If you’ve used photo editing programs like Photoshop or GIMP, it’s likely you tried built-in filters or third-party plug-ins which promise to transform photos into sketches. Over the years, I’ve tried a few. But I always went away wondering how just how much skill you need to obtain a result that actually looks good.
Then, I heard about Akvis Sketch which promises it can convert photos into pencil sketches and watercolors that come “very close to the hand-drawn works of a human artist.” That would be very cool. So, let’s see if lives up to its promise.
It comes in a Standalone edition as well as a Plugin which supports a large number of photos editors in Windows, such as Adobe Photoshop, Corel Photo-Paint, PaintShop Pro and GIMP, but only Photoshop and Photoshop Elements on Macs.
My first step was to download the fully functional trial which is good for 10 days and allows you to install both the Standalone and Plugin. Setup went smoothly and quickly. It even detected I had Photoshop on my machine and offered to install the plug-in. Afterwards, I was greeted with this screen.
I decided to fire up the stand-alone edition and quickly found that the program has two different conversion styles: Classic and Artistic. After checking out their excellent tutorial, I learned that the Classic focuses on accuracy which makes it good when a high level of detail is desired or if you want to make the end result look like is a watercolor or charcoal drawing. I picked out a high detail photo of a Canuck woodland creature having a snack.
I switched from Express to Advanced mode to gain access to all the functions. Note that in the screenshot, the “After” panel is selected. In the Navigator panel, you can see the full the photo and the selection area that appears in the main display panel. I left everything at the default settings except for “Color Pencil.” Personally, I was impressed with the result.
You’ll also note there are three other tabs besides “Sketch”: “Background”, “Text” and “Canvas.” Canvas simulates drawing on a textured surface while Text allows you to sign your work. I couldn’t figure out how to input more than a single line of text and there are limits on where it can be placed.
The Background tab is a function which I put to good use when I switched over to Artistic style. The default mode is “Sketch” where the entire photo is converted in the same way. The “Sketch & Photo” mode allows you to define a part of the photo that is left alone while the rest is
converted. Then there’s the “Sketch & Blur” where you have to define the area you wanted sketched and the one you want to be blurred.
As you’ll see in the screenshot below, you don’t have to paint the entire image. I simply painted a blue outline within the edges of the wooden wizard. I used the magnification slider in the Navigation panel to zoom in and out. One think that took a moment to figure out was how to change the brush size. Just right click on the screen and a dialog will appear.
After I had enclosed the entire area I wanted sketched in blue, I went around it with green so it would know that I wanted the rest of the photo to be blurred. Without doing a background blur, it becomes quite obvious it’s a sketch of a wood carving. Seriously now… how many times did you see a chain link fence in Lord of the Rings? But take a look at the screenshot below and see what happens when a Gaussian blur of the background is used.
Now, we have something that really looks like a pencil sketch of wizard performing an incantation. Wow… however, the background still isn’t fully satisfying. So, I looked at the other two blur methods. Since he’s standing still, it’s not surprising that I didn’t find “Motion” worth while. So, I decided to tried “Radial.” After tweaking all the various settings to my liking, I got the output image shown below.
I don’t know about you, but I’m really impressed with this program. And what really helps is the very extensive tutorial. One section showcases 40 examples of the different kind of effects you can achieve… and provides detailed instructions on how to do it.
If you’ve ever wanted to convert photos into pencil sketches, charcoals or watercolors, you should definitely check out Akvis Sketch. If you’re like me, you’ll be very pleased with how quickly and easily you can achieve good looking results. I’d also recommend taking a look at their other photo-effect programs and utilities.
Reviewed by Jelson