How to Replace a Face in Photoshop in 6 Easy Steps - Digital Photography School
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How to Replace a Face in Photoshop in 6 Easy Steps

Pin ItPhotoshop_replace_a_face_before_after.jpg

A reader recently emailed me a couple of photographs of her children. Unfortunately, as often happens with small children, one image had two of the three children looking at the camera and smiling and the other image had the exact opposite combination – only one child looking great. Her question was – could she take the good face from one of the images and paste it into the second image.

Photoshop_replace_a_face_step1.jpg

The answer is yes, and here’s how to do it in Photoshop without any need to cut and paste:

Step 1

Open both images in Photoshop. Drag the background layer from one image onto the other – in my case I dragged the background layer from the image with two out of the three faces correct and dropped it into the image that has only one good face.

You will have an image with two layers – the top has two good faces and the one below has the other one. Close the other image.

Step 2

Photoshop_replace_a_face_step2.jpg

Select both layers in the image that you’re working on and choose Edit > Auto-Align Layers and select Auto.

Photoshop will now align the two layers so that the faces in both layers will be aligned on top of each other. To do this you need to have two images with very little difference between them and this image lined up pretty well as a result.

Step 3

Photoshop_replace_a_face_step3.jpg

Click on the topmost layer and add a layer mask to it by clicking the Add Layer Mask icon at the foot of the Layers palette.

The mask is filled with white by default which means that the entire contents of the top layer is visible and the bottom layer not visible at all.

Step4

Photoshop_replace_a_face_step4.jpg

Select black as your foreground color and choose a soft edge brush. Target the mask by clicking on it so you’re painting on it and then paint over the child’s face in the image to reveal the face from the layer image below.

Step 5

Photoshop_replace_a_face_step5.jpg

You’ll need to make some small choices about how much of the layer below you reveal with the mask – if you take too much you can paint back on the mask with white to reveal the top layer again.

I made some small adjustments around the child’s collar to hide the fix. The red portion of the image shows the mask – I turned this on – it won’t typically be visible to you as you work.

Step 6

Photoshop_replace_a_face_step6.jpg

Finish by taking a critical look at the final image and, if necessary, adjust the mask or add a new layer and clone elements from the layers below to fine tune the image.

I had to do a small amount of cloning of the little girl’s shirt to fix a small problem and then I cropped the image and it was complete.

The entire process took all of around ten minutes.

Photoshop Elements

Photoshop_replace_a_face_step7.jpg

You can get similar results in Photoshop Elements 7 and above by opening the two images and choose File > New > Scene Cleaner and follow the instructions there.


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Helen Bradley is a Lifestyle journalist who divides her time between the real and digital worlds, picking the best from both. She writes and produces video instruction for Photoshop and digital photography for magazines and online providers world wide. She has also written four books on photo crafts and blogs at Projectwoman.com.

  • Joe

    Great tutorial. What you should have also included was how to match skin tones and lighting. Say if you take a face from a different picture with different lighting. That would be really good to master. Thanks again.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/djkj Kartik

    Nice article, simple and well presented!

  • ccting

    Excellent!

  • http://kauaikid.smugmug.com kauaikid

    Excellent! I can finally attempt this technique which is so much easier than any of the others I’ve tried to learn.

  • timberswiss3

    Of course this must be a last resort. Kind of like a crisis management solution (in a professional setting).

  • http://www.gumbasports.com Naufal

    important information given in a nice way to understand and work… thank you :)

  • ATH

    Sorry, this is just my opinion as a photographer, but I am 100% opposed to this. I can always tell when part of a face or the entire face has been digitally transplanted into an image, and I think it looks awful and awkward. I’d rather have the image where not everyone is smiling than to have a digitally altered one. I think in group photos, the photographer needs to shoot a lot in order to capture a shot where everyone has their eyes open and has a pleasant expression. Though I think it’s a nice tutorial to teach others how to “transplant a face” in Photoshop, I think you really need to have the EXACT head placement (turn, tilt, etc), lighting — we’re talking a millisecond before or after the shot you want to “keep” — in order to pull this off… and I have never seen this pulled off successfully.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jeet/163550653733694 Jeet

    Great article, simplifying what most children’s photographers face quite frequently.
    Thanks a lot :)

  • Betsy

    I tried this and it was so easy. Unfortunately my image was just a tad off so that it looked like I had two faces on my little guy. Would love to see another easy method to do this. Working on my Christmas card and can’t get my little guys to smile (or at least have a pleasant face) at the same time!

