In this Inkscape tutorial, you will learn how to create a cartoon portrait vector design from a photograph. Just because we are using a photo reference doesn’t mean we can’t add some more cartoon like features. The overall goal here is to make everything instantly readable but still have a somewhat realistic look.
Step by Step Guide to Creating a Cartoon Vector Portrait
Step 1 – Download and Import Image
First, download the image file HERE from Unsplash. Once download just drag the image file into Inkscape and accept the options dialog box that comes up.
Shrink the image down by holding ( Ctrl ) and clicking one of the corner arrow handles. If you want to be precise change the height of the image( H ) to 583px, found in the top bar. Make sure the lock icon is closed to ensure the image will scale down by the same proportion.
Adjust the opacity to about 50% to help make tracing easier. You will be able to see your lines more clearly.
Step 2 – Trace the Head the Shape
Using the Circles and Ellipses tool( E ) draw a perfect circle( hold Ctrl ) to match the size in the image. Remove fill if any is present.
Make sure to toggle on Snapping to Paths.
Switch to the Squares and Rectangles tool( R ) and draw a rectangle that goes to the top of the jaw. Make sure to snap to the top rectangle edges to the circle just slightly below the centerline of the circle.
With the rectangle selected go to the Path tab in the top menu and select Object to Path( Shift Ctrl C ). Hit ( N ) on the keyboard to edit the nodes. Select the bottom two and add three new nodes by clicking on the Insert New Nodes into Selected Segments button right above the Select tool.
Select the middle node and hit ( delete ) to remove it. Select the other two nodes and drag them down together by holding ( Ctrl ). Stop at the end of the chin.
Now bring both nodes closer together by holding ( Shift ) and clicking on the arrow handles next to the nodes. Do the same for the nodes at the top of the jaw.
Now select the circle with the molded rectangle together by holding ( Shift ) and go to the Path tab in the top menu and select the Union( Ctrl + ).
To round the corners of the jaw and chin go to the Path tab and select Path Effects( Ctrl & ), click the plus button, then look for Corners(Fillet/Chamfer).
One by one select all the bottom nodes and set the value of the Knot Distance to 7 with Fillet selected as the option below.
Step 3 – Draw the Eyebrows
Using the Bezier tool( B ) trace over the left eyebrow. Stick to drawing straight lines getting the overall feel and look of the eyebrow. No need to be super precise. Use #35271e for the fill color.
Step 4 – Draw the Eyes
Use the Circles and Ellipses tool( E ) and draw a perfect circle over the pupil of the eye. Use #35271e for the fill color.
Switch to the Bezier pen tool( B ) and draw over the eye creating an eyelid shape. Go back and edit the bottom path making a slight curve. Do this directly editing the path by hitting ( N ) for the Edit Paths by Nodes tool.
Use #a47051 for the fill color of the eyelid.
Step 5 – Draw the Ears
Using the left ear as our guide we draw the ear using the Bezier Pen( B ). It can be achieved by only using two nodes, one for the major shape of the ear and one for the bottom earlobe shape. I over overexaggerated the earlobe shape to help things read better. No need to match the ear shape 100%.
Now let’s add the inner ear details. Again, the goal here is to add just enough detail for the ear to read better for the viewer. Using the Bezier Pen( B ) start with the top curve(Helix), then another almost half circle for the Tragus that’s next to the ear canal and finally add a small curved line to mark the top of the ear lobe. Here is an excellent guide on ear anatomy to help understand the shapes better and help make them more cartoony.
Use #daad93 for the fill color of the ear.
Step 6 – Draw the Nose
Using the Circles and Ellipses tool( E ) draw a perfect circle for the body of the nose. Now draw a smaller perfect circle for the nostrils or what’s referred to as the Alar Fat. To create the nostril hole draw a small oval inside the nostril that almost aligns with the bottom.
Select the nostril and hole shapes by ( Shift ) clicking and hit ( Ctrl D ) to duplicate the objects. Hit ( H ) on the keyboard to rotate the duplicated objects and drag them over to the other side of the nose. Hold ( Ctrl ) to move it in a straight line.
Select #b07864 for the fill color for the main circle and nostril. Use #29201d for the hole. Make sure the nostril hole is behind the body of the nose.
Using the Squares and Rectangles tool( R ) draw a rectangle for the bridge of the nose that intersects the main circle. It should start a little above the eyelid shape. To make the rectangle taper in at the top go to the Path tab at the top and select Object to Path( Shift Ctrl C ).
Hit ( N ) to edp and select the top two nodes. Now using the arrow handles hold( Shift ) and bring the node inwards to match the picture. Select #b07864 for the fill color to match the rest of the nose.
Step 7 – Draw the Moustache
First, draw a straight line with the Bezier Pen( B ) down the center of the face. Hold ( Shift ) while doing this and hit ( Enter ) to end the path. Make sure to have Snapping to Nodes toggled on with Snapping to. Using the Bezier Pen( B ) start drawing snapped at the centerline.
To avoid automatically snapping to the nose hold ( Ctrl ) to draw the first line. Now just follow the overall shape of the mustache as I have done in the image. Once your back to the centerline hit ( Enter ) to end the path.
Hit ( Ctrl D ) to duplicate and ( H ) to flip horizontally. Draw it across till it snaps to the centerline. While having both mustache halves selected go to the Paths tab at the top and select Path Union( Ctrl + ) to combine the shapes. Select #35271e for the fill color
Step 8 – Draw the Mouth
Drawing the mouth, we keep things very simple. Typically with men, it’s better to not try to accentuate the mouth as much. With the Bezier Pen( B ) draw a straight line by holding ( Ctrl ) almost as big as the space in the mustache. Switch to the Edit Paths by Nodes tool( N ) and add a very small bend to the path.
To represent the bottom lip just draw a small straight line. With Edit Paths by Nodes tool( N ) add a slight bend to the path.
Select #724141f as the stroke color for the two paths.
Step 9 – Draw the Beard
Start from the middle line once again. With the Bezier Pen( B ) draw a line roughly as long as the chin and draw another following the general beard line in the picture. Try to have the line just intersect the mustache.
Select the beard shape and repeat the same process of duplicating, flipping, and combining the shapes together.
Using the Squares and Rectangles tool( R ) draw a small rectangle from the top of the beard to just below the bottom lip line. To center it with the rest of the beard ( Shift ) click it with the beard and in the Align and Distribute tab select Center on Vertical Axis.
To fit the beard onto the head first select the head shape and duplicate it with ( Ctrl D ). Now select the beard along with the head and from the Paths menu tab select Path Intersection( Ctrl * ).
Add color to the beard using #a58c7d for the fill color.
Step 10 – Draw the hair
Make sure Snapping to Paths is enabled and using the Bezier Pen tool( B ) draw a path that goes down and slightly towards the eyebrow then goes back into the head outline, continue drawing outside the shape to close the path. Now duplicate the head by hitting ( Ctrl D ) and select the hair shape together and go to the Path tab and select Path Difference( Ctrl – ).
Duplicate the hair shape and drag it over in place straight across the head. Using the Color Picker tool( D ) use the color from the beard.
Step 11 – Draw the Neck
Using the Squares and Rectangles tool( R ) draw out a rectangle about the size of the neck in the picture. Make sure to round the corners all the way and use the Color Picker tool( D ) to select the same color as the face. Lower this object below the face.
Step 11 – Draw the Shirt
Make sure to have a straight line dividing the head. Using the Bezier Pen tool( B ) draw out this shape and then duplicate, flip, and snap into place. Use Path Union ( Ctrl + ) to combine them both. Select #313c4d as the fill color.