Memorable moments, caricature style

In collaboration with Samartha Vashishtha

From casual social media conversations to serious political columns, caricatures add a dash of comic relief to any situation. You’ve seen and admired caricatures in the past, wondering how hard it is to create one. Not much, we assure you, if you have Photoshop and some knowledge of what tools to use. Also, tutorials teaching how to create caricatures usually focus on images of just one person. In this post, we explore how group portraits could be made into interesting caricatures as well. We’ll walk you through two examples to prove our points. Let’s get started.



Key concepts

Core tools

Supporting tools

Layers/layer groups



Smart Objects

Smart Filters

Liquify effectForward Warp, Pucker, and Bloat tools



Smart Sharpen

Smart Blur




Color Balance


Detailed example: The fun wedding portrait

So you attended a friend’s wedding recently—with friends, who else?—and clicked a happy portrait together. Now you want to add some secret ingredients that will enhance its impact.
Besides the funny faces that are disproportionately bigger than the torsos, did you notice that the caricature looks like a digital painting more than a digital photo?
Want to know how we achieved that look? Just follow along.

There are five broad milestones in Photoshop on the path to creating this caricature:

  1. Make initial adjustments
  2. Crop the images and group them appropriately
  3. Get the composition right
  4. Apply the Liquify filter
  5. Put finishing touches

Now, let’s build the caricature step by step.

Make initial adjustments

  1. In Photoshop, select File > New to create a new Photoshop document {Shortcut key: Ctrl+N (Windows) | Cmd+N (Mac)}.
    In the New dialog box, specify the following settings:
    Name: Caricature
    Canvas Size: 1000px x 800px
    Resolution: 72 Pixels/Inch
    Note: If you want to print your caricature later, we suggest that you set the resolution to at least 300 pixels per inch (or a similar number in other units).
  2. Select File > Place Embedded.
  3. Navigate to the image you want to work on and click Place. You’ll notice that Photoshop places the image in a Smart Object layer by default.01_Create a new file and plac the Image
  4. Scale the image such that it fits the canvas:
    • Select Edit > Transform > Scale {Shortcut key: Ctrl+T (Windows) | Cmd+T (Mac)}.
    • Drag the bounding box from one of its corners while holding down the Alt+Shift key combination on you keyboard. This manoeuvre lets you scale the image evenly from all sides.

Crop the images and group them appropriately

  1. Crop the base image. Follow these steps.
    • Select the Zoom tool {Shortcut key: Z} and Zoom In/Out {Shortcut key: Ctrl+ +/– (Windows) | Cmd+/ (Mac)enough to see the relevant details.
    • Select the Pen tool {Shortcut key: P} and start drawing the path. Don’t worry if your path isn’t turning out to be as fine as you want.
    • Once you’ve drawn the path, select Windows > Path. Now, in the Paths panel, double-click Work Path and rename it to a name of your choice. We’ve named our path as Base Image Path.
    • Right-click the Base Image Path and, in the context menu, click Make Selection.
    • In the Make Selection dialog, specify the following settings:
      Feather Radius: 0
      New Selection: On
      Anti aliased: Enabled
    • Click OK. Ants marching on the canvas confirm that the selection operation is complete.
    • If you notice that the background is selected, invert the selection. Choose Select > Inverse {Shortcut keyShift+Ctrl+I (Windows) | Shift+Cmd+I (Mac)}.
    • Duplicate the selection and move it to a new layer. Select Layer > New > Layer Via Copy {Shortcut key: Ctrl+J (Windows) | Cmd+J (Mac)}.
    • Now, double-click the layer name in the Layers panel and rename it to Cropped Image. Press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac OS).
    • In the Layers panel, select the layer named Cropped Image. Now, select Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Objects.
    • Make the layer with the base image invisible. Select Layer > Hide Layer {Shortcut key: toggle the corresponding Eye icon Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 2.08.40 pm in the Layers panel}.
  2. Using many of the same steps you used to crop the base image, crop just the heads of the subjects in the portrait.
  3. Let’s call the person on the extreme left A. Call others in the image B, C, and D appropriately.
  4. Group all the layers together. Select the layers and then choose Layers > Group Layers {Shortcut key: Ctrl+G (Windows) | Cmd+G (Mac OS)}.
  5. Double-click the group name in the Layers panel and enter a more intuitive name for it—for example, Cropped Images. Press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac OS) to commit the name.
  6. Duplicate the layer group you just created. Right-click the layer group and, from the context menu, select Duplicate Group. Rename the duplicate group as Composition.
  7. For now, make the Cropped Images layer group invisible. Toggle the Eye Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 2.08.40 pm icon for this layer group in the Layers panel.

Get the composition right


In this phase, we will compose the core effects of the caricature. Our objective is to “distort” the heads of the subjects in the image disproportionately to their torsos. Before scaling the heads, ensure that all all your layers are Smart Objects. You convert a layer to a Smart Object by selecting Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Object.

Now, follow these steps:

  1. Select the layer Head A and then choose Edit > Transform > Scale. {Shortcut key: Ctrl +T (Windows) | Cmd+(Mac)}
  2. Drag the bounding box corner while holding down the Alt+Shift key combination on your keyboard. This manoeuvre lets you scale the image evenly on all sides. Scale it to a satisfactory proportion. Commit the scale operation by pressing Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac OS).
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for the heads of the rest of the subjects.
  4. In our example, you’ll notice that Heads A and D are in front and Heads B and C are towards the back. You can rearrange the order.
    • Select Layer > Arrange. To move the layer one level up select Bring Forward {Shortcut key: Ctrl +] (Windows) | Cmd+] (Mac)} and to move the layer one level down Send Backward {Shortcut key: Ctrl +[ (Windows) | Cmd+(Mac)}.
  5. You’ll notice that we also tilted the heads to compose them better. To rotate the image select Edit > Transform > Rotate.