  • http://www.philbphoto.com Phil

    I know there are always 100 ways to do anything in Photoshop but I think this is an overly laborious process for something that is VERY easy to do and do well.

    Auto-align layers? Seriously, a waste of time and more likely to be wrong than right. Hardly anyone sits perfectly still, and keeps the camera in the same exact spot, both need to occur for this to work.

    Its way easier than that.

    Open both photos, one is your “base” photo, with the preferred group but one or two faces “wrong”, the other photo is the source photo which has those one or two faces you need.

    use the lasso tool with a feather setting appropriate for the image – usually 20 or so is about right.

    Use that lasso to select the face you want, select more rather than less.
    Hit Ctrl C for copy

    select your “base” photo

    Ctrl V for paste

    Ctrl T for transform to move it around into place.

    Done.
    repeat with a new layer for each face you need, Its rare that you need to do more than one face at a time though.

    you can make the layer opacity lower temporarily to help you align the faces (I tend to use the eyes for this purpose). Also you can use masks or the eraser tool to help feather the layer more and smooth any transitions. Its easy to rotate and scale and match the locations and orientation of the eyes using this technique.

    Also since the extra face is a separate layer if you need to bump the exposure or color you can do that too, although usually the exposure is the same because you rattled off several shots with the same settings (another reason not to shoot in auto mode)

    I pull this off on a fairly regular basis. Without using sophisticated tools its typically impossible to tell when I have or have not use this technique. Its easy to say “get it right in camera” but with children you often only have a few seconds of their attention. You can burst shoot all you want but half the time you simply won’t get the shot you want. I rarely need this for commissioned shots where I have time to work with subjects, but in a fast moving event situation this can really help a lot.

  • David

    I think this is a great toot, its simple and easy for the not so familiar with photoshop person to use. I”ve never used auto align before but may try it for giggles just to see how well it works. it was well written and gives a great point inwhich to learn and grow from. nice job to the author!

  • Phil Walker

    Hi. Can’t believe that you have made this operation so simple. Thoroughly enjoy your tutorial. Plenty of ideas, helpful hints and easy to understand. You make Photoshop a joy to work with. Keep up the good work. Phil Walker, Perth UK

  • http://www.haringphotography.com Wedding Photographer

    Wow! This very simple indeed! The result is amazing. I am not sure you can do this with hundreds of images though…:)

  • http://bit.ly/oufr4c gnslngr45

    Very difficult to get multiple kids looking great all at the same time. This is a lifesaver.

    Flickr:
    http://bit.ly/oufr4c

  • Victoria Agustin

    I was wondering if you could do a photoshop for me? It would be REALLY great if you would do this for me! My daughter loves Justin Bieber and I told her I would ask you to make her one of her and Justin together. So if you could that would be great! Please email me back ASAP!
    Thanks so much!
    -Victoria

  • http://prophoto.com.au Prophoto – Wedding Photographer Perth

    Thanks, Great Tip!

  • CLK Photography

    Thank you thank you thank you!! This saved me hours and hours trying to figure out how to do this! This saved me! Thank you!

  • anusha
  • Shamrock

    Probably a dumb questions. But where to get this application on your computer.

  • Jeff

    Thank You! This was a big help!!

  • freeopinions

Some older comments

  • CLK Photography

    May 25, 2012 01:45 pm

    Thank you thank you thank you!! This saved me hours and hours trying to figure out how to do this! This saved me! Thank you!

  • Prophoto - Wedding Photographer Perth

    February 14, 2012 08:46 pm

    Thanks, Great Tip!

  • Victoria Agustin

    January 31, 2012 08:30 am

    I was wondering if you could do a photoshop for me? It would be REALLY great if you would do this for me! My daughter loves Justin Bieber and I told her I would ask you to make her one of her and Justin together. So if you could that would be great! Please email me back ASAP!
    Thanks so much!
    -Victoria

  • gnslngr45

    November 26, 2011 02:41 am

    Very difficult to get multiple kids looking great all at the same time. This is a lifesaver.

