Blending Two Layers: Photo Plus Sketch

(I have no affiliation with any of the products mentioned in this article.)

We just moved our household from Coquitlam near Vancouver to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. are some images from the Nanaimo area along with a brief tutorial.

Today I'll quickly illustrate a technique that has many permutations and can produce some very interesting images. This is not a step-by-step tutorial and I'm assuming you have access to a photo editor that handles layers like Photoshop (which I use) or Elements. 

The original HDR photo shown below was created with 3 exposures in Photomatix. It was tweaked for exposure, sharpness etc. in Lightroom before taking into Photoshop. (click on for bigger)

In Photoshop the image was duplicated on another layer. To this layer I applied the AKVIS Sketch plugin. With this tool you can create various different sketch affects from a line drawing to a watercolour or charcoal drawing. After fiddling with the sketch sliders I came up with the image below:

So now I have two versions of the image, one the original photo, and one with the sketch effect applied. You can see in the Photoshop clip below the two image layers plus two more for the image title and signature.


 Note that the sketch layer is chosen. Note also that you have an opacity control on the upper right. If the sketch layer was set to 100% all you would see is this layer as it will hide the one below. The fun part is to experiment blending the two layers by changing the opacity until you get a hopefully good result. It doesn't always work like you expect! As you can see, in this case I changed to opacity of the sketch layer to 43%. I was looking for that magic spot where the photo just begins to lose its "photo" look and becomes something different. You can judge for yourself if the final blended version below is better than the orginal.

There are many different ways to use layers to blend image versions. I'll try to cover a few more in coming articles.