How to "Animenize" a Photo

Introduction: How to "Animenize" a Photo

About: I am an airport worker who enjoys gaming for a hobby. I love anything game related and making models of just about anything, whether the model be virtual (3D render) or actual.

So, you have a picture of a friend, and you want to do something fun with it. Why not "Animenize" it (make it look Anime/Manga?) It takes quite a lot of work, but the results look pretty slick.

This also is an invaluable technique for those of us (me) who want to draw anime, but can't for lack of talent.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

-Adobe Photoshop (elements, CS3,4,5, Extended) or GIMP

-Decent computer

-About 2 hours minimum
-Several Manga/Anime pics for reference. search Google
-Photoshop experience
-A victim...Ah, I mean, a model! yeah!

In this Instructable, I will refer to Photoshop instructions with P, GIMP with G, and both programs with a B.

-Your camera should be of decent quality. I'm not saying you need a DSLR, but you should have a higher-end point-and-shoot at the very least (like a Nikon Coolpix.)
-When I say photoshop experience, I mean you should at least be familiar with this list, which includes, but is not limited to, the following tools: Hue/Saturation, Magnetic Lasso, Magic Wand, Crop, Layers, Filters, paint, dodge/burn, smudge, etc.
-2 hours is minimum. you could spend a real long time if you are trying to make it look really nice.

Step 2: Taking and Importing the Picture

There isn't a ton to say about the picture. You should make sure your subject is well-lit and well-focused. Figure 1 is the original photo I used.

Now, it is time to import and prepare your footage.

P - Import, and start by selecting the background, clothing, skin, and hair and putting them on separate layers.

G - The select tools aren't nearly as sophisticated as photoshop, because hey, the program is free! therefore, simply selecting the person and background will be adequate.

B - Now is a good time to go through and get some measurements for a future step. Create a new layer, and on this new layer draw a horizontal line across the center of both eyes, the center of the mouth, and the bottom of the nose, as in figure 2.

Step 3: Cartooning

P - At this point, I do not have Photoshop, so there is definitely an easier way to go about this process. I am going to refer you Photoshopers to , for which you will do steps 3 and 4. Additionally on step 3, you will erase all your facial features. Remember before doing this to mark out your facial features if you have not done so already. you will rejoin us in the next step.

G - I am sorry, but you Gimpies have some work to do! You are going to first choose a color close to skin. a good start is R - 225 G - 227 B - 187. Paint over all of the skin. If you get some of the hair or something, that is ok. Sample the colors on the clothing using the eyedropper tool, then paint over the respective colored clothing. You can also do likewise over the hair, but that is optional. You will also erase the facial features here as well. Remember before doing this to mark out your facial features if you have not done so already.

B - The third pic is a snapshot from Pencil, a flash-based animation program. It has some nice skin colors. Feel free to grab the pic and sample from it. Also, if your model is heavy set, now is a good time to trim off some of the excess. Heck, it might not hurt even if your model is a twig. To be brutally honest, though, we could not live in a manga world, because we would all be malnourished. 

Update: Here's another method: Open the file in Adobe Illustrator. Now Click the down arrow next to the Live Trace button. Wait for it to calculate, then open the Tracing Options Dialoge (located on the taskbar) and play with the settings until you get what you like. Note that for good results, it helps to have a lot of colors, and a bit of blur. When you are satisfied, hit the "Live Paint" button. You will get a message that basically says there is a chance that Illustrator may crash and hose your file in the process. Go ahead anyway. Watch your processor temperature skyrocket! When it is done, hit export in the file menu.

This should create a fairly well-shaded cartoon render of the whole thing. Try this at the end of your project for the paint filter you need, too!

Step 4: Facial Proportions

The proportions for the average human are below in figure 1. Manga proportions are slightly off. Specifically, the eyes are huge, whereas the mouth and nose are rather small. Adjust your markers appropriately, as I have done in figure 2.

Step 5: Eyes

This is one of the two hardest parts of the whole process. This is where you will be spending the most time, if you want the final product to look really good. Fig 1 is the model I used for the eyes.

B - It would be a very good idea to draw the eyes on a separate layer. Start by "scatter-plotting" the eyes with the pencil, as in fig 2. Next, you will connect those dots to get a full shape, as in fig 3.

