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Create a Realistic Pencil Illustration in Adobe Photoshop

In this tutorial, I will take you step-by-step on how I created this pencil and paper scene. This tutorial is written for advanced users who already have a general understanding of the tools and techniques commonly used in Photoshop. Enjoy!

The Final Image

This is what we will be creating:

Pencil and Paper: Final Image

Step 1: Setting Up the Document

Create a new Photoshop Document (File>New) at 850px x 600px.

Document Creation

Use the Gradient Tool to make a subtle gradient (I used two shades of blue)

Document with Gradient

Step 2: Creating the Pencil Body

Create new group called ‘Pencil’ with a new layer inside called ‘Body’

Body Layer

Using the Rectangular Marquee Tool, create a long rectangle that will become the pencil’s body and fill with a red color

Pencil Body

Add bevel and emboss with these settings:

Pencil Bevel Settings

Your image should look like this:

Pencil Bevel

Step 3: Adding to the Pencil

Create a new layer named ‘Wood’. On this layer, create a
square with the rectangular marquee tool and fill with black.

Black Box

Select two different shades of tan for your Background and Foreground colors, then go to Filter>Render>Fibers to add fibers to the box with the following settings:

Creating Fibers

Your image should resemble this:

Fiber Box

Step 4: Sharpening the Pencil

Transform (Ctrl/Cmd + T) the layer ‘Wood’ to a tapered shape. Place the
shape over the ‘Body’ layer as shown:

Sharpened Pencil

Add a bevel and emboss:

Tip Bevel Settings

Your image should look like this (be sure to erase any areas of the pencil that
stick past the wood)

Tip Bevel

Step 5: Defining the Pencil Tip

Create a new brush by opening up the Brushes Pallete and applying
these settings (dont forget to save the brush preset):

Tip Brush 1
Tip Brush 2

Use the new brush to erase the top and bottom of the wooden tip

Defined Tip

Step 6: Adding a Graphite Tip

Create a new layer called ‘Tip’ and place it under the ‘Wood’ layer.

Tip Layer

Select a brush size of 6px and paint a graphite tip. Give it a bevel and emboss with the following settings:

Graphite Bevel Settings

Your image should look like this:

Pencil with Graphite

Step 7: Rotating into Place

Rotate (Ctrl/Cmd + T) the pencil to a desired position. This can be done easily by selecting the entire ‘Pencil’ group

Positioning Pencil

Step 8: Creating the Highlights

Create a new brush with the following settings:

Brush 2 settings

Step 9: Adding Highlights

Use the new brush to paint a highlight over the tip of the pencil. (A size
3 brush
should work well).

Tip Highlight

Using the same brush on a new layer called ‘Highlights’, add some highlights (using white) and some lowlights (using a darker red) to the pencil. Vary the sizes as shown:

Body Highlights

Adjust the layers opacity to 30%

Multiple Highlights

Step 10: Finishing the Highlights

Create second new layer called ‘Highlights2′ and use the same brush to add a final highlight over the body of the pencil as shown in the image. Change the opacity to 76%

Final Highlight

Step 11: Adjusting the Hierarchy

Create a new group and call it ‘Pencil Shadows’. Place it under the ‘Pencil’ folder

Highlight Strokes

Step 12: Preparing for Shadows

Make a copy the ‘Pencil’ group and select ‘Merge Group’

Merge Group

Use the levels to change the merged image to all black

Adjust Levels

Rename this layer to ‘Shadows’ and place it inside the ‘Pencil Shadows’ group. Make 2 copies of this layer and name them as shown:

Setting up Shadow Layers

Step 13: Adding the Shadows

Select the ‘Shadows’ layer: Transform the shadow to the position shown:

Shadow1 Adjust

Add a Gaussian Blur of 1.0 pixels and give the layer an Opacity of 18%.

Shadow1 Final

Easier Work Flow

It may help to hide the shadow layers you aren’t using.

Select the ‘Shadows2′ layer and Transform the layer as shown:

Shadow2 Adjust

Give this an Opacity of 3%

Shadow2 Final

Select the ‘Shadows3′ layer. Transform it as shown:

Shadow3 Adjust

Give this layer a Gaussian Blur of 13.0 pixels and an Opacity of 45%

Shadow3 Final

Step 14: Finishing the Shadows

Create a new layer called ‘Zero Shadow’. Use a brush (sized at 13 pixels and 100% hardness) to add a black line immediately under the pencil.

Zero Shadow Line

Give this layer a Motion Blur of around 140 pixels at the same angle as the pencil. Set the layer’s Opacity to 80%

Zero Shadow Blur

Finding Angles

A quick way to find the angle in Photoshop is to select the ruler tool and use it to draw a line in any direction. The number next to the ‘A’ in the Info Pallette (F8) is the angle. you can use the line tool the same way, just make sure to delete the line.

Copy the layer you just worked on and give it a Gaussian Blur of 3 pixels and an Opacity of 44%

Zero Shadow2

Unhide all of the shadow layers

Final Shadows

Step 15: Adding Paper

Create a new group called ‘Paper’. Inside this group folder, create a new layer
called ‘Paper’.

Paper Layers

Use the rectagular marquee tool to create the shape of a peice of paper and fill with #f1f1e9

Adding Paper

Step 16: Transforming the Paper

Transform the ‘Paper’ layer so that it appears in perspective:

Transforming Paper

Step 17: Adding Shadows to the Paper

Make a copy of the ‘Paper’ layer, name it ‘Paper Shadows’ and place it below the original ‘Paper’ layer

Paper Shadow Layers

Adjust its levels as follows:

Paper Shadows Levels

Give this layer a Gaussian Blur of 1.1 px

Paper Shadows Blur

Step 18: Adding More Shadows to the Paper

Copy the layer ‘Paper Shadows’

Paper Shadow2

Give this layer a Gaussian blur of 30px and an Opacity of 10%

Paper Shadow2 Blur

Step 19: Adding Depth to the Paper

Select the ‘Paper’ layer and go to Filter>Liquify. Use the liquify filter to make the edges of the paper appear uneven

Paper Liquify

Your image should resemble this:

Paper Final

Step 20: You’re Done!

The image is done.
If you want, you can add a reflection and some sketches to complete the scene:

To add a reflection, just copy the ‘Pencil’ group and merge it, then position the reflection appropriately and give it a low opacity setting.

To add a sketch, simply create a one on a new layer and transform it into perspective.

Pencil Final


  1. Add point Subtract point
    Diggler (1 Point) May 5, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    Hella useful! Easy to understand with great results. Thanks for this.

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  2. Add point Subtract point

    really good and easy way 2 understand

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  3. Add point Subtract point

    It’s stunning and very well explained! This inspires me, thanks a lot

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  4. Add point Subtract point

    Brilliant! Well explained tutorial and well executed.

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  5. Add point Subtract point

    Thanks for a great tutorial which was very well explained. Only one point to make … as the highlights are shown on the front face of the pencil, I believe that the shadow should therefore be shown behind and not in front of the pencil. This is a physics point and in no way a comments on the skill of the illustration or photoshop technique.

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  6. Add point Subtract point
    rscndesign (1 Point) October 23, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Excelente tutorial, te felicito.

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  7. Add point Subtract point

    Loved this tutorial! Great stuff. Thank you for sharing this with us.

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  8. Add point Subtract point
    facebook (1 Point) September 25, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    I like it! There are indeed many tutorials on how to create a wood texture but this is really good. Thanks!

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  9. Add point Subtract point

    thankyou.awesome work! looks like real pencil!

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  10. Add point Subtract point

    Step 15: Adding Paper,,,
    my paper barricade my pencil why?

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  11. Add point Subtract point
    andreas (-1 Points) September 1, 2010 at 10:53 am

    the liquify tool doesn’t work. you must have a black background merged into the paper layer I guess to make the filter work?

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  12. Add point Subtract point

    When I first saw the pencil, I thought it was real!!

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  13. Add point Subtract point
    Scrapsforever (1 Point) August 20, 2010 at 9:09 am

    Great piece of work.Nice use of brush strokes and shadow which shows realistic feel in the pencil

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  14. Add point Subtract point

    Bravo! Esti foarte talentat. Am descoperit tutorialele tale pe Facebook pentru ca ti-au publicat cei de la Illustrator una din compozitii pe pagina oficiala.

    Mult succes in continuare!

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  15. Add point Subtract point

    amazing tutorial with some techniques. thanks

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  16. Add point Subtract point

    great tutorial. the final product is very much realistic

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  17. Add point Subtract point (1 Point) August 12, 2010 at 11:17 am

    grreat tutorial…
    more like this pls :D

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  18. Add point Subtract point
    Alfredo (1 Point) August 10, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    I see lots of tutorials regularly… but this one is really amazing, not for creating a pencil and a paper (let’s be honest, who would want to do that?) but for the way in which you create the shadows, and I didn’t know the “fibers” trick either… thanks! great work

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  19. Add point Subtract point

    It look`s great! I like it :-)

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  20. Add point Subtract point
    Tutorial Lounge (0 Points) August 9, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    amazing tutorial with some techniques. thanks

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  21. Add point Subtract point

    Thanks, I enjoyed, and learnt, a new way to handle shadows..

