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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Adobe Photoshop

How to Create a Photo to Cartoon Effect in Photoshop

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Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

This could be the best Photoshop cartoon effect you'll make this year, so if you want to learn the step-by-step process, keep reading!

As a quick starting point, if you want to achieve the photo to cartoon Photoshop effect with a one-click action, you could try this one first: 4 in 1 Cartoon & Vector Art Photoshop Actions. I'll also show you how you can quickly load and run this action in Photoshop, and we'll explore more cool cartoon Photoshop actions as well.

4 in one cartoon effect actions in Photoshop4 in one cartoon effect actions in Photoshop4 in one cartoon effect actions in Photoshop
Ready to use! These cartoon Photoshop effects are excellent for photographers, graphic designers, and artists.

If a video tutorial is more appealing to you than a written tutorial, click the play button below to learn how to cartoonize a photo in Photoshop on the Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:

What You'll Learn in This Photoshop Cartoon Effect Tutorial

  • How to cut out the subject from the background
  • How to make the subject's head much bigger
  • How to make size adjustments for the eyes, nose, and chin
  • How to use a variety of special effects already built into Photoshop to create the final caricature look
  • How to use caricature actions to achieve a similar effect with one click

What You'll Need

1. How to Resize the Image for a Faster Workflow

Let's start this tutorial on coverting a photo to a cartoon in Photoshop. Go to Image > Image Size, make sure the chain is active, and enter 2500 px in Width. The image will be resized proportionally. Press OK.

how to resize an image in photoshophow to resize an image in photoshophow to resize an image in photoshop

2. How to Cut Out the Subject From the Background

Step 1

Choose the Quick Selection Tool and then Select Subject. Photoshop's machine learning will try to make an appropriate selection. 

how to select subject with quick selection toolhow to select subject with quick selection toolhow to select subject with quick selection tool

Step 2

Refine the selection with the Quick Selection Tool still active. Brush over the areas that were not selected automatically. Use a hard brush and adjust its size accordingly for this step.

how to refine selection with quick selection toolhow to refine selection with quick selection toolhow to refine selection with quick selection tool

Step 3

Grab the Lasso Tool. You can add to the selection by holding Shift and take away from the selection by holding Alt. Repeat these for more places that still need refinements.

how to add or remove from a selectionhow to add or remove from a selectionhow to add or remove from a selection

Step 4

Enter Select and Mask and make sure the View Mode is set to Overlay. Choose the Refine Edge Brush, adjust it to a medium size, and make sure it's very soft.

how to change the view mode in select and mask windowhow to change the view mode in select and mask windowhow to change the view mode in select and mask window

Step 5

Brush on the margins of the hair on the lighter areas. This will gradually remove the background. Then enter -10 in the Shift Edge box to contract the selection. From Output, choose Layer Mask and press OK.

how to refine hair using the brush selectionhow to refine hair using the brush selectionhow to refine hair using the brush selection

3. How to Create a New Background

Next in this "photo to cartoon" Photoshop tutorial, we need a fresh background. Create a new Solid Color adjustment layer and pick a shade of blue (#9de9ff) that closely matches the one in the original image. 

how to choose a custom colorhow to choose a custom colorhow to choose a custom color

You might be asking why you removed the subject from the background and then added a new background that is nearly the same color. That's because you'll be making some significant modifications to the subject in the coming steps, and you don't want to affect the background. This light blue also works as a complementary color to the orange in her blouse, as well as the skin tones.

4. How to Make Her Head Much Bigger!

Alright, here’s our next fun mission! To achieve a better Photoshop cartoon effect, we want to make her head much bigger than it is now. For this, we need to put the head on a separate layer.

Step 1

Click once on the subject’s layer mask while holding Control to load up the selection, and then choose the Polygonal Lasso Tool. Start deselecting areas by holding down Alt, following the chin line step by step in small segments.

how to subtract from a selectionhow to subtract from a selectionhow to subtract from a selection

At the end of this step, you should have a selection of the head only.

how to modify selections using the polygonal lasso toolhow to modify selections using the polygonal lasso toolhow to modify selections using the polygonal lasso tool

Step 2

Press Control-J to make a duplicate of the head on a new layer, which you can optionally rename “Head”.

how to make a duplicate layerhow to make a duplicate layerhow to make a duplicate layer

Step 3

Select the Move Tool and make her head bigger by scaling it up using one of the corners. If you hold down Alt, the head will be resized proportionally. This is the effect we're looking for!

