified image to refer to when you draw your own.  This helped me immeasurably to remove the ‘noise’ and train my eye to see what I wanted to create.


Drawing is a meditative, peaceful opportunity to explore the item in front of you and make it your own.  I really encourage you to give it a try. I hope this lesson will allow you to draw on technology in order to assist your efforts to draw on paper.

About a year ago I saw a post about using an image like this to color with Copic markers.  I guess if you didn’t want to draw it yourself, you could print this out on a laser printer or have it duplicated at a copy shop so that you could do that.  But that gets back to ‘rendering’ and what I really want you to get out of this is less than making a coloring book image and more to see how to draw it and remove items like the street signs and power lines in your own sketch.

However, if you have no interest in drawing, but want to be able to use an image to transfer onto your artwork you could make it into a transferable image at this point.  Select Image, Rotate, Flip Horizontal and then print this out on a laser printer or have it duplicated at a copy shop so that you could do that with it.

So this lesson gives you lots of creative choices.  Explore them all! 

Tomorrow is the 43rd Worldwide Sketch Crawl.  More information here.  I’m looking forward to sketching this building as part of the many locations I scouted yesterday.

P.S. Seriously, invent those sunglasses…

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