Editor’s Note: This is the second of a series of articles on how to find, build, and create avatars for use on social networking Web sites and chat clients. Stay tuned for more tips on how to create your own online image.
As social networking Web sites become increasingly popular, many users seek a way to pictorially represent themselves with a small icon. While a photo can be handy, it’s not always possible or even desirable. Sometimes a cartoon representation can work as well or better, especially in social sites where you’d prefer not to reveal your face in a portrait.
Last week I showed you six free online apps you can use to make cartoon avatars of yourself in the style of South Park, Meez, Picasso, Gaia Online, the Wii game console, and Yahoo! Avatars. This week, in part two of my Cartoon You easy avatar series, I’ve got six more free online apps you can use to cartoon you. If none of these fully capture who are you online, be sure to check out the next installment in this series, which presents a do-it-yourself option.
Face Your Manga
The popularity of Japanese animation style Manga has exploded in the last decade. It’s little wonder then that “mangatars” are among the most popular styles of avatars. Face Your Manga is the premier free service for creating a Manga-style you.
Still as popular today as it when it debuted 20 years ago, The Simpsons claims millions of fans and nearly as many “Simpsonized” avatars. If you’re a true Simpsons fan, proclaim it loud and clear by joining the world of The Simpsons with the official Simpsons Avatar Generator. After getting Simpsonized, you’ll need to create a free account on the site to download or e-mail your avatar.
Unique among cartoon avatar creators is Toonlet. The site’s main purposes is to allow you to create your own comic strips populated by characters you create by mixing together black and white, hand drawn elements. Regardless of whether you go on to actually create a comic strip, an avatar you create with Toonlet is guaranteed to stand out among the crowd of any forum or social media service. The Flash application doesn’t allow you to directly save your picture, so you’ll need to take a screen shot of it with the Command+Shift+3 keyboard shortcut, paste it into Photoshop or another image editor, and then crop and save the avatar from there.
Doppel Me is a rich avatar creation environment with lots of options, although you’ll need to join the service and earn game credits to be able to “purchase” some of the finer accessories for your avatar. Saving your avatar also requires joining and logging into the free service. Once in, right-click or Control-click on your avatar and choose Save Image As from the pop-up menu.
Portrait Illustration Maker
Java-based Portrait Illustration Maker proffers a plethora of components and refined control not found in any other avatar generator to create a simple but highly personalized cartoon of you. When you're finished creating, right-click or Control-click on your avatar and choose Save Image As from the pop-up menu.
One of my personal favorites, the WeeMe avatars created for the virtual chat community WeeWorld are fun and stylish, boasting unique, large-format backgrounds and richly illustrated features carrying just enough Manga influence to be cool but not a knockoff of Face Your Manga. Intended exclusively for use within WeeWorld, WeeMes can’t be saved directly out of the Flash-based application. Instead you’ll need to take a screen shot of your avatar, paste it into Photoshop or another image editor, crop it, and then save from there.
[Pariah S. Burke is the author of Mastering InDesign CS3 for Print Design and Production (Sybex, 2007), and other books; a freelance graphic designer; and the publisher of the Web sites GurusUnleashed.com, WorkflowFreelance.com, and CreativesAre.com. Pariah lives in Portland, Ore.]