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How to Cartoon Yourself in Photoshop

by Alexandra Bateman on Sep 10, 2023

With Photoshop, you can transform your photos with a whole host of artistic photo effects. In fact, you can even use Photoshop to create cartoon images from your pictures. Do you want to make a cartoon out of your photo? Cartoon effects can come in handy for special events and projects. And cartoon portraits can actually make great social media profile pictures to help you build your personal brand!

In this article, we will show you how to cartoon yourself in Photoshop. But first, make sure you have Photoshop downloaded on your device.

If you don’t have it yet, you can get Photoshop from Adobe’s site here.

Once you’ve downloaded Photoshop, you’re ready to go! Let’s look at a couple of things before we begin the tutorial, including:

  • Types of Cartoon Effects in Photoshop
  • Easiest Ways to Cartoon Yourself in Photoshop
  • Steps to Cartooning Yourself in Photoshop
  • Best Tutorials for Cartooning Yourself in Photoshop

Types of Cartoon Effects in Photoshop

In Photoshop, there’s rarely only one way to achieve a particular effect. Cartoon effects are no different! The first step to understanding which of Photoshop’s tools to use for a cartoon effect is knowing what style you’d like your cartoon portrait to have.

Although we’ll be focusing on turning portrait images into cartoons in this tutorial, know that Photoshop’s cartoon effect approaches work on other kinds of pictures, too. For example, you can use the same editing techniques to cartoon a picture of a landscape that you can for a portrait. 

But, what kinds of cartoon effects can you achieve in Photoshop? Given Photoshop’s extensive selection of tools, you can create both realistic and simplistic cartoon renderings of your portrait images.

Easiest Ways to Cartoon Yourself in Photoshop

To create less detailed cartoon drawings of your portraits, you’ll want to use Photoshop’s Brush Tool, Layer Masks and a graphic tablet with a pen that gives you more control over tracing your image. In this approach, you can use the tablet’s pen and Photoshop’s brushes to trace over your image. Of course, you’ll want to use your brush on a new layer, or in a Layer Mask, so that you do not alter the original image. 

This approach is easy enough to do if you have the proper equipment, namely a graphic tablet. If you don’t, you can attempt to complete this effect by hand using a mouse or trackpad. But, as you may guess, keeping a steady hand for tracing is much more difficult without a stylus pen. 

You could also try to cartoon photos in Photoshop using the program’s Pen Tool. With the Pen Tool, you can create paths outlining the figure and its essential features, and then use those paths to make blocks of color. This approach, like the approach using the Brush Tool, allows you to be as detailed or as sparse as you’d like.

Depending on your image, the Pen Tool cartoon effect approach can be time-consuming, especially if you plan to create a detailed, realistic cartoon rendering. 

Luckily, you can create the same realistic cartoon rendering of your photo using filters built into Photoshop. If you’re working without a graphic tablet or other tablet, this approach will be the easier of the two. And, you’ll see shortly, the results are just as impressive!

To create a more realistic cartoon of yourself in Photoshop, you’ll need to use Photoshop’s filters, channels and adjustments. Let’s take a look at cartooning yourself in Photoshop in just a few short steps.

Steps to Cartooning Yourself in Photoshop

First, open your portrait in Photoshop by either dragging your photo into the Photoshop workspace, or selecting File » Open

When you see your photo in the Photoshop workspace window, go to Filter » Filter Gallery and select the Artistic folder. Then select the Poster Edges option. This filter will enhance the edges of the portrait’s face and body.

Poster Edges

I’ll use the following settings for my photo:

  • Edge Thickness: 2
  • Edge Intensity: 1
  • Posterization: 6

Try these settings out on your image, then adjust them accordingly. 

Before we move on to the next step, we’ll need to set the foreground and background colors to their default values — black and white, respectively. Go ahead and set those values if they aren’t already:

Set B/F color

Next, go to Filter » Filter Gallery and select Torn Edges from the drop-down menu. This option will add some irregularity to the edges of the figure’s shape in your image.

Torn Edges

Here, I’ll use the following settings. Again, start with these values and adjust for your image:

  • Image Balance: 20
  • Smoothness: 15
  • Contrast: 3
Torn Edges Settings

Now, select the entire image (Ctrl + A) and copy the selection (Ctrl + C).


