1. Design & Illustration
  2. Photoshop Actions

How to Make a Retro Comic Book Portrait Effect Action in Photoshop

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Photoshop actions can work like advanced filters, giving you nice effects with a single click. In this tutorial, I'll show you how to create a cartoon effect action in Photoshop, so that you can add cool photo effects to your portraits. After this short lesson, you'll be able to create your own Photoshop filters and effects!

If you're interested in Photoshop portrait actions, filters, and effects, you'll love these comprehensive lists of useful resources:

Follow along on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube Channel:

What You Will Need

You will need the following resources in order to complete this project:

How to Make a Retro Comic Book Portrait Effect Action in Photoshop

Step 1

Open your photo (I used this one). Make sure it's on the Background layer. If not, go to Layer > New > Background From Layer.

Create a New Layer. Use a simple selection tool to select the outline of the model. Ignore the details, and focus on the main silhouette. Then use the Paint Bucket Tool (G) to fill the outline with any color. Name this layer mask.

draw a mask

Step 2

Click somewhere under the layers to deselect them. Open the Actions panel and create a New Action. Give it a name. From now on, all your actions will be recorded.

create new action

Step 3

Press D to reset the swatches. Go to Image > Image Size and round the top value to define the width for every photo that this action will be applied to. This will guarantee consistent results.

change image size

Step 4

Hide the mask. Hold Control key and click the thumbnail of the mask to create a selection. Then go to the background layer and use the shortcut Control-J to duplicate the selection. Then duplicate it once more.

duplicate layer

Step 5

Double click the upper copy to open its Layer Style panel. Check Stroke and make it pretty thick by changing its Size.

add black stroke

Step 6

Duplicate the layer. Double click the lower one, and this time use an even thicker white stroke.

add white stroke

Step 7

Create a New Layer right over the Background. Go to Edit > Fill to fill it with any color. Then double click it and check Pattern Overlay. Select a pattern that will complement the retro style of the portrait. I've downloaded mine from Envato Elements. If you can't find anything nice on your list, remember that you can always stop the recording to download and add a pattern to your library, and click Record when you want to continue.

add pattern overlay

Step 8

Select Color Overlay and add a semi-transparent color that will make the pattern subtler.

add color overlay

Step 9

Duplicate layer 1 and bring it to the top. Go to Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen. Adjust the settings to make the image cleaner. This will help us find the edges later.

smart sharpen filter

Step 10

Go to Filter > Blur > Surface Blur. Remove the details in the photo with these settings. Name this layer blur.

surface blur filter

Step 11

Duplicate layer blur. Go to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate.

desaturate picture

Step 12

Then go to Filter > Other > High Pass. Drag the Radius to show mainly the outlines, not the shades.

high pass filter

Step 13

Now go to Filter > Filter gallery. Open Artistic tab and select Poster Edges. Adjust the settings to get nice thin lines.

poster edges filter

Step 14

Go to Filter Gallery again. This time, select Cutout. With this option, you can remove even more details and bring focus to the lines.

cutout filter

Step 15

Add a Threshold adjustment. Drag the marker to show only clean outlines.

threshold adjusment
turn photo into outlines

Step 16

Select the adjustment and the layer below, and right click > Merge Layers. Change the Blend Mode to Multiply.

merge layers

Step 17

If you find these lines too harsh, there's a way to make them subtler. Double click the layer to open its Layer Style panel. Hold Alt and drag the lower white marker to the left. This will make the lines brighter when there's something bright under them.

change blending options

Step 18

Let's add some cel shading now. Click layer blur and add a Posterize adjustment. Adjust the Levels and change the Blend Mode to Soft Light. You can lower the opacity to change the intensity of the effect.

posteriz adjustment
adjust posterization
lower opacity

Step 19

Finally, let's add a halftone texture. Duplicate the layer blur and drag it to the top. Go to Filter > Filter gallery and open the Sketch tab. Select Halftone Pattern.

add halftone texture

Step 20

Change the Blend Mode to Overlay. To keep this layer from being too bright, open its Blending Options and drag both white markers to the left.

change opacity of texture

Step 21

If you're happy with the result, simply click Stop Recording to save the action.

stop recording

Step 22

There's one more thing we need to do, though. Finding outlines in a photo is very tricky, and each photo requires a slightly different treatment. Because of this, it's good to include an option to add a variable to the action. To do this, find the position that you want to modify, and click the empty square next to it. Now the action will stop here to ask the user for the specific threshold value, and continue after it gets what it needs.

how to edit action sep

Now, if you want to apply the same effect to other photos, you only need to prepare the mask and click Play. All your actions will be repeated automatically by Photoshop, and you just have to wait for the end result to appear.

cartoon photo effect
cartoon photo action
cartoon filter

Photoshop Actions with Effects for Pictures

Photoshop Vector Art Effect Action

Photoshop actions are very powerful, but it takes a lot of time to create interesting effects. If you want to save time, you can use actions created by professionals on Envato Elements. For example, with this Photoshop action, you can turn your photo into a poster with beautiful line work. This Photoshop action is customizable, and it gives you some hints on how to adjust the settings for the best results.

Photoshop Vector Art Effect Action
Photoshop Vector Art Effect Action

Photoshop Art Effect Action

This Photoshop action turns your photo into an artwork. Not only is it given a painterly look, but also its edges are converted to splashes of color. With this Photoshop filter, you can turn a photo into a poster or an illustration with a single click!

Photoshop Art Effect Action
Photoshop Art Effect Action

Photoshop Cartoon Effect Action

This Photoshop action adds cel shading to your photo, turning it into a simple illustration in a limited color palette. You can achieve this unique style in seconds just by downloading this action and playing it on your chosen photo.

Photoshop Cartoon Effect Action
Photoshop Cartoon Effect Action

Photoshop Double Exposure Action

This cool Photoshop action adds a trendy double exposure effect to your photo, but it doesn't stop at this—it also adds a fun style to the photo, turning the whole picture into a work of art. And because it's an action, all you have to do is choose what photos you want to use!

Photoshop Double Exposure Action
Photoshop Double Exposure Action

Good Job!

Now you know how to create a cartoon Photoshop action. If you're interested in Photoshop actions and photo effects, you may also like these tutorials:

comic book photoshop action effect
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