Ever wonder how the heck to swap faces in Photoshop? Don’t worry, it’s easier than you think!
I’m mostly a Lightroom girl, but every now and then there are things I need to do that make Adobe Photoshop a must-have. One of those things is doing a head swap. Every now and then, I run into a situation where I have an image I love, but one person’s expression is off. We’ve all been there! Thankfully, once you know how to swap faces in Photoshop, you’ve got an easy solution!
Doing a Head Swap, Step by Step
Image retouching is an essential skill for every photographer. One of the common things you’ll likely do is swap faces in Photoshop, which is an efficient method to fix photos when you can’t redo a shoot. In this way, you can make sure you combine two images while also creating the perfect composition.
It’s time to launch Photoshop and learn how to swap faces in Photoshop using these simple steps.
Open Image Files
The first thing you need to do is to open the two images for the two faces you want to swap in Photoshop. To make the face swap more realistic, try to choose pictures with similar angles and lighting conditions.
As much as possible, use images of a person to make the face swap with the face and hair clearly visible. There should be no hands in the hair or under the chin unless that’s what you need. Likewise, there shouldn’t be objects partially covering the face when you make the face swap.
Select the Face You Want in the Final Photo
Use the Lasso tool by pressing L on the keyboard or selecting it from the toolbar on the left-hand side of the Photoshop screen. This tool helps you to freehand a selection around the face.
With the Lasso tool, select the area you want to duplicate by creating a large circle around it. For this example, select the whole head, including the hair, eyebrows, nose, and lips.
It would be best to select only the most highlighted portions of the face and be sure to leave plenty of space for blending later. After tracing, the tool will show a flashing dotted line around the face.
Once you are happy with the tracing, press Ctrl + C or Command C to copy the selection. Make sure the dotted line is still flashing.
Paste the Photo
Go to the image you plan to use for your final image, and paste the selection onto the photo (Command V or Ctrl V). You should see this as a new layer in the Layers panel. To be more organized, name this layer ‘Face’.
Go to your working document, the one with the photo with the boy’s body in this example. Use the Move tool (V) to place new face where it needs to go.
Scale the Face to Proportion
When doing a face swap, Photoshop has commands that enable you to match the scale and position of both faces in the image as naturally as possible. For this part, here are steps you need to take:
Use Zoom tool (Z) to zoom in and reduce the opacity to 30-50% to get good placement for your photo. To further transform and distort the layer in your image, enable the Warp feature using Ctrl T or Command T.
Next, click and drag the corners to enlarge the new face, so it matches the original male face in your image. A reference point is a fixated point where you can perform all transformations. Click and drag the reference point depending on the changes you need to achieve in your images.
Feel free to add more splits to modify particular parts of the face in a proportion of the body. To adjust the face proportionately, hold the Shift key and click the box and drag the corners inward.
If you hover near the corner, the software will show rotation toggles that let you turn the image. Getting the faces to line up in your images may take some time, so be patient with the adjustments until you find the position that looks most natural.
Check if the old face’s eyes and the new face layer’s eyes are well-proportioned and aligned. Use the Clone Stamp Tool if there’s a background layer you want to remove.
If you’re satisfied with the image edit, press Enter to finalize the placement on your photo. Adjust the layer opacity back to 100%.
Apply a Layer Mask
Once you have your image lined up, bring your opacity back up, and add a Layer Mask. By clicking on the Layer Mask icon, you can create a mask and select Black as your foreground color.
The mask is white by default, which means that the contents of the top layer are visible while the bottom layer is not. The layer mask will allow you to manipulate what parts of the new layer are visible in the image, and what parts are not.
Click on the original image’s layer and press Ctrl J or Command J to duplicate the layer. Then, hide the original layer by clicking on the eye icon to work on the copy of the first layer.
Blend the Layers Using a Soft Brush Setting
Look for the Soft Brush and Opacity options on the toolbar under the Photoshop logo on the top left-hand corner. With a Paint Brush Tool and lowered opacity, work on blending the face.
Set the Brush Hardness to 100%, the Spacing to 1%, and the Opacity around 40-50%. Use a soft black brush (B) to brush off the edges of the new layer, blending it into the new image. Start by removing the hard edges first, then work your way into blending the rest.
Brush over the areas of the face layer that you don’t want the blending to affect. Hide areas of the new face that don’t match with the original image such as forehead, ears, and jaw.
Use Auto-Blend Layers
The biggest secret on how to swap faces in Photoshop effortlessly is to optimize the Auto-Blend Layers feature.
- Hold Ctrl or Command and click on the face layer thumbnail to select the pixels around the new face layer. This will load a selection around the face.
- Click on the eye icon to hide the face layer and reveal a copy of the background layer.
- Go to Select > Modify > Contract.
- Set the value to 5 pixels and click OK. This allows you to make the selection smaller by the number of pixels.
- Now that the selection is smaller than the face layer, select the new face’s layer by clicking on it from the Layers panel.
- While the body layer is still selected, press Delete or Backspace to delete the pixels inside the selection.
- When you enable the face layer, you will see that the selection will be smaller than the face.
- Hold Shift to select both layers, and click on both layers.
- Select Panorama and check the boxes for Seamless Tones and Colors and Content-Aware Fill Transparent areas before pressing OK.
Save and you’re done with your face swap! Wasn’t that easy?! Here is the before and after of this image:
If you’d like to follow along with me as I do a head swap in Photoshop, you can watch this step by step process in the video below.
Now that you know how to do a head swap in Photoshop, you don’t have to panic if there’s that one person not looking at the camera, or when your favorite shot is ruined by the two-year-old looking away just as the shutter clicks. Give this a try and let us know how it goes!