Photoshop Head Swap Tutorial

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You’ve asked, we are delivering! I’m going to aim for a PHOTO TIP TUESDAY post each week,  I’m scared to announce that–that I won’t keep up with it, but if I don’t announce it, it really won’t happen! So watch for some photography tips on Tuesdays. I’ve got a handful of fabulous photographer friends helping me out in this effort, and today we get to hear from Shari Hanson, my photography friend in California.


Hello again!  I’m so happy to be guest posting again here on Kristen’s blog!  Today I’m sharing a tutorial on how to do a head-swap using Photoshop.

When I am shooting groups, especially groups with wiggly little ones, I try to snap a lot of pictures in each pose so that if I need to do a head-swap in post-processing, I will have plenty of options.


In this image, everyone looked great except big sister was looking in a different direction…so, let’s fix it!

STEP 1:  Find another image with the same pose – preferably with the head/body in relatively the same position, facing the same direction.  I found that the image I snapped right after this one, she was looking at the camera, so I chose to use that one.

NOTE:  Make sure both images are exposed the same, otherwise it will be VERY obvious that you’ve swapped a head if it’s darker or lighter than the rest of the faces in the picture.  Make any necessary adjustments to exposure and white balance in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom before opening your images.

STEP 2:  Open both images in Photoshop and set up your display so that you can see both images at the same time by choosing Window>Arrange>Tile OR Float All In Windows.

STEP 3:  Use the Lasso Tool to select the area you are swapping.  Try to keep a small border around the head because it makes blending easier later.

STEP 4:  Choose the Move Tool (or just press V) and drag the selection over to the other image and place over the other face.

STEP 5:  Now that you’ve dragged the face onto this image, you will see a new layer in your layers palette.  Turn the opacity down to 50%.  This will make it easier to see where the original face is as you carefully position the new face.

STEP 6:  As you are adjusting the position, you may need to resize or even tilt the new layer to match it up better.  Ctrl + T (free transform) will allow you to do this.  To resize, hold the Shift key down while you click and hold one of the corners.  (If you don’t hold shift, it will be distorted! so be careful!)  Once you’re satisfied that it’s the right size and at the right angle, hit Enter to release the free transform.

STEP 7:  Change the layer opacity back to 100% and turn the layer on/off to see if it looks like it’s in the right place.  If not, make the necessary adjustments before moving on.

STEP 8:  Create a layer mask by clicking on the little box with a circle in it located at the bottom of the layers palette.  Once you click on that, you should see a white box within that layer.

STEP 9:  Blend the layers together.  Use a soft round brush and select black as your foreground color.  (**NOTE:  black HIDES and white REVEALS)  Start brushing over the perimeter of the face/head area.  As you do this, you’ll start seeing the layer underneath as you HIDE parts of the top layer by brushing over different areas.  I started with the top of her head/hair and then continued by hiding everything below her chin – this way her hair will match up as well as her necklace.

STEP 10:  Zoom in on the face and check all the details to make sure you haven’t missed anything or if anything looks weird you can use a white brush to clean it up.  (NOTE:  use X to toggle back and forth between black and white as you edit to save time)  Here you can see that there is a small area by her chin/cheek that needed to be cleaned up.

STEP 11:  Once you’ve checked all the details, ZOOM OUT to see the whole picture.  Then turn the layer on/off a few times to check if it looks natural or not.  I’ve included a gif below to show you what that looks like:

STEP 12:  If you’re satisfied with the swap, go ahead and flatten your layers and then save the image.  Hopefully it’s so good that no one would EVER know!

This method works great for swapping closed eyes as well — just follow the same steps!  You’ll be amazed at how easy it is after you try it a few times!
That was amazing, Shari, you taught me a new trick! I’ve done this the HARD way, your tips are so much easier. I’ll be referring back to this–love seeing the moving GIF file in action, you rock!
If you’re in Southern California, get in touch with Shari for Family Portraits this fall, she’s fabulous!  She took ours on the beach two years ago when we were visiting.

Want more photography tips? I’ve got lots!  CLICK HERE to see all of them, more specifically:

How to Start a Photography Business

How to Shoot a Great Silhouette



Join The Discussion



  1. Mique says:

    Thanks for sharing this Shari! I’ve always been a little intimidated to swap heads. 🙂 But now I’ll have to give it a go.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Go for it, it’s pretty exciting when you get a good match!!

