You can make an interesting, and unique gift, and so much more! You can use a picture to cartoon yourself and use these as a picture for social media, you can make your own T-shirt design, you can use it for posters, or print it on mugs, or make stickers, or anything you can think of.
I am using Adobe Illustrator, and a graphic tablet with pressure sensitive pen, to make my cartoon avatars. A free alternative for Illustrator is Gimp, a software which offers similar features and basically works the same way.
If you don’t have a pressure sensitive pen, you can adjust the width of the strokes by creating a custom brush, which goes from thin to thick to thin again, or by adjusting it manually with the “Width tool”. (This method can be quite tedious though)
Wacom tablets are arguably the best, but they are really expensive. Fortunately there are more and more alternatives, and with a little research you can find a budget friendly brand which essentially does the same.
When it comes to software I chose Illustrator because it works with vectors, meaning the finished cartoon caricatures will be crystal clear in any size. It also fits my style more, and the brush tool offers a really nice/adjustable smoothing for your lines. Photoshop seems more sensitive to me, and is much harder to draw smooth lines, without any jitter.
The brush I use is really basic, it’s a round calligraphic brush with the size of 6px, and 5px pressure variation, and that’s it.
While yes it’s true that illustrator helps a great deal with smoothing out the lines, it’s also true if you turn the smoothing too high you won’t have as much control over your strokes as you wish, and if you turn it too low your lines will be too jittery. You should strive to draw your lines with the lowest smoothing assistance possible.
It is really important, when going over the lines try drawing the strokes with a single, confident, fluid motion, rather than doing short strokes. This will make the lines have a nice flow, and make it look much cleaner. You might need a little practice but it’s worth it!
When I’m happy with what I see I start coloring. It’s a good idea to separate the color layer from the stroke layer. I put the colors beneath the stroke layer, so the width of the stroke gives me a margin of error. In most cases I’m using the shape builder tool, to make shapes that match the strokes I made earlier.
When you are finished, saving it in PNG format is the best option. Not only does it offer higher quality, it also leaves the parts you left blank transparent. This way you can have a transparent background and have an easier time when you place it somewhere.