How To Create A Cartoon Effect In Photoshop

How To Create A Cartoon Effect In Photoshop

Photoshop is amazing for creating all sorts of cool effects. You’re in the right place if you’ve always wanted to learn how to create a cartoon effect in Photoshop. Although, several steps are involved, once you do it two or three times you’ll be a pro. Let’s get started.

create cartoon effect in photoshop

Begin by choosing an image you’d like to turn into a cartoon. Then select the Quick Selection tool or hit “Command” and “W” on your keyboard. Outline the perimeter of the subject in your photo. Do the best you can. Here’s what mine looks like:

lasso tool in photoshop

Go to “Select and Mask” at the top of the screen:

select and mask in photoshop

You’ll see this screen. In the top, left-hand corner, select the Refine Edge Brush Tool or select “R” on your keyboard:

refine edge brush tool in photoshop

With the tool selected, I’ll select the areas in between her body and arms. When finished, output to a new layer. The setting is at the bottom on the right. Press “OK:”

output to new layer in photoshop

I’m naming my new layer “1st Filter Layer.”

naming new layer in photoshop

Now go to “Filter” and “Filter Gallery” in the top menu:

filter layer in photoshop

Select the “Artistic” tab, then “Poster Edges.” Here’s what my settings look like:

artistic editor in photoshop

Play around with the settings with each image you do a cartoon effect on. I set the “Edge Thickness” to 6, the “Edge Intensity” to 1, and the “Posterization” setting to 5. Press “OK.”

poster edges settings

Now you’ll want to create a “New Effect Layer” by going to the bottom of the screen, in the right-hand corner. It’s to the left of the trashcan icon:

creating a new effect layer in photoshop

Select “Cutout” in the “Artistic” editor. See my settings below:

cutout settings in photoshop

Set the “Number of Levels” anywhere from 3 to 7, the “Edge Simplicity” from 1 to 3, and the “Edge Fidelity” to around 4. Click “OK” and select the layer you first created. Mine is called “1st Filter Layer:”

1st layer in photoshop

Right click on the layer to duplicate it. I’m naming mine “Diffusion.” I now have three layers in my layers’ palette. Go to “Filter,” “Stylize,” and “Diffuse” in the top menu:

stylize and diffuse in photoshop

Make sure the “Anisotropic” setting is checked and press “OK.”

anisotropic setting in photoshop

I’m now going to select my “Diffusion” layer and duplicate it. The keyboard shortcut is “Command” and “J.” I’m naming my layer “Sharpen Edges:”

Go to “Filter,” “Sharpen,” and “Sharpen More” in the top menu:

sharpen more in photoshop

Hide the background layer my clicking the “eye” icon on the left. Create a “New Adjustment Layer” below the layers palette, and choose “Solid Color:”

new adjustment layer and solid color

Select a color for your background and press “OK.” Drag the layer with the color on it underneath your filter layer:

dragging layers in photoshop

Select your top layer and duplicate it. I’m naming my new layer “Toning.” Press “OK:”

new layer named toning in Photoshop

Right click on the new layer to convert it to a “Smart Object.” You’ll see a little box in the picture on the layer after you convert to a smart object.

converting to smart objects in photoshop

In the top menu, go to “Filter,” “Pixelate,” and “Color Halftone:

halftone in photoshop

Make sure the “Radius” is set to 7 or 8, and leave the other settings as they are. Hit “OK:”

color halftone in photoshop

Change the “Blending Mode” to “Soft Light,” and the opacity to anywhere from 30 – 50% . I’m setting mine to 40%:

blending mode in photoshop

Select your top layer, right click, and click “Merge Down or “Command” and “E” on your keyboard:

merging layers in photoshop

Go to “Fx,” “Blending Options,” and “Stroke” and set to around 25 under “Structure.” Make sure the color is set to white and press “OK:”

stroke settings in photoshop

Create a “New Adjustment Layer.” Under “Vibrance” adjust the setting to around 23 and the “Saturation” anywhere from 7-10:

vibrance in photoshop

Hit “Close.” That’s it. I hope you’re happy with your image that is now a cartoon. I’m happy with mine.

If you’re interested in more Photoshop tutorials, check this out. 

cartoon image

Key Points

Creating a cartoon effect in Photoshop is a lot of fun. There are several steps involved so the first time can be confusing, but once you do it a few times, you’ll get the hang of it!

Have you made cartoons in Photoshop before? Let me know in the comments:)


Canon EOS 5D Mark III at Samy's Camera

6 thoughts on “How To Create A Cartoon Effect In Photoshop”

  1. One of the most intriguing articles I have ever read. You made my day with this article as I have been learning how to make a cartoon effect in Photoshop. Getting to read this article has just made things quite easy for me and I am very happy. Thanks so much for this wonderful information.

  2. Great walkthrough! I do a lot of photo posting for my blogs, but have always wanted to be able to give my photos the cartoon effect. I’ve always felt they would give the pics more personality and zing! You’ve done me the great favor of walking me through the process and now I can start to make all my pictures with an animated effect! So cool!!!! Thanks for the post and the quality content, I look forward to seeing more work from you in the near future Have a nice day! 

    • I’m so glad my post was helpful. Creating a cartoon effect is a lot of fun. Have fun and thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

  3. Hi! This sounded intimidating at first. And reading about all these steps that must be followed may discouraged some. But I have gone over to Photoshop and tried it by myself. It’ll take 3 – 4 attempts, I believe, to start feeling comfortable. But I can say from the start, it’s not difficult. All you need is patience and persistence. Thank you for sharing this post.

    • Awesome. I’m so glad you tried it. Creating the effect can be intimidating at first. I totally agree. It takes a few times to get a comfort level with it.

      Thanks for leaving a comment!


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