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How to turn a photo into a sketch

Q: I may be asking the impossible.

I would like to convert photographs to line drawings. I am 78 years old so I can't use something that takes time to learn or might be complicated. PhotoShop exceeds my budget, and I would prefer something automatic. I've spent money on programs which have failed to fulfill my needs. I hope that you might know of something which will fill the bill.

Thanking you in advance for your time and assistance

— Ron

A: If you use Windows, then Photo to Sketch was made for you, Ron. It's a small, free program available at thinkersoftware.com. It does just what you need, and I had a lot of fun using it. Editors at Cnet said, "Though it's certainly not a cutting-edge tool, it's fun, it's easy to use, and it'd be a great choice for kids, newbies, busy folks, or anyone who wants a fun free graphics app to play around with."

To get the program, go to that webpage and click on the blue "Photo to Sketch" button on the left side of the page. After you've read about the program, click "Download."

Using Photo to Sketch couldn't be easier. Click the Open button and search for the image you want converted to a sketch. The program imports a copy of the image and adds a lot of contrast to make the final sketch more detailed. Click Convert and a sketch-like image pops up. You can email to a friend or save it to your desktop to edit it and print it out using Microsoft's Paint. It's not Adobe PhotoShop, but then you're not a high-paid commercial artist.

Before making the conversion, you can choose to have the sketch resemble a pen drawing, a pencil drawing or a pastel drawing. You can add a background by clicking on Texture, and you can vary the detail in the drawing by playing with the Precision and Line sliders.

Or you can skip all that and just hit convert and watch the sketch pop into view. You can email the final sketch or click Edit & Print to save it to your hard drive, and Print2Sketch automatically calls up Microsoft's Paint program so you can add a little here, strip away a little there and get closer to what you had in mind. From there, you can print your sketch. That's the free version.

For $39.50, the upgrade gives you finer control with the Freehand function, letting you click-drag the cursor around the screen to create your sketch. You can even record yourself creating the image, and you can send the animation file via an email to a friend who will watch the image come into view stroke by stroke.

Photo to Sketch is satisfying for newbies and doodlers on a PC and gives a reasonable amount of control, using the Paint program already in your computer. Please send us a sketch when you're done!

Have a question about your computer, cellphone, camera or any gadget? Let us know! E-mail Eric Gwinn at egwinn@tribune.com, and you could be featured in an upcoming Gadget Q&A column.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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