Use the paint bucket to fill in the shape with white, then paint individual eye colors with the paintbrush. Use the smudge tool to blend. Finally, use the dodge and burn tools to create the pupil and highlights. Remember, a little goes a long way with Dodge/burn! The final result of this is shown in fig 4.

Finally, you are going to outline the eyes using the paintbrush tool. The edges of the pencil line can be erased at this time. Fig 5 is the final set of eyes.

Feel free to touch up the eyes, or any part of the figure for that matter, at any time.

Step 6: Face

This is quite simple, really. Create a new layer, and simply draw on the various features using the paintbrush. the final picture is what it should look like.

Step 7: Hair

For those of you who want to keep the hair as close to original (read: lazy) simply select the layer it is on and do the following:

P - Paint filter
G - Cartoon

If you want to, use the Hue/Saturation tool to change the color of the hair.

Also, if you want to spend more time on it, by all means, go for it! the next step will help immensely!

Step 8: Shading

This step is number 2 on the difficulty scale. 

B - Start by marking out where you want the photo shaded. This is where you will finalize the proportions you want. Use the original photo for reference, as well as a few reference photos for determining anime proportions. Remember this general rule of thumb for body proportions: Male - stick; Female - Hourglass. Fig 1 illustrates the overall. Fig 2 illustrates a closeup of a hand.

Fig 3 shows the final of filling. Use the paintbrush or paintbucket to fill the assorted shaded areas. Finally, use the smudge tool to smooth and blend the shading. Running the tool along the initial line tends to work well. This can be quite difficult to get right, so spend some time. 

P - I would recommend doing this by hand, as it is detail work.

Step 9: Finishing

Okay! You're almost done! Now you need to get the background of the original photo, or a photo of your choosing, and place it behind the character. Add a little bit of a Paint/Cartoon filter on the background, and save to a format of your choosing! I recommend psd for layered images and png for flattened images.

Note: Never Flatten your images!!! You never know when you will want to change something!

Step 10: Thoughts on Manga Cartoons

For those of you who want to make a manga film, this is a great way to do it! Simply set up your shots as full body, and shoot the person from 5 angles: front, 45 front, side, 45 back, back. make sure you have all of your model's limbs in plain sight. In editing, feel free to use the clone stamp tool to add a little extra material to animate with.

Step 11: Gallery

Feel free to post your creations in the comments!

One rule, though: APPROP, PLEASE!!!

If your photo is indecent, it will be deleted. no exceptions!

Criteria for approp:

-No excessive skin (I would call my photo modest, though.)
-No explicit content.
-No inappropriate language (in the photo)

I am interested to see your artwork!


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    11 Discussions


    8 years ago on Step 6

    Just some creative critisim: I think your eyes are alittle to close. Besideds that, awesome!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    For this kind of thing, Inkscape would be easier, and might well turn up better results, (or illustrator, if you were that way inclined). It takes a little getting used to but I'm now completely hooked! Havent used GIMP/photoshop for anything like this for months now


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I've been trained in raster graphics, so that's what I'm used to. I've tried Illustrator, but I really don't understand it. Probably won't have to, because I'm trying to get a degree in Film/Video/Animation, but it probably would be a good thing to learn.

    I just found this out:

    If you are using a mac, shade your drawing lightly, making sure that your character's outlines are well-defined.

    now, take your finished drawing into ColorSynch Utility (make sure you export it as a .png first. png is a lossless format) and click the "Image Correction" button.

    Adjust the sliders as needed, but turn up the "Sharpness" slider to the max, or close to it.

    the end result has very sharp, well-defined lines that make your finished photos look even more cartoonish, adding to the effect.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I did this one pretty much the same way except i did it on inkscape, a vector drawing program. Oh, and i only did the head


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Not bad. It could use a bit of shading, however.

    try a whole photo! I am currently working on one that has 3 people in it, and most of the people at that. it is taking a really long time, especially because I have to sample every freaking color in their clothing!

    I'll post it in the Gallery when I am done with it.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    for the asian influenced look, stop at step 3. :) just kidding. nice ible.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I was not aware of such a version. However, what I was attempting to get across was any version of Photoshop. I guess this was badly worded...