How to Replace a Subject's Head with Photoshop

This tutorial will cover how to replace a subject's head in Adobe Photoshop.

For the purposes of this tutorial, we will be moving Head A from Photo A to Photo B.

Step 1 - Grab the Head

Open Photos A and B. Use the elliptical marquee tool or the lasso tool to select the area around Head A. It is permissible to include some background, as you will be removing it in the next step.

Step 2 - Tidy the Head Up

Open a blank canvas and copy-paste Head A from Photo A to the blank canvas. Open up the eraser, choose a small brush size, and zoom in on the boarder of the head. Your objective is to remove all extraneous pixels from the area around the head. If it is easier, use the Layers window to create a new layer, and use the spill bucket to color it solid black or white. Then bring the head forwards. This will allow you to see the area around the head more clearly.

Step 3 - Move Head A to Photo B

Once the head has been tidied, use a marquee to select it, create a new layer in Photo B, and paste Head A into that layer. Use the Move tool to move Head A on top of Head B.

Go into Transform/Free Transform mode. Resize and rotate Head A as necessary. Hold the ctrl key in this mode and drag the edges to slightly distort Head A, It is important to line up the necks of Head A and Body B.

Step Four - Remove Evidence of Head B

In the unlikely event that Head B completely obscured Head A, skip this step. If this was not the case, it will necessary to destroy evidence of Head B. Fire up the clone stamp and find an area of the photo that could pass for the area around the head. Clone the background from Photo B to cover the remnants of Head B.

Step Five - Correct Appearances

It is also unlikely that Head A will look at home on Body B at this point. The photographs may have been taken at different shutter or film speed settings or under different light sources. Here are a few tricks that will improve the verisimilitude of head to body...

Appearance Trick One - Brightness and Contrast

Open the brightness and contrast sliders (Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast in most versions of Photoshop) and adjust the brightness and contrast levels of both layers until they begin to resemble each other.

Appearance Trick Two - Saturation

Select Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation and adjust this slider for both layers.

A Final Word

The most important part of a head change operation is making it look natural. If absolutely necessary, lower the resolution of a picture or shrink its size to obscure evidence of an unhappy head/body relationship. This is one of those rare scenarios where the strength of the effect renders the aesthetic beauty of the photograph irrelevant.

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