Knowing how to replace a face in Photoshop is useful for every photographer. You can use this technique to fix closed eyes or swap heads and faces for fun.
Either way, here’s an easy way to swap faces and heads in Photoshop.
Will a Face Swap Work for Your Pictures?
Whether a face swap will look good depends on a few factors. The most important ones are: position of the head and lighting.
The position of the head you want to replace has to be similar to the head you are going to copy. This will get you the most natural result. You can bend and distort a flat surface in Photoshop but that doesn’t work for a human face.
Once you have to bend and twist a face to make it fit, it won’t look natural anymore.
Also, the light on both faces has to be similar. Putting the head or the face from a person in direct sunlight on the body of a person in the shade is very difficult.
It’s impossible to make it look natural when the difference is too big.
The light is too different to replace a face.
Keep it simple when you try to replace a face for the first time. Find photos with faces that have almost the same position and lighting. The best way to start is to use two almost identical photos.
In this example, I’ll swap heads between two photos I took in India. Both have the same evening light.
Replacing a Face in Photoshop: Step-by-Step
Step 1: Open Both Photos in Photoshop
Open the photos and put them next to each other. Zoom in on the the photo from which you are going to copy the face and head.
I will replace the face of the man on the bicycle with the face of the man in the middle.
Step 2: Select the Face You Want to Swap Into Your Image
Start making a selection using the quick selection tool. The shortcut is W.
It doesn’t have to be perfect yet and you can use other selection tools too.
Step 3: Improve the Selection With a Mask
Click on the quick mask button to create a mask. Use the brush tool to improve the selection, now shown as a red layer. Painting with white adds pixels and painting with black removes pixels from the selection.
You can switch between black and white using the shortcut X.
Step 4: Copy and Replace the Face in the Second Photo
Click the quick mask button again once your selection is finished. This will take you back to standard mode editing.
Copy and paste the head on the second photo. Cmd + C and Cmd + V for Mac OS and Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V for Windows.
Position the head to replace the original face.
Step 5: Make Final Adjustments to the Face Swap
In this case, it already looked good but I made a few minor adjustments. I erased some areas of his beard with a soft brush and made the head smaller for a perfect fit.
Use Cmd + T for Mac OS to resize the layer. Ctrl + T for Windows.
Sometimes it helps to add shadow to the face when the lighting in both pictures is different.
And there you have it. A perfect face swap!
Now you can start to fix closed eyes and swap heads for fun. Pay attention to lighting and position of the head before starting the project. You want the result to look natural.
In this example, I also used the masking technique. The masking technique is essential when learning how to edit photos in Photoshop. It’s useful for a dozen different things and is one of the most important techniques to learn.
Practice this technique when swapping faces in Photoshop and master it. You’ll use it in almost all future projects.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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