Create a creative cartoon & airbrush vector image using photoshop

Many Graphic designers have been wondering how can they achieve that cartoon/airbrush look that are displayed on mixtapes. Well the answer to that question has finally been answered. Since I love the design community I have decided to write a tutorial on how to take any image of a person and turn it into an actual airbrush/painting image. This is what you all have been waiting for so here goes nothing.

Note: Special thanks to Mixtape Wall for the inspirations!

Things you will need for this tutorial! Click below to get resources.

Step 1

Create new document 1000px x 1000px 72dpi.

Create new document

Step 2

Now insert the image of the character into photoshop. The image may be small but if you press CTRL+T(Windows) or CMD+T(Mac) the transform tool should appear, then hold SHIFT+CLICK and drag to canvas size.

insert image

Step 3

Select the paint bucket tool and make the canvas background black(#000000). Now duplicate the image layer 3 times.


Step 4

Turn off the background layer and the wayne_2 and wayne_3 layer. Then select the first image layer(wayne_1). Change the layer from normal to multiply. Now press CTRL+SHIFT+U(Windows), CMD+SHIFT+U(Mac) to desaturate layer(Should be black and white).


Step 5

Go to Filter>>Other>>High Pass and change to 25px;


Step 6

Turn on the background layer and select wayne_2 layer. Change the layer from normal to difference.


Now go to Filter>>Artistic>>Plastic Wrap. Highlight Strength: 6, Detail: 1, Smoothness:15 then press ok.


Then go to Filter>>Artistic>>Poster Edges. Edge Thickness: 10, Edge Intensity:0, Posterization:6 then press ok.


Step 7

Now go to Filter>>Blur>>Gaussian blur and change to 10px.


Select the blur brush tool then select the burn tool and go over the entire blurred image. Should give the image some color.

burn tool

Step 8

Now turn on the wayne_3 layer. Change layer from normal to overlay. Select the erase tool with the blur edges and start to erase. Do not erase over details such as eyes, lips, tattoos and etc.


Step 9

Select the burn tool once again with the blur edge brush and begin to go over the image. You should now see the effect.Click to enlarge


There you go. You have created your very own airbrush/cartoon image. If you would to create a more detail image then I would recommend spending more time on the image to get better results. Thanks for following this tutorial webdevtutsians.

Joe Granados the author

Joe Granados is the owner of WebDevTuts. He is also a web designer & developer who loves to design and develop websites. If you're looking for him you can find him via @webdevtuts
    • Marcell says:

      If it’s grey try to change the saturation on the picture to make it darker. The lil wayne image was grey but I used the burn tool multiple times to achieve that final look. Let me know if you get it or not. If not I will assist you 🙂

  1. Justin says:

    Great tutorial! I searched the web countless times for a tutorial on this. The only problem is that the image comes out too dark and the effect doesn’t look very good. Please help.

Leave a Reply