Apply the Liquify filter

Now we get to the real action:

  1. To err on the side of caution, duplicate the layer group Composition, so that rework is easier if something goes wrong. 
    • Right-click the layer group and select Duplicate Group.
    • Now, double-click the group name in the Layers panel and rename it to For Liquification. Press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac OS).
    • Hide the layer group For Liquification. With the layer group selected, choose Layer > Hide Layer.
  2. Now, in the For Liquification layer group, select the Head A layer.
  3. Select Filter > Liquify {Shortcut key: Shift+Ctrl+X (Windows)Shift+Cmd+(Mac)}.
    See this Help article for more information about the Liquify filter. In this example, we use the Forward Warp, Pucker, and Bloat tools in the Liquify filter to bring out the caricature effect.
    • Forward Warp: Pushes pixels forward as you drag the pointer
    • Pucker: Moves pixels toward the center of the brush area as you hold down the mouse button or drag the pointer
    • Bloat: Moves pixels away from the center of the brush area as you hold down the mouse button or drag the pointer
    • Freeze Mask Tool: Freeze areas of the image that you don’t want to alter

Note: After clicking OK, if you feel you need to work further on the effect, pull down the drop down menu for the corresponding layer. It shows Liquify filter as an icon. Double-click it and then make the required adjustments in the Liquify dialog box.

  1. In the Liquify dialog right pane, adjust the Pressure and Brush size as necessary. Now, use the Liquify tools. In this example, we use:
    • The Forward Warp tool to elongate the subject’s jaw
    • The Freeze Mask tool to keep the Prop safe from any effect.
    • The Bloat tool on his ears to make them prominent and large
    • The Bloat tool, again, to fluff-up his cheeks and to make the props look rounder
    • The Forward Warp tool to squeeze in his temple
    • The Pucker tool on the eyes to make them look smaller
    • The Pucker tool again on his jaw and the extremities of the smile 

Note: There are no perfect steps to liquify a face. Explore and see how you want to use the available tool to exaggerate the features of the face without losing its core identity

If necessary, apply more filters to the image. Apply them as smart filters. See this Help article to understand how.

Final Touches



  1. Before putting the final touches on your creation, duplicate the group one last time.
    • Duplicate the For Liquification layer group as Smudge.
    • Hide the For Liquification group for now.
  2. Merge all the layers in the Smudge group. They become a single layer. Name the Layer as Smudge
  3. Select Filters > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen. 
  4. In the Smart Sharpen dialog, adjust the Amount and the Radius. Try different values until you achieve the desired effect.
  5. Select the Smudge tool from the toolbar. 08_smudge Tool
  6. Select an appropriate brush from the Options bar. Try and experiment with different brushes to get different textures and effects depending upon your image.
    In this example, we’ve used a textured brush (Spatter 24-pixel brush) for hair touch up. The strength of the brush could be adjusted accordingly in the Options bar. While working on the skin, a softer brush, such as Per Stroke Brightness Variance Brush, will serve you well. For the clothes, you could use the Sponge Brush Projection Brush.
  7. If necessary, adjust the color balance of the caricature. Select Image > Adjustments > Color Balance to do so. Balancing middle tones, highlights, and shadows is a good idea.
  8. Draw the prop sticks using a round brush. Keep them in a single layer named Prop Sticks.
  9. Now select the layers Smudge and Prop Sticks and merge them using the Layer > Merge Group command {Shortcut key: Ctrl+E (Windows) |Cmd+E (Mac OS)}.
  10. Finally, add a background to the caricature. You can import File > Place Embedded a background image and then apply appropriate effects to it. In this example, we apply the Smart Blur filter to the image Filters > Blur > Smart Blur.
    Sometimes, even a simple gradient lends an impressive look to the background. See this Help article for more information on gradients.


Alternatively, you could use the Smudge tool again to draw strokes along to create the digital painted background as well. Play with the brushes, opacity and layer blending mode to achieve stunning effects.


Example 2: The besties

In the second example, we strip out the background of the image. Then we add a simple patterned background image that accentuates the impact of the caricature. 

Some tips:

  • Choose an appropriate brush and the Smudge tool to soften the image. In this example, we’ve used the Airbrush Soft High Density Grainy Brush for the skin at strength 50%.
  • For the hair and clothes, we’ve used the Sponge tool at a Brush Size of 35 pixels and a Strength of 16%.

  • If necessary, use the Sharpen tool on the eyes, brows, and the hair.
  • Adjust the Black Levels and Balance the Color of the image.

  • Add some elements in the background to complete the caricature. You can use the Brush or Shape tools to create patterns for the background.


The examples in this blog post are simple attempts to get you started with creating beautiful caricatures in Photoshop. The possibilities are endless. Try out these effects on your photos and share your results and experiences. If any of the steps in this blog post seemed confusing, do post your query as a comment. We’ll try to answer it at the earliest.

We wish you beautiful memories, caricature style. Happy creating, then!