How To Create a Final Illustration from a Sketch

Learn how to turn your messy pencil sketches into a fun finished illustration using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.  See a gallery of examples and then follow the step-by-step below.

1. Import Sketch

Import your sketch into Illustrator, change the opacity to about 25% and then lock that layer.

2. Trace Your Lines

On a layer above you'll draw lines by following your sketch lines. Use a bright color so that the contrast will allow you to differentiate between the background sketch and your new line. Use the pen tool mostly, creating closed shapes that may overlap.

3. Remove Sketch

You can turn off the background layer to see how your lines look alone.

4. Fill Your Shapes

Fill the shapes with the colors of your choosing. I usually hide the stroke/border and only show the fill color, but sometimes a visible stroke is fun.

5. Pull Into Photoshop

Copy and paste parts of your illustration onto separate Photoshop layers.

6. Add Texture

You can also place patterns or textures on-top of your shapes, using blending modes such as Overlay to generate different looks. Adjust the opacity of the texture layer.

7. Shadows & Highlights

On individual layers paint with black and white brushes to create shadows and highlights. Adjust the opacity of the layer to get the right feel.

8. Add a Background

Include a background image to finalize the illustration.