Carsten Ravn was born in Copenhague, and he attended the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Denmark from 1879 to 1882. He started out making illustrations for magazines like Teaterbladet (1882) and Børnenes Julegave (1887), and satirical drawings for Ravnen, Jakel, Blæksprutten and Klods Hans. He also designed lithographed posters for theaters and music halls like Tivoli, and performed as an actor with the Dagmar Theateret. He was also one of the first artists in Denmark to produce illustrated greeting cards, most of them starring pixies.
By 1899, Ravn headed abroad; first to London and then to Paris, France. There, he spent 13 years making illustrations for popular novels, and for satirical papers like Le Pêle-Mêle, L'Assiette au Beurre, Le Frou-Frou, Sans-gêne and Le Bon Vivant, as well as the children's magazines La Jeunesse Illustré, Les Belles Images and L'Intrépide. When in Paris, he mostly signed with "Carsten Raven".