Next, locate the Channels Panel from the right-side of your Photoshop screen, near your Layers Panel. Create a new channel from the bottom right corner. Photoshop will name this new channel Alpha 1 by default, though you’re welcome to rename it if you like.

Create Channel

Paste your selection into the new channel you just created (Ctrl + V). Now we need to invert the image colors, which we can easily do by selecting Image » Adjustments » Invert.

Channel Alpha 1

Next, Ctrl + Click on the thumbnail for the Alpha 1 channel to select the white areas of the image.

Then, in the Layers panel, create a new layer by choosing the New Layer icon. Use the paint bucket tool (keyboard shortcut g) to fill the new layer in with black. I’ll name this layer Black for simplicity’s sake.

Black Layer

Then add another new layer and fill it with white. Once again, I’ll name this new layer White. In creating these two solid layers, we’ve separated the black and white colors in our original image.

White Layer

Next, drag the Black layer to the top of the Layers Panel so that it sits above the White layer.

Layer Move

Now we need to add three more layers to house the colors for our skin, clothes and eyes/teeth.

Simply create three new layers by selecting Layer » New » Layer, then name them Skin, Clothes and Eyes/Teeth accordingly. Drag these three layers below the Black layer in the Layers Panel.

Three Color Layers

Next, decide what color you’d like the skin, clothes and eyes and teeth in your photo to be. For the photo in this tutorial, I’ve chosen the following colors

  • Skin: #e7c5b3
  • Clothes: #d9142b & #425ad7
  • Eyes/Teeth: #ffffff

To apply the colors to the appropriate areas on the photo, select the Brush Tool from Photoshop’s left-hand toolbar. Then select the particular layer you want to edit, and carefully brush over your image to apply color in that area.

Repeat this process for each layer until all parts of your photo are colored in how you like.

Here’s what our final cartoon portrait looks like:

Brush Cartoon

Now, lets create a gradient background to make the cartoon really pop!

We’ll create another layer and name it Gradient, then select the Gradient Tool from the toolbar.

Notice the continuous gradient bar that appears within the Gradient Editor. Choose the boxes at either end of the gradient by double-clicking them, then specify your colors. 

I’m going to create a blue-gray gradient with the colors #5d849a and #9cb5c3. Click OK after you’ve set your colors.

Gradient Color

To fill the gradient, click and hold the mouse starting at the bottom-left of the image, and drag the mouse to the top-right of the image. Then release the mouse. Drag and drop this Gradient layer directly above the White layer in the Layers Panel.

Set Gradient Layer Position

Now you’re done! You’ve created a cartoon of yourself in Photoshop, complete with a professional gradient background. Check out this before and after image of our cartoon effect edit below:

Cartoon Yourself in Photoshop

As we mentioned earlier, feel free to adjust the settings on the Poster Edges and Torn Edges filters to suit your image. However, make sure to follow the steps outlined in this tutorial sequentially. The order of the layers in the Layers Panel is important!

Best Tutorial for Cartooning Yourself in Photoshop

The internet is a great resource for finding tutorials on cartooning yourself in Photoshop! Video tutorials on free sites like YouTube show multiple ways to achieve cartoon effects in a number of different styles. 

Keep in mind that many other types of cartoon effects will require more extensive use of the brush tool and thus be more well-suited for work on a graphic or other tablet.

If you find yourself needing to apply cartoon effects to images often, consider investing in a tablet and stylus. They will make your life easier and open up a variety of other cartoon effect styles for you to try. 

As always, the best results come from practice. Don’t spend too long reading or watching tutorials. Instead, practice the technique yourself. You can even experiment with some of Photoshop’s other fun filters to see what kinds of unique effects you can create.

Cartoon Yourself!

We hope this article has helped you to learn how to cartoon yourself in Photoshop. If you found this Photoshop tutorial helpful, check out our other Photoshop tutorials, including our guide on how to add a HDR effect to your images in Photoshop.

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  1. when trying to paste the image to alpha channel it won’t let me copy anything in from the filter gallery section? using photoshop in Mac OS

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