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Here is a great technique if you want a turn a photograph into more of a charcoal type line art drawing. And we are going to use a blend mode to achieve it. So first we are going to duplicate this layer, Command+J, Ctrl+J, and I'm going to rename this Line Drawing. Great! And we are going to begin by inverting this, Command+I or Ctrl+I, and setting its blend mode to one of the Lighten blend modes called Linear Dodge. Now when you first do this by inverting the layer and setting to Linear Dodge, it doesn't look like much of anything. It's made everything white. And to bring out some of the line art drawing, we are going to use something called Gaussian Blur to create some differences between these two layers. So right now there is an exact pixel match for the blend in these blend modes. The Linear Dodge blend mode is actually canceling these pixels out, making it more white.
If we start introducing some differences here, we'll actually get some cool interactions between the two layers. One way to introduce the differences is to add a blur to this layer. Now we may want to play around with the blur. So normally when you run a filter it's a destructive action. I guess that depends on your perspective. But it applies and actually permanently changes those pixels. If you change your mind you don't have the original starting point. In order to create filters that can be done non-destructively, you want to use Smart Filters and Smart Filters can be applied to Smart Objects. So we are going to convert this Line Drawing layer into a Smart Object by right-clicking on it or Ctrl-clicking and choose Convert to Smart Object.
Gives you a little special icon letting you know that's a Smart Object layer instead of a regular layer. And now we'll go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. You can see right away just what the default setting here, whatever settings used last of two pixels, I'm starting to see the line art drawing appear. We'll zoom in Command+Plus, Ctrl+Plus until I can see a little bit better detail. I can hold down my spacebar to pan the image around and get a good look at what I want to look at. So I can play around the Radius. The higher the Radius the more of the original image comes back and more of the original color comes back as well.
So to keep it more of a line art drawing you will want to keep the Radius towards the low side. But again it's up to you can make this whatever you want. I'm going to go ahead and click OK, and now the Smart Filter get shown as a special type of filter underneath the Smart Object layer. If I need to reedit this, I can just double-click on the word Gaussian Blur and tweak this a little bit more until I get it the way I want it to look. So you have a non-destructive way to go back and adjust how much of a line art effect you want. So this becomes a really nice technique to create say a background image if you are going to put a series of other images on top of this, maybe border them or frame them or whatever, this can act as a nice stylized background to put everything on instead of just a white background.
If you want to remove the color and just have this be more of a charcoal type of effect then we can just add a Black & White adjustment layer. I'm going to go Adjustments panel and choose Black & White and that will add a Black & White adjustment layer at the very top which will just basically desaturate all those colors out of there. I can turn that on and off and you can see the difference there, especially if I zoom up Command+Plus, Ctrl+Plus and turn the adjustment layer on or off. And so it's up to you, if you want it to be more of a grayscale charcoal type drawing, do the adjustment layer. If you don't mind the color then just ignore that part of that technique.
But there you have it an interesting use for the Linear Dodge blend mode applied to an inverted copy and then just do a little bit of blur on that inverted copy to bring out that charcoal effect.
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