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How to convert a photo to a comic book, cartoon in Photoshop

I just got back from Comic Con last week, and it kind of inspired me for this week’s tutorial.  I’m going to show you how to create a comic book look out of a photograph. Learn how to convert a photo to a cartoon, This Photoshop tutorial has three steps to create a retro comic book effect.

  1. Halftone dots
  2. Inked outlines
  3. And flat colors to replicate a comic book effect

This step by step tutorial makes it nice and easy.

  1. Reducing colors

Start with  a photograph and duplicate the background layer 2x , just hitting Ctrl J or that would be Command J to make a copy. And, of course, you could also drag it to the New Layer icon, so we’ve got two new layers.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 12.37.16 PM


We want to group these 2 layers together. Select them both, right click, and then choose Group from Layers, or you can hit Ctrl/Command G for Group. Now the reason I want to do that is because I want to apply a Blend Mode between the two, but I don’t want to affect all the layers–just these two.

Grab the top one and change the Layer Blending Mode  to Hard Mix.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 12.38.02 PM

Now, if you want to know more about Layer Blending Modes, check out the free e-book that I’ve got, and, also, I’ve got a video in here that I talk about layer blending modes inside of Photoshop.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 12.38.07 PM



Reduce  the Opacity to about 40%. this will  give us a nice mix. Notice as we change opacity it starts to reduce the amount of colors very quickly, and that gives us a comic book look.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 12.38.16 PM


4. Pop Dots

Now, the next thing that we want to do is we want to apply these little dots on there so that it looks like it’s been printed at a low line screen. Take the group, right click, and choose convert  to a Smart Object.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 12.38.39 PM


Now we can apply filters to it. So let’s add those little dots that make it look like it’s been printed on a page. So we’re going to go into Filter>Pixelize>Color Halftone. Now, there’s no interactive display on this. You can’t actually see what’s happening as we do it, but right now, the maximum radius is set to 8 pixels. That means that the largest pixel can be 8, but let’s go up to 12.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 12.38.57 PM

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 12.40.10 PM


The only thing is we’re losing a lot of detail because this halftone is just a little too strong. We can blend it with the original image under the Smart Filter that we’ve created.

See that little smart filter in the Layers panel? We can just double click on that,  it brings up our blending options.  Bring the Opacity down a little bit to about 42%, and then, click OK.
Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 12.40.17 PM

7. Inked Outlines

All right, we’re almost there. The only thing that’s really missing right now are those outlines that define the detail of our super hero.
Go back to our background layer. Just hit Ctrl /Cmd+ J for jump one more time, and drag it to the top.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 12.40.55 PM


We’re going to create a line art from this particular layer.Go under Stylize>Find Edges.

Now, this is going to look a little weird at first because there’s a lot of color and stuff, so we need to tweak it a little bit so it’s going to work better, it’s not bad though.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 12.41.03 PM

9. Clean up the line art

We want to go in and use levels. Hit Ctrl/Command+L, and we want to do it right on the layer. We could do it as adjustment layer, but in this case, I’m going to do it on the layer. Pull the black triangle to the right, notice how that really thickens the outline, or just makes it much more pronounced.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 12.41.13 PM

Of course, you got all these stuff here we need to clean up. We can clean up all these by moving the white slider over.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 12.41.35 PM

Notice now that we’ve cleaned up the whites. Grab the midtones, that little gray slider, and as we pull that over to the left, notice it’s going to start to reduce the detail significantly. We’ve got a nice outline so let’s just click OK to apply that.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 12.41.40 PM


Convert  to Black and White, Cmd+Shift+U – Ctrl+Shift+U on Windows. We’ve got our outline and we want to mix it with our pop dots underneath.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 12.41.59 PM


Layer Blend Modes to the rescue. The best blend mode is Overlay.

Notice that black and white lines there with our little dots, and there we go, we’ve got a comic book effect.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 12.42.09 PM

I hope you enjoyed this. If you want to become part of the Cafe crew, Subscribe right now, and you’ll get a new tutorial every week,  add a comment, share it with your friends, and until next time, I’ll see you at the CAFE.


Layer Blending Modes. Free eBook by Colin Smith

Grab your free PDF ebook right now. We were going to sell this for $9.99, but figured we would give it away instead and see what happens 🙂



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If you want to make real comic books, check out this training from Marvel and DC artist, Jeromy Cox. Comic Book Coloring in Photoshop


One response to “How to convert a photo to a comic book, cartoon in Photoshop”

  1. ROFL not even remotely in the same universe as the results i got. for this to work you’d need a photograph pretty much exactly the same as the one you used in the demo.

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