how to resize layers with the move toolhow to resize layers with the move toolhow to resize layers with the move tool

Step 4

If you zoom in and see parts of the image below the head, all you need to do is to select the layer mask of the subject layer and hide those parts very easily with a black brush, just like in the video tutorial.

how to use layer masks to hide parts with a brushhow to use layer masks to hide parts with a brushhow to use layer masks to hide parts with a brush

You should now have a custom background, the subject's body, and a large head, all on different layers.

having different layers in the panelhaving different layers in the panelhaving different layers in the panel

5. How to Resize the Subject's Eyes, Nose, and Chin

Step 1

If you want to learn how to cartoonize a photo in Photoshop, you'll need to modify your subject's facial features. Select all three layers while holding Shift, and then Right-Click > Convert to Smart Object. This will allow you to add different smart filters on the same layer and readjust them non-destructively.

Step 2

Go to Filter > Liquify and enter the following values:

  • Eye Size, Eye Height, Eye Width: 100 (left and right)
  • Eye Distance: -20
  • Nose Height: 100
  • Forehead: -10
  • Chin Height: 25
how to adjust eyes using the liquify toolhow to adjust eyes using the liquify toolhow to adjust eyes using the liquify tool

If you entered all the values correctly, you should end up with the result shown in these before and after images.

before and after liquifybefore and after liquifybefore and after liquify

6. How to Create the Cartoon Effect by Adding Photoshop Smart Filters

Step 1

Now, we'll use filters to create a cool cartoon Photoshop look. Make a duplicate of the existing Smart Object Layer and hide it for the moment. We will work with it later.

how to duplicate layershow to duplicate layershow to duplicate layers

Step 2

Go to Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen and use the following values:

  • Amount: 300
  • Radius: 3
  • Reduce Noise: 0
  • Choose Gaussian Blur from the Remove drop-down list
  • Press OK.
how to use the smart sharpen toolhow to use the smart sharpen toolhow to use the smart sharpen tool

Step 3

Go to Filter > Stylize > Oil Paint and insert these numbers:

  • Stylization: 4
  • Cleanliness: 4
  • Scale: 0.1
  • Bristle Detail: 0
  • Lighting: disabled
how to use the oil paint filterhow to use the oil paint filterhow to use the oil paint filter

Step 4

Choose Filter > Filter Gallery, and from the list of effects, click on Poster Edges, entering these values:

  • Edge Thickness: 0
  • Intensity: 0
  • Posterization: 2
  • Click OK
how to use the poster edges filterhow to use the poster edges filterhow to use the poster edges filter

Step 5

It's really starting to look like a cartoon, but there's more to do, so next let's add a Surface Blur from the Filter > Blur Menu. Set the Radius to 12 pixels and the Threshold to 15 pixels. This effect makes the skin parts look much smoother and cleaner. Press OK.

how to use the surface blurhow to use the surface blurhow to use the surface blur

Step 6

Let's add some sharpness and increase some highlights by going to Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask. Set the Amount to 130, the Radius to 7, and the Threshold to 20.

Step 7

Unhide the second Smart Object layer and select the Overlay blending mode for this layer. Then, lower the Opacity of the layer to 55%.

how to change blend modes and adjust opacity for a layerhow to change blend modes and adjust opacity for a layerhow to change blend modes and adjust opacity for a layer

Step 8

Go to Filter > Filter Gallery, and choose Poster Edges again, this time entering:

  • Edge Thickness: 4
  • Edge Intensity: 3
  • Posterization: 4
  • Press OK

These will emphasize some details in the portrait.

Step 9

From Filter > Stylize choose the Oil Paint Filter. Enter these values:

  • Stylization: 10
  • Cleanliness: 4
  • Scale: 0.1
  • Bristle Detail: 0
  • Lighting: disabled
  • Press OK
how to modify the oil paint filterhow to modify the oil paint filterhow to modify the oil paint filter

Step 10

Press Control-J to make a duplicate of the second Smart Object layer, change its blending mode to Pin Light, and adjust the Opacity to 40% for a subtler result.

how to duplicate layershow to duplicate layershow to duplicate layers

Step 11

Double-click the Filter Gallery Smart Filter that's already added on this layer, and change the values to: 

  • Edge Thickness: 5
  • Intensity: 7
  • Posterization: 6
  • Click OK

Repeat the same procedure for the Oil Paint Filter and change the values to:

  • Stylization: 5
  • Cleanliness: 3
  • Scale: 0.1
  • Bristle Detail: 0
  • Lighting: disabled
  • Press OK

By using these effects, we were able to give our subject more defined edges. We incorporated a variety of filters, but the most essential thing is that you should play with your own image and modify the parameters as you wish.

