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Create curious caricatures with Free Transform and Distort

Added on Tuesday 15th of March 2011 10:33 am EST


Adobe Photoshop CS2/CS3/CS4/CS5

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


You don’t have to be a caricature artist to create quirky photo representations. Simply use the Transform and Distort tools to unleash your inner artist.


To create fun caricatures with the Transform and Distort tools, we’ll:

•  Study an image and determine which areas we want to distort.

•  Isolate each area and paste them on separate layers.

•  Distort and then combine the sections to produce a finished caricature.


Caricatures have long been used to poke fun at the foibles and follies of predominant public personalities. Caricatures distort and exaggerate a likeness to appear ridiculous and even absurd, as shown in Figure A from an 1878 edition of Punch magazine. In the past, caricatures have been the providence of illustrators or political cartoonists employing pen and ink or conté crayon. However, by using Photoshop layers and the Free Transform and Distort features, you can easily point out the quirks and quibbles of cranks with the best of them.





Step 1: Choose the features

While the process of making a caricature can be applied to almost any image, let’s use a person, since people are time-honored subjects. Begin by selecting a figure, such as the one shown in Figure B. We’ll use it to create a caricature for a newspaper ad about a new morning edition feature. Launch Photoshop, choose File > Open from the menu bar, select your image file, and then click Open.




Let’s examine our image and identify what we want to distort. The head is usually one element that’s overstated. Certainly, it’s a great choice for our ad. Also, by emphasizing the hands and the newspaper, further attention will be drawn to the figure. That leaves the torso and the legs. By under-emphasizing these areas, even greater visual tension will be created in the figure to increase the effectiveness of the caricature.


Step 2: Cut and copy the features

Now we want to isolate and copy each feature onto a new layer so we’ll be able to distort each independently.


To do this to your image:

1.  Select the Rectangular Marquee tool from the Tools panel, and drag a rectangle around the entire image.

2.  Press [command]J ([Ctrl]J in Windows) to move a copy your image to a new layer.

3.  In the Layers panel, double-click on the name, Layer 1, and enter head in the text box.

4.  Repeat this process, once to make a hands layer and again to make a torso, legs layer, as shown in Figure C. Now we want to work on one layer at a time, removing that part of the layer image we don’t need.





Step 3: Isolate the features

Let’s first work on the head feature. In the Layers panel, select the head layer. So that you can clearly watch your work progress, deselect the layer visibility of the Background, hands, and torso,legs layers by clicking on the Eye icon next to each layer.

There are a number of ways you can remove the unwanted image pixel areas from the head layer. You can use the Eraser tool, the Lasso tool, the Magic Wand tool, or even the Pen tool to gnaw away small areas of the head layer, or you can use the Rectangular Marquee tool to first select and then cut out large pixel sections.


To remove unwanted pixels:

1.  Select the Rectangular Marquee tool from the Tools panel.

2.  With the mouse pointer, drag a large rectangle across the lower two-thirds of your image, as shown in the example on the left in Figure D.

3.  Choose Edit > Cut and the pixels from the lower two-thirds of the head layer are removed. Continue using the Rectangle Marquee tool until much of the image, excluding the head, is removed, as shown in the example on the right in Figure D.




Now, we’ll remove the last bits of unwanted image pixels with the Eraser tool until the head feature is finally isolated, as shown in the example on the left in Figure E. To finish isolating your image features, repeat the process with the hands layer and the torso,legs layer, as shown in the examples in middle and on the right in Figure E.





Step 4: Distort the features

Now that you’ve isolated each of the features on their separate layers, you can begin the process of distorting them to create your caricature. We’ll make the head and hands features larger and the torso and legs features smaller. We’ll distort all of ...


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