picture into cartoon
Turning a Photo into a Cartoon
This tutorial will show you how to take a photograph of someone and turn it into a cartoon. Cartoons
are characterized by defined outlines of shapes, and flat shading (or cell shading) the patterns of light
and color. Photoshop has everything we need to apply this technique to a photo.
1. Open the image you want to transform. A higher resolution image (300ppi) will make it easier to
have a good end result. Your Image should be no larger than 8.5”x11”.
2. Duplicate the layer by dragging the layer onto the ‘NEW LAYER’ button.
Name the top layer: OUTLINE
Name the bottom layer: COLOR
3. Now we need to Desaturate (or make black and white) the OUTLINE LAYER. (top)
IMAGE -> ADJUSTMENTS ->DESATURATE or [control] [shift] [u]
4. Now let’s flatten out the tone of the black and white layer.
IMAGE -> ADJUSTMENTS ->SHADOW/HIGHLIGHT
To start, try 75% highlights and left shadows at 0%.
We can always backup to this step and try different values if we don’t like our result.
5. Now it is time to make the outlines for the cartoon.
BEFORE this step, make sure your foreground color is BLACK. If it is
colored like mine was, your cartoon outlines will be colored. Of course, if you want them to be
colored, then go for it.
Now choose FILTER->SKETCH->PHOTOCOPY
For the photocopy effect, I used Detail = 4 and Darkness = 8.
The goal here is to get GOOD OUTLINES, but not too much else. You may need to experiment
with the values.
6. Now we’ve got outlines, but they probably aren’t very dark. Let’s use a THRESHOLD to darken
up the lines and get rid of some lines we don’t need.
IMAGE -> ADJUSTMENTS ->THRESHOLD
This value will also depend on what picture you are working on. As you increase the threshold
level you will get darker lines but loose detail. Level=226 worked good for me.
Now set the blending mode of this layer to MULTIPLY and we can begin to work
on the color.
This is what my finished outline layer looks like. Hopefully yours is roughly similar to it.
7. NOW REMEMBER TO change back to our color background layer, the
COLOR LAYER. (bottom)
A photo has way more information about light and color than a cartoon does, so we need to
somehow reduce the detail of the photograph. There are many ways to do this, but I’ll show you
one that I think works quite well.
Select FILTER->BLUR->GAUSSIAN BLUR
Try a radius of 4.5. You’ll need to experiment as this value depends mostly on the size of
your picture. This blur will make things look a little more cartoony, but there are a few more
things we can do to enhance the effect.
8. The Cutout effect will make the shading of the image into flat blocks.
FILTER -> ARTISTIC -> CUTOUT
Depending on your picture, you may want a different amount of levels. Move the slider around
and watch to see which preview looks best. If one or two colors on the person look out of place,
don’t worry about it now- we can fix that after.
If you can’t decide, just use my settings:
Number of levels = 7
Edge simplicity = 1
Edge fidelity = 1
Here’s a look at what we’ve got so far.
9. Now if you’ve got some weird colors in the person we can fix it. If your colors turned out ok, just
skip this step.
Start with SELECT->COLOR RANGE
When the color range menu comes up, you’ll have the dropper tool activated. CLICK ONCE on
one of the colors we want to change. I picked the light blue. The black and white image on the
left shows you what is going to be selected, indicated in WHITE. You can move the Fuzziness
Slider to select more or less pixels that are similar to the color chosen with the dropper.
Now you will likely have some extra things selected that you don’t want. Choose a selection tool
and use the [ALT] key to remove the selection you don’t need. I’ll use the polygonal lasso.
Once your selection is Isolated you can pick a color you would prefer and use the paint bucket to
drop it in. Repeat this step if your image is like mine and you have a few shades of a color to
Once we’re done, we should have something like this:
10. At this point we’re almost done. I can see some black specks on my figure that I would like to
Switch back to the OUTLINE layer!!!
Now either use some selection tool or the eraser to get rid of any marks or lines that don’t seem
necessary. Once everything is cleaned up you should have a finished product!
Here is my finished copy: