photoshop creative

Add cartoons to photos!

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
December 2, 2014

Discover the classic effect of superimposing a cartoon onto your photographs

1. Analyse your images

Find a suitable illustration and photo that will look good when blended together. It’s vital that the angle and perspective of your photograph and cartoon fir. Here you can see both the butterfly and girl are facing the same direction and the perspective is from a similar angle.

2. Prepare the cartoon

First open your cartoon. Go to Image>Adjustments>Levels and change the value of the middle box beneath the Histogram to 0.70. This will help to separate the cartoon from the background when you’re making your selection.

3. Crop your canvas

Taking the real-life photograph, select the Crop tool (C) and a bounding box should instantly appear around the image. Now click and drag from one of the corners to crop the photograph down, creating a much tighter frame. Don’t forget to save some space for the cartoon to the right.

4. Unlock your layer

Now go to your cartoon image layer in the Layers palette to open the New Layer dialog. Give the layer a suitable name, then hit OK. You can grab the Magic Wand tool by clicking and holding over the Quick Selection tool (W).

5. The Quick Selection tool

The Quick Selection tool will select just the background of the image, so you can remove it completely later. Set the Size to 130, Hardness to 60 and Spacing 11%, to ensure you don’t select anything else.

6. Make your selection

With the Quick Selection tool, click on any part of the background and drag until you have the entire background selected. You may find that some of the selection has leaked onto your cartoon image. You can fix this using the magnetic Lasso tool (L).

7. Use the Magnetic Lasso

With your Magic Wand selection in-tact, it’s time to grab the Magnetic Lasso tool from the toolbar. Hold Opt/Alt and you will see a small subtract symbol appear next to the cursor. This mean that any selection you create will take away from the current selection, rather than add to it.

8. Refine your selection

Click once where you want your subtraction from the selection to begin, release the mouse button and drag along the perimeter. Trace around the entire cartoon, letting the Magnetic Lasso tool set anchor points for your selection until you get back to your starting point. Click on the point where you started to lock the selection.

9. Merge images

No go to Edit>Cut (Cmd/Ctrl+X) to remove the background. Select the Rectangular Marquee tool (M), click and drag a selection around one of the cartoons. Next go to Edit>Copy (or hit Cmd/Ctrl+C) and move to your real-life photograph.

10. Bring in the cartoons

Go to Edit>Paste (or hit Cmd/Ctrl+V) and the cartoon element will instantly appear in your image as a new layer. You can now select the cartoon layer to move and adjust it. To change the size of your elements, go to Edit>Free Transform.

11. Scale down

Hold Shift, then click and drag a corner to reduce the size. Keep holding Shift to lock the aspect ratio. Scale your cartoon to in and around the scene, then click-drag the side of the bounding box to flip it horizontally.

12. Add more layers

Go back to your cartoon image, use the Marquee tool to make a new selection, then copy and paste it onto your photo. Ctrl/right-click your cartoon layer and select Duplicate. Reposition this and repeat the process of transforming the size.

13. Tweak your elements

Now select a cartoon layer and go to Filter>Blur>Motion Blur. Here we’ve set a Distance to 7 so that the butterflies look as though they’re moving. Go to Image> Adjustments>Hue/Saturation, drag the Hue to change the colour spectrum, then apply this to each layer.

14. Unify your scene

To finish, go to Image>Adjustments>Brughtness/Contrast. Set the Contrast to +40. Go to Image>Adjustments>Vibrance. Set the Vibrance and Saturation to +20. These settings will bring out the colour and vibrance of your image. Pick a joyful tone to suit the scene!