How To Cartoonify Your Photos With GIMP

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cartoonify yourselfvector version of your photo stands out for a number of reasons. The combination of colors and the realistic quality of vector art immortalizes any portrait, instantly making it as distinguishable as a painting.

Not only does vector art look amazing, but it’s also incredibly time-consuming. Just look at any number of vector tutorials on YouTube, and you’ll notice that the price to finish a great-looking piece of vector art yourself involves meticulous work and patience.

Not all is lost, however. Cartoonifying your portraits is actually easier than you think, thanks to built-in plugins and features in GIMP, the premier open-source photo editor.


If you want to achieve the effects of automated photo-editing applications, such as beFunky, (which offers some really great cartoonifying effects and more if you purchase premium membership), what better than first trying with GIMP? Lots of practice can lead to plenty of fun, frameable pieces that you’ll certainly want to share and show off in no time.

If you are new to GIMP, check out the recent collection of hand-picked video tutorials for beginners.

Cartoonifying People: Method 1

  • Load your photo in GIMP. You can do this by drag and dropping any picture, pressing Ctrl + O, or heading to File > Open.

cartoonify yourself

  • Now duplicate the layer by going to Layer > Duplicate Layer.

cartoonify pics

  • You’ll see a second image in the Layers box, named Background Copy. Make sure you don’t click anywhere else because you want to keep that new layer selected.

cartoonify pics

  • Now head to Filters > Artistic > Cartoon.

cartoonify pics

  • Move the Mask Radius slider to 50, where it should look least grainy. Move Percent Black to about 0.353 (the higher it is, the thicker the strokes are). You can change and experiment with different values to your liking, which may help you learn about GIMP’s potential particularly if you are new to GIMP. When you are satisfied, click OK.

cartoonify

  • In a few seconds, GIMP will finish rendering the cartoon effect on your photo. You can repeat the Cartoon effect by pressing Ctrl + Y or heading to Filters > Repeat Cartoon. That’s it!

cartoonify

Method 2

  • Open up your photo and duplicate the layer. While you have the duplicated layer highlighted (which should be, by default), go to Colors > Threshold.

cartoonify

  • Now on the dialog box that shows up, move the slider slightly to the left.

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  • The numbers I have are 155 and 255 but it depends on your photo. A rule of thumb is that your adjusted photo should have more white than black. Whenever you are satisfied with the previewed change, click OK.

  • Back at the Layer box, put this layer at Value mode (the default is Normal).

  • Here’s what Value mode gives us.

  • You can experiment with the different modes. I’ve found Overlay, Soft Light, Multiply, Darken Only and Burn to work better than other modes. Here’s Overlay mode, which seems to work well when you move the Threshold slider to the right (as opposed to the left).

Cartoonifying Objects

Regular photos (non-portraits) can turn into art pieces easily as well. You can try the previous methods on non-portraits, but not the other way around because I’ve tried and people in pictures just don’t come out very nice. Basically, pictures of objects or landscapes can be cartoonified all three ways, but if you try this method on portraits, you’ve been warned: your result image will probably just scare you.

Anyway, let’s start the tutorial, which is actually an adaptation of a couple of tutorials from another blog and Youtube, but I’ve included some tips of my own here.

  • First, load the picture up in GIMP and duplicate the layer.

  • Go to Filters > Edge-Detect > Edge.

  • In the box that appears, choose Sobel for the algorithm, Amount of 2.0 and select Black. Press OK.

  • Your picture now should be in dark tones. Go to Colors > Invert.

  • Go to the Layers box and change the layer mode to either Burn, Overlay (which gives the same effect as Soft Light mode), Multiply, Darken Only, Grain Merge.

  • This is the “cartoonified” picture with the duplicated layer in Overlay mode.

cartoonify yourself

Want more tutorials? Here’s how to create cool stereographic projections and wallpapers.

Do you prefer regular photos or do you like them spiced up in vector or cartoon format? Photoshop users, feel free to share your cartoonifying methods in the comments too!

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Comments (39)
  • Derek

    For free software, gimp is pretty awesome along with inkscape and kirta, but if anyone gives up doing it themselves you can check our cartooning service at CartoonYourself.me

  • Miss Regina Owens

    Thanks, for the information concerning the Gimp free software. By the free way, I have bookmarked your page for my personal, and future reference to this amazing, (to me), software. Have a good day!

  • Jessica Cam W.

    That would be the Lobster font (open font). Find it here:
    http://www.impallari.com/lobst

  • Andres

    Great tutorial. What is that nice script font you use?
    The one you use to write “Original” and “Modified”?

    Thanks,

    Andrés

  • Andres

    Great tutorial. What is that nice script font you use?
    The one you use to write “Original” and “Modified”?

    Thanks,

    Andrés

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.