It’s become an internet cliché
—”cartoonify yourself!” But given a few
moments in Photoshop, you can cut out
the middleman and turn one of your own
photos into a surprisingly nice photo
filter cartoon. C’mon, you know you have
While some photos will work better than
others, it’s possible to turn just about any
photo into a “cartoon” image with cool
lineart and bright, smooth colors. And,
seriously, one minute might even be
overstating the case! Keep reading and
see how easy it can be.
Turning A Simple Photo Into A Photo Filter
We’ll need to start with a high resolution
image of a person with good details and
fairly flat skin tones. Today, we’ll be using
this image of this pretty lady in the San
Francisco Carnavale Parade, which meets
those needs fairly well. Your image will
also need to have well defined facial
features, but not excessive contrast—no
heavy shadows. When you have an
appropriate image, open it in Photoshop.
(This how to is mostly GIMP friendly, so try
it out if you’re using our favorite GNU
image editor. )
Duplicate your background layer by right
clicking in the layers panel. This is a good
first step to ensure you don’t accidently
overwrite your original file.
Navigate to Filters > Blur > Smart Blur. You
can use these values or come up with
your own, depending on how you want
your image to shape up.
This will reduce the skin textures and
smooth our your image, which will be
A quick levels adjustment (Ctrl + L) can
help push contrast and make your image
work better as a cartoon. Try these
settings, or your own, as you see fit.
Your image should have even flatter skin
tones, very little detail in the skin, still
recognizable facial features, and good
detail still in the image. But even if your
image isn’t perfect, give it a shot.
Once your levels are finished, make a
duplicate copy of that layer by right
clicking and selecting “Duplicate.” Don’t
copy your original background layer, but
instead duplicate the layer you just ran
filters on. In our example, it’s called
“Background copy.” Select the new copy
Navigate to Filters > Sketch > Photocopy.
(GIMP users also have a Photocopy filter,
located under Filters > Artistic >
Photocopy. ) Adjust the detail and
darkness sliders roughly as shown here,
or to whatever values make your image
look good. You may find you need to
bump up the “detail” or “darkness”
setting dependent on what your image
needs to work well.
One of the frustrating, weird quirks of the
Photocopy filter in Photoshop is that it
uses the colors you have active in your
foreground/background palette in your
toolbox. You may get strange results
unless your toolbox has these colors,
which you can get quickly by pressing the
“D” key on your keyboard.
Providing you don’t run into trouble with
the photocopy filter, you’ll end up with an
image similar to this one. You may have
to use the eraser or brush to clean up
some of your skin or facial areas. In our
example, we’ve not had to do much of it.
Select your topmost layer and set it to a
blending mode of “Multiply” as shown
above highlighted in blue.
Our image is beginning to take shape, but
let’s get a more convincing flat-cartoon
color layer for our base.
Select the bottommost copy layer, which
is probably the one in the middle, if you’re
Navigate to Filter > Artistic > Cutout to use
the cutout filter. Adjust the sliders as
shown to get fairly good detail in your
image, without it becoming to simple or
Our final image is a nice, colorful image,
with smooth colors under a good
example of Photoshop filter lineart. It
might not get you a job as a professional
artist, but it is a fun trick to pull on a set
of your photographs. Have fun with it!