How to integrate your sketches in your digital works

How to integrate your sketches in your digital works

This tutorial will teach you a technique to integrate your doodles in your digital works. We will use Photoshop to increase the contrast of the image, Illustrator to provide colors and once again Photoshop for last retouches.

Hand Drawn elements are so cool, both in web and graphic design. In according with Jacqueline Thomas, this style will be a trend during 2010. So lets understand how our horrible sketches can be turned into a skill.

Preview of the result:


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Step 1

Make a sketch. It’s not important that your are not an artist and that you prefer the mouse to the pen. Turn off the computer and start sketching. If you give a look at css galleries and digital works, you’ll notice that everyone can create hand drawn elements on a paper. This is what I’ve realized:

Step 2

After scanned the sketch, open it in Photoshop. The image has to be in gray-scale, so if you’ve used colors, desaturate it(shift+ctrl+U). The aim of this step is to increase the image contrast: later we will vectorize the image using the illustrator tracing tool, so we need a strong contrast between black and white areas. The best way to reach this result is to combine some adjustment layers: curves, levels and brightness/contrast. Go to Image>Adjustment>Curves and make a “S” with the curve. Use the screenshot as a reference. Do the same with levels and contrast. At the end of this process, save the image as a jpg.

Step 3

Open the image in Illustrator. Go to Object>Live Trace>Make and Expand. Now we have a vector image. Grab the Magic Wand Tool, select the white area and press delete.

Step 4

Take a look at the layer window: there’s a group. Duplicate it by dragging it on the “create new layer icon” on the bottom right. Now lock the upper group and select the bottom one. Switch the fill color to none and go to Object>Live Paint>Make.

Step 5

Start coloring with the Live Paint Bucket tool (K)

Step 6

If you’re not satisfied with the color result (I wasn’t!), select everything and click on the recolor artwork icon. Then press edit in the pop up window and change the colors.

Step 7

This is my work fully colored in Illustrator. Save it as a png image (to preserve background transparency).

Step 8

Create a new document in Photoshop. Add a radial gradient from a light blue (#b7e2ed) to a darker one (#82b3c0), and paste in the illustration.

Step 9

We could stop here, but I like to texturize my work (maybe a lot!). If you want an example of how to perfectly combine vectors with textures, give a look at this poster illustration realized by Von Glitschka. Download this grunge texture from Bittbox, paste it into the Photoshop document and set the layer to screen (black will disappear). Done!

This is an easy illustration, but the focus of this tutorial is the technique. I hope it will be useful for your next project!


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(+add yours)
  1. wowww..Greatt..
    simple but very usefull for me…

  2. ArkyMark

    One of the most straight-forward sketch-to-vector tutorials I’ve seen from the lot of them. What you need to do plain-and-simple … very well done! I’ll keep this one bookmarked for sending to others.

    Keep up the good work!

  3. thanks, thats nice of you

  4. Ayundha

    thank you so much.. :D
    but how if I colored that with photoshop?

  5. shico

    it s very good .thank you

  6. Very cool techniques! I got to try them now.

  7. can you do it with Photoshop? i dont have ilustrator =/

  8. Thanks for the mention.

    If you visit you’ll find a few FREE set of hi-res textures you can use in your own projects. You can download them on this page:


  9. Thank you to you all for the compliments guys!

    @Vonster: you’re welcome. I’m a huge fan of your art

  10. Nice, easy to follow instructions and great technique – thanks for sharing!

  11. That’s a really cute design, and it’s nice when you can still find inspiration from old sketches and make them come alive..

  12. I get asked this a lot regarding logos, etc. Will point folks to this post! ;) …thanks.


  13. This is simply beautiful, thanks for sharing! :)

  14. Frisby

    I was just figuring out how to live trace and paint the other day. Its so useful!

  15. Elijah Osborne

    Can this be done with Inkscape instead of Ilustrator and if so how?

    • Yes but I don’t know which is the precise technique since Illustrator has always been my favorite vector tool

  16. Thanks so much for pointing out the “recolor artwork” option, didn’t know about this one before. Saves a lot of time :) Great tutorial.

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