  2. That’s awesome!! Great trick!

  3. You make it all so doable. We have an old family photo of my husband’s where the photographer cut out one head and glued it on top of another!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Oh my goodness, that is hilarious and amazing! I want to see a picture of that up close!

  4. Emily says:

    I’m assuming I can also do this in elements? this is so great! I’ve been wanting to try this since I got PE last Christmas, but hadn’t gotten around to playing with it. Pinning and will be giving this a try soon! Emily

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I know you can swap in elements, not sure if if has all of the exact tools she mentioned above (with everything photoshop, there are several ways to do things)

      • HENRY says:


  5. Jill says:

    Oh my goodness – that’s amazing! I always wondered how that was done – thanks for the tute!
    Thanks for linking to a Round Tuit!
    Hope you have a fabulous week!
    Jill @ Creating my way to Success

  6. meghan says:


  7. Appreciate your this specific in depth post! We think it’s very correct. The effectiveness of online right now is really a critical software for both firms and also peoplealike.

  8. Many thanks for various other fantastic posting. The place otherwise may possibly any one wardrobe variety of facts in this fantastic types of composing? I have a speech in the near future, using this program . about the hunt for this kind of info.

  9. Grainne Gillespie says:

    Photoshop won’t let me drag my selection over to the other image

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Some versions can’t, copy and paste it. I’ll (or command) control+A, then control+c to copy. Then go to other image and control+U to paste.

  10. Wow! Wow is seriously the only thing I can think of! This is more than fantasic – amazing!

    I will link this post with your awesome idea to my website where I write about traveling with the kids (that wiggle and giggle in photos!) and would love a shout out from you! My readers will be thrilled with this tip for making the most out of their photos from far flung places.

    If you are traveling with littles ones, check out my FREE tips and $3 downloads for visiting or learning about countries like Spain and France (Canada coming soon) and world class museums like the Prado and the Louvre.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Natalie, The Educational Tourist

  11. Jessica says:

    Love this!
    How do you blend the two images together? I looked at Blending Options but I wasn’t sure what to pick, and when I tried to use the brush it was stark black instead of blending like it was supposed to.
    I have Photoshop CC if that matters.

  12. Glenda says:

    What version of photoshop did you use for this? I can’t find it and the one I downloaded has a different menu option. The pictures don’t see each other so I can’t swap between them.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I am pretty sure those features are in the basic photoshop version. Do a google search and see if the version you have has them.

  13. Mary says:

    I created a new layer and a new layer mask. I’m not seeing any changes. I am doing something wrong? I have one little section that I’m trying to blend without any success. I just looks the same even after I flatten it.

  14. Great tutorial! Love learing new things about Photoshop!

  15. Thank you so much!
    In the past I’ve used a long, convoluted method to eventually (sometimes!) get my desired results.
    This time however, your tutorial saved me wasted energy & precious time!

  16. Callie says:

    Hi, I am new to the photography scene and wondering if Photoshop and/or lightroom are the best way to go? Does the Creative Cloud subscription offer all the same benefits as purchasing the version sold in stores. And one last question, (sorry) does pic monkey diminish the quality of my prints? Thanks so much for your posts they are all very informative.

  17. Martina says:

    This Is fantástic!…
    But I dont understand which waa the app or the web side of this photoshop..
    Could you please say it To me again?
    Thank you so much😘

  18. I always get some fabulous, new and exclusive ideas from your post. Keep sharing, your photoshop experience time to time with us, thanks

  19. Abbas says:


  20. That Was Very helpful! 25 plus years of portraits and I have never attempted to swap heads! The steps were clear and well worded! Thank you for posting this instruction.

  21. Congratulation! for this informative article. It works accurately!!

  22. Splendid tutorial! Thank you for sharing this tutorials. Its a very important tutorial so I hope it will come in handy for photographers of all levels. I’m studying Photoshop right now and I am gonna try this in my free time. Have a nice day.

  23. Awesome article, like the clipping path Free trial and it’s very helpful . Thanks a lot to send such kind of article

  24. What an image manipulation. Unbelievable work. just inspired.


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