Creating the Wall Street Journal Hedcut Effect on a Photo

The original color image is shown over the image converted to a sketch.
There are a number of techniques for converting color photos to sketches.

Question: What software can create the Wall Street Journal hedcut effect on a photo?

Don writes: "I'm looking for software that can turn a photo into the type of portrait you see in The Wall Street Journal. Bottom line, I'm looking for something that will create an image that will fax well. Gray scale images don't fare so well."

Answer: I wasn't familiar with The Wall Street Journal portraits you referred to, but I did some research and discovered these portraits are known as "hedcut" drawings. The Wall Street Journal first used this technique in 1979 after artist Kevin Sprouls approached the paper with his line drawings. To this day, the paper is still using artists — not software — to create these hand-drawn hedcuts.

How to Create the Hedcut Effect

To answer your question, we have not found a software technique that can generate results as strikingly detailed as the hedcut stipple drawings used in The Wall Street Journal, though some attempts have been made. The primary reason is these hedcuts are hand drawn and then printed in the newspaper.

With that said, you can get pretty close in Photoshop CC 2017 using the photo line art technique.

You can also find more advanced plug-ins for creating a stylish line drawing, woodcut, and inked effects listed under Halftone Line Screen & Line Art Plugins.

We also showed another way of accomplishing this task using a mobile app named SketchGuru which is available iniOS and Androidversions. 

For more information on hedcut stipple drawings, see the article from Kevin Sprouls, Creator of the Wall Street Journal Hedcut Portrait, Sprouls Method — the Hedcut, a blog post from Kevin Sprouls.

Updated by Tom Green