How to Digitize a Drawing in Photoshop

How to Digitize a Drawing in Photoshop

Your sketches and drawings deserve maximum attention, and turning your sketches into digital designs is the first move closer to the limelight. Our step-by-step tutorial shows you how to digitize hand-drawn sketches with Photoshop to get them ready for sale on the Marketplace.

This is how you digitize drawings in Photoshop

You’ll need to have the Photoshop software installed to make use of this tutorial. Photoshop CC (the current version) can be downloaded as a free trial version. The full version of the older Photoshop CS2 release can be downloaded free of charge.

1. Draw

  • Use a smooth, pure white piece of paper
  • If you don’t want your digitized image to look like a pencil drawing, you should use a fine black marker to trace the lines so they are more clearly defined

2. Scan

  • Scan your drawing instead of taking a picture of it (this way digitizing your drawing will be much easier and quicker; see: eliminating the middle man)
  • Pencil drawings are best scanned in black & white
  • Choose a high resolution (300dpi will render the design in its original size. 600dpi will help you crop (zoom in) a section of the design later without losing your clearly defined lines)
  • If you have a camera handy, be sure to get the illumination right and hold the camera directly above the drawing when taking the picture

3. Adjust contrast and colors

Your goal is to get the final lines all black and the background all white. Any pencil lines that you don’t want to see in your final digitized illustration should disappear. This is how:

  • Open your .jpg file in Photoshop: File Open
  • You can see the original layer in the Layers Panel (leave this one alone)
  • Duplicate it for future editing by left-clicking on it and choosing Duplicate Layer
  • Go to Image Adjustments Levels to open a histogram that gives you a chance to adjust the brightness levels:
    • Push the toggle on the left to the right until all relevant lines in your design have turned black
    • Push the right toggle to the left until unwanted pencil lines have disappeared and the background has become completely white

4. Final touches

  • To erase any unwanted lines, use the Brush from the tool bar, set the color to white and brush over those unwanted lines
  • To retouch some of your black lines, use the Brush tool with the color set to black.

5. Delete background

  • Hide the original layer by clicking the eye icon next to the layer’s name.
  • Make sure that scanning didn’t cause any unwanted shadows on the edges. If so, you can use the Brush tool and paint over these areas with white color.
  • Use the Magic Wand from the tool bar on the left, and click on the background area you want to remove. Hit the delete button and do the same with the other unwanted areas.
  • The transparent background is now represented by a checkered pattern.

Tip: To make sure your brand new digitized illustration will come out nicely on colored T-shirts or mugs, add a new layer and fill it with a contrasting color by using the Paint Bucket tool. Now select the layer with your drawing and use the Eraser tool to remove any unwanted white spots.

6. Crop and save an image

  • You want to make sure that your design will have its full size on the T-shirt’s print area later. Crop to your design by getting rid of peripheral transparency areas: Image Trim Based on Transparent Pixels
  • To resize your image, go to Image Image Size (The size of your design should not exceed 4000 x 4000 pixels)
  • Save your design as a .png image and upload it at Spreadshirt

The procedure shown here is only one of many ways to digitize a drawing. Every designer develops his own technique over time. Take your time to discover many more functions, and you’ll be able to further edit and develop your design.

Want to make money with your creativity? Monetize on your designs by opening a 100% FREE online shop today!

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Please share a few tips and tricks with the community, and let us know what other kind of tutorials you’d find helpful!

18 comments Write a comment

  1. This is very informative. Thanks for sharing your informative article with us. Keep up the fantastic work.
    Shriji Entertainment creates, produce and distributes high quality, innovative media and entertainment solutions in various formats.

  2. Your post is great. The information that you gave about the Photoshop is perfect; it is excellent. I must say that you are extremely talented in the field of embroidery and digitizing. This is so awesome, and inspiring. Thanks for such post.

  3. Thanks @Lena for your helpful reply. Advance detail illustrator tutorial is very important for every vector artist. As a vector artist I need advance mesh tool tutorial. If you give the tutorial, I would have benefited a lot. Thanks in advance!!!

  4. I entirely agree! I am doing vector line drawing manually by using illustrator. Thank you so much for taking the time in creating this!

    • Hi, sure you can also use your camera phone, but that will give you a bit of extra work because the background of your photo will most likely have some shadows and not be the same tone of white everywhere. However, step 3 helps you to get rid of those. Have fun!

  5. Thanks for this tutorial. Short and sweet. I love the tip you offered about adding a new contrasting color layer. This will help with cleaning up my designs.

    After saving your PNG, you can use a Free program called GIMP or Inkscape (I use both), to create a Vector image of your design. Inkscape can Vectorize image with up to 8 colors, but works best on Black designs.

    Uploading a vector to Spreadshirt will allow customers to change the design colors to fit their needs. *Youtube has great tutorials on both programs.

    Keep up the Good Work!


    • Hi Jay,
      thank you for your feedback and that helpful tip about vectorizing!

    • This is so awesome, and inspiring. I am going to start doodling right away!
      Keep up the outstanding work.

      Owner of, Life Boards Skateboards

    • Hi Basim,
      I’m glad to hear that! Is there anything else you’d like to know more about? We’re always open for new suggestions for future tutorials.

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