Nikon’s Color Sketch Feature
Nikon has had a feature called “Color Sketch” available for many years on several of its amateur/enthusiast camera models. Color Sketch isn’t offered on any of its professional models, of course.
I did an article a few years ago on how to use this same Effects feature to perform “focus peaking” here:
If you have read about it on the web, then you probably noted that Color Sketch is looked upon with loathing and contempt. Most of these same web site reviewers have the same disdain for HDR photography; anything that isn’t “realistic” should be banned from photography.
I was doing some Live View shooting the other day and tried out the Color Sketch/Focus Peaking technique with a manual-focus lens. I happened to notice that my LCD screen was showing me some very striking images, which got me interested in what this feature could do.
Some cameras, like my D7000 and D610, don’t offer a live-view Color Sketch effect mode, but the effect can instead be found in the “Retouch” menu. Even shooting Raw format, you can easily make a color sketch version of your shot in-camera. The color sketch version of the photo is only available in jpeg format.
Cameras that allow a color sketch retouch conversion but not a Live View imaging mode make using this feature a bit more challenging. You’ll find that some subjects make terrible color sketch images, and you can’t reliably predict this ahead of time. Fortunately, you don’t have to make any decisions while you’re out shooting. You can explore converting shots back in the comfort of your home; if you don’t like the effect, just delete it. It costs you nothing except a few moments of your time.
Retouch Steps to Make a Color Sketch
Select Color sketch in the Retouch menu
Select the shot to convert
When you select a photo to convert (even raw format) you’ll note that already-retouched shots cannot be re-selected. Use the multi-selector arrows to locate the shot, then press OK to select it.
The default color sketch always looks dreadful to me, but maybe that’s just me. Use the multi-selector up/down arrows to select Vivdness and then use the left/right arrows to alter the vividness.
Crank up the Outlines
I increase the Outlines, which thickens the lines.
Press OK to save the shot, or else select cancel if the shot looks hopeless. It will save it as jpeg format, and it won't touch your original shot. The original can be in raw format or jpeg.
Minolta XK with 135mm f/2.8
Think of Color Sketch like candy. A little bit of it can be quite nice, but you’d never make a steady diet of it.
Before dismissing it, I really think you should give this feature a chance, if your camera has it. I find it ironic that the “pro” cameras don’t have anything like this feature (they’re above that sort of thing). It can turn a boring subject into something quite dramatic. See if it doesn’t bring out the inner Andy Warhol in you.