Learn How to Turn Photos Into Illustrations

Learn How to Turn Photos Into Illustrations
January 27, 2017 Tanya Friedland

We all know your photographs are works of art, but have you ever wished they looked more graphic? Less photographic and more representational? Not lifelike, but illustrational? PicMonkey has the tools and effects to make your image look like it belongs on the wall of a hoity-toity art gallery. Watch our video to see this action go down or skim below to get the highlights.

Start with the right image

This technique works differently with different types of images. We would suggest sticking to images that are a little on the darker side. Lighter images have a tendency of looking washed out. For this reason, indoor shots are good. Lastly, stick to a picture that’s not too rich in detail, since too many details can end up looking muddy.

Trace the lines in your image

Edge Sketch makes your pictures look like they’ve been traced over in pencil.

  • From the PicMonkey Editor, click the Effects tab and scroll down to Edge Sketch (in the Artsy effect group).
  • Turn your Thickness and Level of detail sliders all the way up to capture the maximum amount of detail.
  • Adjust your Fade slider about midway so that some of the color comes back into the image and then click Apply.

Add a painted feel

Next, adding the Posterize effect reduces the number of colors in your image and softens out the details so that your image looks like it’s been painted.

  • The Posterize effect is conveniently located right above Edge Sketch, in the Artsy group.
  • Adjust your Number of colors slider up to at least 15. (Don’t be worried if your picture still looks washed out. When we adjust the exposure in the next step, it’ll bring the colors back.)
  • Adjust your Level of detail slider so that it’s somewhere in the middle. This will keep most of your detail intact while softening out some of the lines. This makes your image look more “drawn.”
  • Again, adjust the Fade slider about midway and then click Apply.

Bring on the color

Finally, adjusting your image’s exposure will bring back the colors that have been muted by the other effects.

  • Click the Basic Edits tab and apply Exposure.
  • Each photo is different, so play around with the sliders until they look right to you.
  • When you’re all done, click Apply.

Behold! Your masterstroke lives!


Need a great photo to turn into an illustration? Browse our  stock photos>

beach photos free
pink background photo free
flower stock photos picmonkey
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Butterfly Stock Photos PicMonkey



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Tanya Friedland
Tanya is a copywriter at PicMonkey, a company that has greatly improved her life by allowing her to Zombify her friends and Santa-ify her enemies. A native Seattleite, she dreams of one day being a contestant on The Price Is Right.