How to create a vectorized cartoon portrait selfie


This is a tutorial on how to vectorize any photo using Adobe Photoshop. This method does not require alpha masking and is best used for portraits.

So, let's start!


Step 1: Picking the photo to work on

I highly recommend selecting a close-up photo that has no filters. Ideally, it should be high-quality and with as much detail as possible.

This is one below is my selfie taken on my Lumia 920:


Step 2: Working with line art

This particular style (on the image below) is my preference.

Working with line arts is very crucial. Better-detailed reference images allow for more features to be vectorized. 

Work on the hair, eyes, brows, nose, lips, as well as on areas which you think need to given depth (shadows). This step requires patience, so I suggest you work slowly. Remember, how you convert your image will affect your end artwork. Try to make the vectors as close as to their reference features.

This image below is the same one as above but with the reference image removed:


Step 3: Picking the right colors for shading and highlighting

Picking a color palette to work with is entirely up to you. Try to decide on how many to use, and pick light to dark hues from the color spectrum.

Since I am working with skin for this example, I opted for the selection below:

The palette should contain light to dark colors in order to give the final artwork depth and elevation.

Before starting the conversion with the colors, try to adjust your image's brightness and contrast to a level that has both hightlights and shadows in a somewhat equal or natural look, as shown below:


Let us discuss the colors further.

The base color

The base color should be not be too light nor too dark. Pick a mid tone or your natural skin color, and adjust it for contrast. You can also pick any color of your choice, but be careful in adjusting your base color for contrast.

The mid tone

Normally, these are lighter than your base color. A trick to this is picking a lighter color than your base and adjusting it until it looks like a naturally lighter shade of your base color.

The shadow color

The shadow color, obviously, should be darker than the base, and it should contrast strongly against the other colors. As you can see in this example below, the difference is very obvious, but because of it, the shadows are given emphasis, which in turn gives the artwork more life and depth.

The highlight color

Your highlight is not to be confused with your natural light shade (midtone) because it gives that shine effect to your vector subject. It should be put on the top of the base color, the shadow color, and the line art. Placing hightlights over your mid tone parts won't give much of a difference.


Step 4: Extra Details

This is the part where you can put your watermark or logo on your artwork. You can even add extra highlights, or make more tweaks according to your art style preference.


Even if you are working with skin, you may still pick a pallette of your choosing. Do not be afraid to try different combinations. You will be surprised to find out that some artworks are products of risky choices.

Here are my recent artworks. I employed the steps mentioned in this tutorial in creating these:

 • My selfie example:

 • J. Cole (rapper):

 • My girlfriend's portrait:


I really hope that you learned something from this tuturial, and I hope that you enjoyed reading it!



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