How To Turn A Photograph Into A Cartoon Image Using Photoshop

Wondering how those guys on the internet turn photograph into a nice cartoon-style picture? Eager to make one yourself but don’t know how to do it? Looking for an Adobe Photoshop tutorial on it but couldn’t find any that satisfies your need?

Search no more. You’ve already found it! Now here’s how to turn your favorite photo into a cartoon photo. Be aware though, a photo cartoonization process (or cartooning, some people may say) is a patience-demanding job. But the result is very much satisfying. For this tutorial we will use a photo of Rihanna.

Here’s the original photo:

Photoshop Cartoon 1

And here’s the final result of this tutorial:

Photoshop Cartoon 2

Open the original photo in Adobe Photoshop. (In this tutorial I use Adobe Photoshop CS. I haven’t got other versions of Adobe Photoshop, but I guess the entire steps described in this tutorial can be applied on any version of Photoshop)

On the ‘Layers Palette’, drag and drop the ‘background’ layer to the ‘New Layer‘ new layer button to duplicate it. Rename the new layer to ‘original’. (To rename a layer, right-click on the name in the Layers Palette and select Layer Properties). We will keep the original photo (the ‘original’ layer) intact in case something “wrong’ happened in our cartooning activity and need the original picture.

Create a new layer. Rename it into ‘background‘. We will use it as background layer for our cartoon photo. Fill it with orange using Paint Bucket tool. Isolate the object. Clear out all unwanted parts of the photograph. Use Pen Tool for this purpose. If you’ve never used this tool previously, I suggest you to take a look at Melissa Evans tutorial first.

Take the Pen Tool, create a path around the object (Rihanna for this case), load path as selection (ctrl + Enter), inverse the selection (ctrl + shift + i), cut (del), then deselect the selection (ctrl + D).

Photoshop Cartoon 3

Copy the ‘Layer 0’ layer (drag and drop it to the ‘create a new layer’ new layer button). Rename it to ‘outline’. Make sure color palette is black for the foreground and white for the background. (Press ‘d’ if they’re not).

The value for ‘Detail’ depends on the picture. Most of the time a value of ‘2’ gives the best result. Experiment with this setting. The goal is to make the outline as detail as possible so we can recognize the result as Rihanna, but not over-detailed that the outline becomes ‘dirty’.

Turn the slider right and left, experiment with it, until the preview displays the best outline you can get (a compromise between ‘detail enough’ and ‘clean enough’). Click OK when you’re satisfied with the result.

Select the ‘outline’ layer. Press Ctrl-J to duplicate the layer (or drag and drop it to the ‘create a new layer’ button). Rename the new layer to ‘white’. Move the ‘Brightness’ slider all the way to the right (+100) and the ‘Contrast’ slider all the way to the left (-100).

Photoshop Cartoon 4

On the ‘Color Picker’, pick a creamy brown color. This color will be used for the skin color. (I picked #FAD594 for the skin. You don’t need to be too picky here. We can change the color easily later whenever we need to). On the ‘Layers Palette’, click on the ‘outline’ layer while holding (pressing) the Ctrl button. This will tell the ants to march around Rihanna. Oops, I mean, this will put a selection mark around Rihanna.

A ‘flat‘ picture is not too nice to look at. We have to apply some shading to the picture to give it depth. What’s more, giving some shading to the picture (especially the face area) makes the person in our cartoon photo more recognizable because the viewer will be able to see the cheek bone, jaw bone, etc which differentiate someone from the others.

Change the blending mode of ‘shade’ layer to ‘Soft Light’. Change the opacity to 40% (experiment with this value to get the desired result). This article has more on this topic.

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