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  22. Add point Subtract point
    roneybalack (1 Point) August 8, 2010 at 3:32 am

    In this photoshop tutorial we will learn to design a clean website layout. … This photoshop tutorial show you how to design a very beautiful and shining …
    thanks.. find more best tutorials here

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  23. Add point Subtract point
    alexjuuhh (1 Point) August 6, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    I don’t get the part where you have to transform the “wood” layer, how can you make that shape with the normal transform tool?

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  24. Add point Subtract point
    mavros (1 Point) August 4, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    idée maline, super tuto et super resultat

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  25. Add point Subtract point
    jaka zulham (1 Point) August 4, 2010 at 11:43 am

    waw, it’s a great tutorial’s..!

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  26. Add point Subtract point
    Penang Web Design (1 Point) August 3, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    Wow!!! impress me..thanks…

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  27. Add point Subtract point
    bahar (1 Point) July 30, 2010 at 2:34 am

    Really nice. Good job!
    Well, in fact I’m new to design and just have started learning Photoshop recently (about two months). May you help me to know that how can I follow tutorials and find good stuffs to improve my Photoshop skills specially for web design?
    - Thansk in advance

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  28. Add point Subtract point
    Sung-Ho (1 Point) July 29, 2010 at 10:26 am

    amazing! looks exactly like a photo!

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  29. Add point Subtract point
    Design Earth (1 Point) July 27, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    Thank You! :)


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  30. Add point Subtract point
    chillyweed (1 Point) July 27, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    wtf look real amazing tut!!!

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  31. Add point Subtract point
    Harmonica Notes (1 Point) July 27, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    Or you could take a photo of a pencil.

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  32. Add point Subtract point
    Aaron Moody (1 Point) July 27, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    Wow, that looks so realistic, very nice job.

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  33. Add point Subtract point
    GraphicsFuel (1 Point) July 27, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Well designed and well written. I really like the view of the pencil and paper.. sort of photographic in nature and that’s why, i guess, is REALISTIC pencil illustration.


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  34. Add point Subtract point
    Jesper (1 Point) July 27, 2010 at 5:13 am

    WOW… very impressive… respect!

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  35. Add point Subtract point
    Babatunde Adeyemi (1 Point) July 27, 2010 at 5:00 am

    Wow, this is really nice.

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  36. Add point Subtract point
    oliver (1 Point) July 27, 2010 at 4:35 am

    Superb tutorial :) thanks, pencil looks great

    Glow Effects In Photoshop: Surreptitiously Beautiful –

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  37. Add point Subtract point
    WebGuide4U (1 Point) July 27, 2010 at 2:20 am

    nice tutorial, thanks for the share. i tried it and doesn’t took too much time of me.

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  38. Add point Subtract point
    Excelbud (1 Point) July 26, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    Nice tutorial. The wood texture is awesome!

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  39. Add point Subtract point
    peter pap (1 Point) July 26, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    Im impressed, you are worth more money

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  40. Add point Subtract point

    Wow! I honestly thought that image was a photograph. Very impressed!

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  41. Add point Subtract point
    iiPod (2 Points) July 26, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Brilliant tutorial. Great work.

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  42. Add point Subtract point
    Kevin Rajaram (1 Point) July 26, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    wow totally amazing tut. at first glace, i was like no way this photoshop, must a be a pic lol

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  43. Add point Subtract point
    iDesign (1 Point) July 26, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Exceptionally good tutorial, nice job!

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  44. Add point Subtract point
    Harold Rugama (1 Point) July 26, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    At the beginning I believed you used a pencil photo, but then I realized that you added all the FXs….

    Great tutorial!!!, Keep up the great work.

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  45. Add point Subtract point
    John Quigley (1 Point) July 26, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Same as everyone else – so photo realistic – brilliant work – Thankyou !

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  46. Add point Subtract point
    Bad russian (1 Point) July 26, 2010 at 10:52 am


    You’re krasavcheg!!!

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  47. Add point Subtract point
    Arshad Cini (1 Point) July 26, 2010 at 10:22 am

    Awesome tutorial and i also think it was a real photo:)

    Thank you

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  48. Add point Subtract point
    nate8nate (1 Point) July 26, 2010 at 9:33 am

    Wonderful result, I thought it was a photograph at first.

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  49. Add point Subtract point
    Abanoub (1 Point) July 26, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Great tutorial, very realistic

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  50. Add point Subtract point
    mtarkhov (1 Point) July 26, 2010 at 9:30 am

    great, photo-like! thanks for tutorial

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  51. Add point Subtract point
    Alex Rogahn (1 Point) July 26, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Wow, amazing tutorial! It really is very photorealistic. Well done; thanks for sharing! :D

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  52. Add point Subtract point
    Vasili (1 Point) July 26, 2010 at 9:20 am

    I thought that was a photo at first… great tutorial! :)

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