Quick sketch in Photoshop

Quick sketch in Photoshop

This tutorial shows a technique for creating a sketch in Photoshop very quickly (max 15 minutes) and includes some general tips about digital sketching in Photoshop. The author is Giangiacomo Barbero, an Italian designer graduated at the Istituto Europeo di Design.

Car Sketch detailQuick Car Sketch - Handmade drawingLet’s start with a previously made sketch.

In this case I scanned a drawing quickly handmade with a pencil, but it can be done directly in Photoshop or Painter if you have a graphic tablet.

To whom is interested in pursuing a designer career, I would suggest to purchase a Wacom tablet.

I use a Wacom A5 intuos3, but the Graphire A6 can give great results as well – I have used it for a long time until I switched to the intuos3.

As an alternative, I assure you that excellent results can be achieved even without a tablet (a friend of mine can create stunning images just with his mouse).

Quick car sketch in Photoshop - Shadows Quick car sketch in Photoshop - ShadesLet’s open Photoshop and put the sketch on a new layer. Desaturate the sketch layer (Image > Adjustments > Desaturate) and fill the background layer with white (Edit > Fill > White).

Using a black soft brush start defining the shadows, so that the shape begins to "come up".

Create a new layer and select a soft brush and using a dark color and adjusting the flow value (see below) start to draw on the surfaces that are in the shadow.

If we exaggerate with the dark color, we can balance it with a lighter one.

Light source

Remember that the light must always come from the same direction in order to achieve a correct and coherent result.

Quick car sketch in PhotoshopQuick car sketch in PhotoshopAnyway, don’t worry too much about precision: if you define sharp and precise edges by using the eraser or selections or paths, you will end up losing freshness and spontanity that a quick skecth should have.

Create a new layer, choose a hard brush tip and fill in the completely dark zones, like the air-intakes and the reflections on the glass surfaces.

Using a soft-tip brush add some color on the roof surface and, if you are not satisfied with the shades previously done. correct

Now it’s time to define the volume of the car; with a hard-tip brush let’s draw on a new layer some details of the interior, like the dashboard or the rear mirror.

On another layer with a very soft brush let’s create the gradient on the windows. At this stage we can draw on the layer with the maximum freedom: the exceeding color will be removed later with the eraser tool.

Quick car sketch in Photoshop Quick car sketch in PhotoshopOn a new layer let’s work on the surfaces that have not been colored yet: use a let’s use a soft brush to define the rear fenders and a hard brush to quickly sketch the front tires and to darken the glass-cover on the hood in order to give it the right thickness.

The next step is about details: this stage could last forever, but since this is a quick sketch and not a final rendering, we will create just the main details.

Draw the headlight on a new layer, then duplicate it to make the other ones.

On a new layer, add the reflections on the glass cover with a white soft brush.

The "Toyota" and "TRD" logos on the engine cover were imported and blurred (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur) to have them integrated with the sketch. Using the same procedure we can add the front logo.

Car Sketch in Photoshop - Mirror detail Car Sketch in Photoshop - Headlight detail Car Sketch in Photoshop - Engine detail

Quick car sketch in Photoshop - final resultDefine the car body cutlines and some filleted edges with black and white brushes (remember where the lights comes from). I usually prefer not to use paths, so that the sketch doesn’t look too much "CG-ish".

After the final changes (in this case, the shape of the shadows), set all the layers to visible to define the sketch. Then make a copy of the glass surfaces layers, hide the original, and use the Hue/Saturation tool (Ctrl+U) with the Colorize option checked to give them a color (in this case I opted for a cold tone).

We can also add a hot light source located in the same position as the previous light source, and a cold light source on the opposite side: this gives the sketch more "plasticity".


This technique can be applied when you have to do much work in little time (always, for me). In the next tutorial we will see how to make a final presentation rendering complete with the outer environment.

Tip: Brush Flow and Opacity

When drawing with the brush tool, I use to adjust the flow, not the opacity. The flow value specifies how quickly paint is applied, while opacity sets the overall transparency of the brush, independently from the number of brush strokes.

So if you set the opacity to a low value, the underneath layer will always be visible – unless you don’t change the opacity value while you’re drawing. On the other end, if you set a low flow value, you can achieve a coating gradient where needed.

About the Author

Giangiacomo Barbero received his Bachelor’s Degree in Transportation Design at the Istituto Europeo di Design of Turin in 2005.

In 2006 he had an Internship at the Idea Institute (Turin, Italy). He was finalist in the "Anfia stile italiano giovani 2006" design competition with the Lancia Delta concept and in the 2005
Canadian Autoshow "World Automotive Design Competition" with Alessi Bubble.

In 2005
his Ferrari Fiorano was one of the finalist projects in the "Ferrari – Concept of a Myth" Competition. In 2004 he has won BRABUS’ Wheels design contest.

His professional works include freelance wheels design for various companies,
official package versions design for Alfa Romeo, Suzuki, Toyota and Fiat.

For Car Body Design he has also written the tutorial Presentation rendering in Photoshop


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