Step 12

Let's level up this cartoon effect even more by using a simple technique! Make sure you select the very top layer and press Control-Shift-Alt-E to create a Stamp Visible Layer. This shortcut is very useful when you want to merge all the layers in the document on a brand new layer. Right-click on the new layer and convert it into a Smart Object. 

From the Filter menu, choose the Camera Raw Filter option.

how to make adjustments using the camera raw filterhow to make adjustments using the camera raw filterhow to make adjustments using the camera raw filter

You will need to adjust some values in the following panels: Basic, Detail, and Effects. Just follow the image below for the right numbers.

using the sliders to make edits in the camera raw filterusing the sliders to make edits in the camera raw filterusing the sliders to make edits in the camera raw filter

You should have an image that looks fairly similar to the one below after adding additional Texture, Sharpness, a little Grain for an artistic touch, and Vignetting.

final image cartoon effect in photoshopfinal image cartoon effect in photoshopfinal image cartoon effect in photoshop

7. How to Obtain a Very Similar Cartoon Effect in Photoshop With One Click

I mentioned a 4 in 1 cartoon action Photoshop pack at the beginning of this article. Let's load the actions into Photoshop. It's just as easy as it sounds—trust me!

  • Save the action to any folder you like.
  • Open up the Actions panel in Photoshop by going to Window > Actions.
  • Load the actions file from the folder you saved it in.
  • Select the action you want to apply.
  • Press the Play button and let it run.

The steps I mentioned are shown in the image below.

how to load actions in photoshophow to load actions in photoshophow to load actions in photoshop
how to run actions in photoshophow to run actions in photoshophow to run actions in photoshop

Here's an example achieved by using one of the four actions from this caricature action Photoshop pack.

example of cartoon effect actionexample of cartoon effect actionexample of cartoon effect action

Congrats for Your Patience! You're Done!

This is how to cartoonize a photo in Photoshop. The rest of the phases are built on inputting values and duplicating layers, while learning how to make effective choices with a few tips and tricks. Of course, you should have a lot of fun with this effect on top of everything!

5 Top Cartoon Action Photoshop Kits From Envato Elements

Here are a few more cartoon Photoshop actions that deserve your attention. They can be imported in Photoshop just like I explained above.

Cartoonic Effect Photoshop Action (ATN)

Cartoonic Effect Photoshop ActionCartoonic Effect Photoshop ActionCartoonic Effect Photoshop Action

This caricature action Photoshop add-on will give your photographs a cartoonish look and feel. The filters are quite versatile and may be used on a wide variety of photographs, including fashion, lifestyle, blogging, and even moody product shots.

Cartoon Photoshop Photo Effect (ATN)

Cartoon Photoshop Photo EffectCartoon Photoshop Photo EffectCartoon Photoshop Photo Effect

This professional cartoon action Photoshop kit is designed to give a professional cartoon painting effect to your photographs. Photoshop's powerful tools are used to produce this realistic smudge painting effect.

Cartoon Painting Effect Photoshop Action (ATN)

Cartoon Painting Effect Photoshop ActionCartoon Painting Effect Photoshop ActionCartoon Painting Effect Photoshop Action

With a single click, you can achieve the gorgeous aesthetic style you've always wished for in your photo posts. Give your photograph a stunning makeover. Using this Photoshop cartoon effect, you can quickly and easily alter your images.

Cartoon Comic Book Photoshop Effect (PSD)

Cartoon Comic Book Photoshop EffectCartoon Comic Book Photoshop EffectCartoon Comic Book Photoshop Effect

In a matter of seconds, you can create the realistic appearance of a comedic cartoon effect. This simple-to-use Photoshop cartoon effect takes advantage of smart object replacement in an Adobe Photoshop PSD file.

Cartoonize Photoshop Action (ATN)

Cartoonize Photoshop ActionCartoonize Photoshop ActionCartoonize Photoshop Action

Photographers and graphic designers may find this caricature action Photoshop add-on to be a good fit in their workflow. Using this one-click action, you can achieve a stunning cartoonish effect while also earning some extra time.

Looking to learn more? Why not check out the following tutorials:

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