    Flickr:
    http://bit.ly/oufr4c

  • Wedding Photographer

    November 25, 2011 03:31 am

    Wow! This very simple indeed! The result is amazing. I am not sure you can do this with hundreds of images though...:)

  • Phil Walker

    November 25, 2011 01:28 am

    Hi. Can't believe that you have made this operation so simple. Thoroughly enjoy your tutorial. Plenty of ideas, helpful hints and easy to understand. You make Photoshop a joy to work with. Keep up the good work. Phil Walker, Perth UK

  • David

    November 24, 2011 02:47 pm

    I think this is a great toot, its simple and easy for the not so familiar with photoshop person to use. I"ve never used auto align before but may try it for giggles just to see how well it works. it was well written and gives a great point inwhich to learn and grow from. nice job to the author!

  • Phil

    November 24, 2011 04:55 am

    I know there are always 100 ways to do anything in Photoshop but I think this is an overly laborious process for something that is VERY easy to do and do well.

    Auto-align layers? Seriously, a waste of time and more likely to be wrong than right. Hardly anyone sits perfectly still, and keeps the camera in the same exact spot, both need to occur for this to work.

    Its way easier than that.

    Open both photos, one is your "base" photo, with the preferred group but one or two faces "wrong", the other photo is the source photo which has those one or two faces you need.

    use the lasso tool with a feather setting appropriate for the image - usually 20 or so is about right.

    Use that lasso to select the face you want, select more rather than less.
    Hit Ctrl C for copy

    select your "base" photo

    Ctrl V for paste

    Ctrl T for transform to move it around into place.

    Done.
    repeat with a new layer for each face you need, Its rare that you need to do more than one face at a time though.

    you can make the layer opacity lower temporarily to help you align the faces (I tend to use the eyes for this purpose). Also you can use masks or the eraser tool to help feather the layer more and smooth any transitions. Its easy to rotate and scale and match the locations and orientation of the eyes using this technique.

    Also since the extra face is a separate layer if you need to bump the exposure or color you can do that too, although usually the exposure is the same because you rattled off several shots with the same settings (another reason not to shoot in auto mode)

    I pull this off on a fairly regular basis. Without using sophisticated tools its typically impossible to tell when I have or have not use this technique. Its easy to say "get it right in camera" but with children you often only have a few seconds of their attention. You can burst shoot all you want but half the time you simply won't get the shot you want. I rarely need this for commissioned shots where I have time to work with subjects, but in a fast moving event situation this can really help a lot.

  • Betsy

    November 24, 2011 01:27 am

    I tried this and it was so easy. Unfortunately my image was just a tad off so that it looked like I had two faces on my little guy. Would love to see another easy method to do this. Working on my Christmas card and can't get my little guys to smile (or at least have a pleasant face) at the same time!

  • Jeet

    November 23, 2011 07:36 pm

    Great article, simplifying what most children's photographers face quite frequently.
    Thanks a lot :)

  • ATH

    November 23, 2011 04:32 pm

    Sorry, this is just my opinion as a photographer, but I am 100% opposed to this. I can always tell when part of a face or the entire face has been digitally transplanted into an image, and I think it looks awful and awkward. I'd rather have the image where not everyone is smiling than to have a digitally altered one. I think in group photos, the photographer needs to shoot a lot in order to capture a shot where everyone has their eyes open and has a pleasant expression. Though I think it's a nice tutorial to teach others how to "transplant a face" in Photoshop, I think you really need to have the EXACT head placement (turn, tilt, etc), lighting -- we're talking a millisecond before or after the shot you want to "keep" -- in order to pull this off... and I have never seen this pulled off successfully.

  • Naufal

    November 23, 2011 02:59 pm

    important information given in a nice way to understand and work... thank you :)

  • timberswiss3

    November 23, 2011 01:44 pm

    Of course this must be a last resort. Kind of like a crisis management solution (in a professional setting).

  • kauaikid

    November 23, 2011 01:25 pm

    Excellent! I can finally attempt this technique which is so much easier than any of the others I've tried to learn.

  • ccting

    November 23, 2011 11:51 am

    Excellent!

  • Kartik

    November 23, 2011 09:58 am

    Nice article, simple and well presented!

  • Joe

    November 23, 2011 07:26 am

    Great tutorial. What you should have also included was how to match skin tones and lighting. Say if you take a face from a different picture with different lighting. That would be really good to master. Thanks again.

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