How to Swap Heads {Photoshop Tutorial}

February 14, 2012

in Dana Suggs, Photography Creative Team, Photography Tutorials, Photoshop

How to Swap Heads {Photoshop Tutorial}

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Have you ever taken that PERFECT family photo….only to bring it up in Photoshop and discover a blinker? A tongue-sticker-outer? (Is that even an adjective?) Or you’ve taken roughly a hundred photos and there is at least ONE blinker in every photo? In the beginning, I would normally just banged my head harshly on the desk and wondered why in the world I’m a family photographer.

Oh….but now…..Oh I have a wonderful secret.

I swap heads.

Oh it’s a LOVELY trick to know and has saved many a-photo for me! And my over sized noggin. HA! Let me show you what I’m talking about. I had this amazing photo session in Washington State with the funniest lady and her family. It was a LARGE family….one that normally makes me break out in a cold sweat knowing I’m going to rake in the blinkers. LOL And of course, I never had a totally clean image to work with, either eyes were closed or a tongue was out in every one. I had to find the best one I could find, and then work from there.

Here is my original, SOOC shot, only 1 tongue out, 1 blink and 1 head turned:

How to Swap Heads {Photoshop Tutorial}



Now that I know what I’m looking for in the other photos, I went back through my photos to find a usable photo of each person to replace in my good photo. I call this stage…..head-hunting because I’m a child of the 70s and the Head Hunters on Gilligan’s Island used to scare me to pieces. Explains a lot doesn’t it?

How to Swap Heads {Photoshop Tutorial}
Once you have those photos in hand, open each one in Photoshop along with your original good photo. You want to swap heads BEFORE you do any adjustments at all to the photo. VERY important.

1| Create a new layer of your good photo. You will create a new layer for each head.

How to Swap Heads {Photoshop Tutorial}


2| Go to your photo that you want to swap heads with. This will be the GOOD head you want to put in place of the BAD head….not your original good photo. Enlarge the photo for Head #1: I zoom to about 200%

3| Using your lasso tool, make a selection around the head. I make my selection pretty loose. It doesn’t have to be perfect or precise. Just a quick selection will work. Once you have made this selection, it will look roughly like a band of ants marching around her head.

How to Swap Heads {Photoshop Tutorial}


4| Once you have your selection, go up to edit and select cut from the drop-down menu.
How to Swap Heads {Photoshop Tutorial}

5| Go back to your good photo and zoom in to 200% to the head you will be working on.

6| Go back to Edit at the top and select paste from the drop-down menu.

How to Swap Heads {Photoshop Tutorial}

7| At this point, you now have 2 heads sitting on the page. Using your Move tool (make sure you are on your new layer), place the “new” head over the “old” head. At this point, I like to reduce the opacity some so that I can see through the new layer. This helps me to line everything up between the old and the new head. You want this to be seamless, and if your heads are off, even just a little, it may show.

8| Working on the same new layer, go to your Eraser tool. I like to use a small brush (somewhere around a size 10 brush, but this is preference. Find what works for you.) with an opacity of 50%. This allows me to see what I’m revealing and to help the 2 layers blend better. If I am happy with it, I may go over it a couple of times or change my opacity to 70%, but only after I’ve been working on the image for a bit. Use the eraser tool on that harsh line of the new layer. You want to erase and blend that line as much as you can.

I like to bounce back and forth between zoomed at 200% and 100% so I can keep an eye on how the image and the work is coming. I work slowly in erasing that line, keeping the opacity around 50% until I am happy with the blend. Sometimes, the photo requires that I blend back entirely to 100%, and then in some cases, like with these leaves, I could keep the opacity 50% and the blend is good. Each photo is different.

How to Swap Heads {Photoshop Tutorial}


Once I have swapped the head, or in this case, 3 heads and I am happy with my image, I begin making adjustments to the image itself. Remember, only edit the photo AFTER you have made all the changes to the swapped heads. Your finished image should look seamless!

How to Swap Heads {Photoshop Tutorial}

Now, practice chopping off heads! Only in photography can you say that… only in photography. 😉

Be kind to others, and have some FUN with your photos!

Dana Suggs-I Heart Faces Contributor
I love to laugh! I think kindness is better than being rich. I shoot with a Nikon D700, and I am a strong believer that you can NEVER stop learning! Find me on my Photography website, Facebook Page , and of course I am a PROUD Contributor for I Heart Faces!



{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

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Angie January 23, 2014

I read this tutorial and wondering if this tool is only on the full photoshop version or can it also be done with Lightroom or Elements? Thank you for your help!! I’ve been looking for software to allow me to do this!


June November 7, 2013

Thank you so much! Your instructions and pictures are so easy to follow!


alison witt September 25, 2013

I love this. I tried one and had great turn out. Second try head was too big and did not know how to make smaller. Any advice?


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What’s up, its nice paragraph regarding media print, we all be aware of media is a impressive source of data.


Jane May 12, 2013


This worked perfect and since my blinking head was against a brick wall it was super easy to line up the new head with the grid behind her. Excellent tutorial!


Barbara November 23, 2012

Betsy – to “un-erase” or paint back the erased color, click on the mask, then control-x so your color menu for your paint brush switches from black to white, then paint the erased part back in. I love using masks!


Julie Harvey November 23, 2012

Thank You so much for this great tutorial!


Dave MacPhee November 17, 2012

I find that just lining up the outline off the head, is not always enough, for an example, a person with a long neck can be a problem. Before claiming you are DONE, mirror image back and forth and decide if the face looks lined up with the shoulders. You may have to moVe the head left and right and up and down a pixel at a time with the Arrow Keys. When working and looking at something too long, you miss obvious errors so Mirror imaging back and forth helps. Sometimes just reversing the new head makes it fit better or fits the shadows more appropriately but people are seldom symmetrical . You may have to work on the neck by studying an ear. You may have to shift the neck with the Smudge Tool. Good luck matching exposure. That takes lots of practice. But switching heads is a riot when you get the hang of it!


Barbara Hudson August 20, 2012

I align the new head as you do, then move the head layer behind the picture layer. The group layer then has its opacity decreases and the head layer back to 100%. Then, using a mask on the group layer and a fuzzy-edged brush, I paint on the mask (which erases a hole) on the group layer to let the open eyes or nice smile show through. No more tedium of trying to blend the edges of the replacement head!


Vera Sheffer August 7, 2012

Im doing exactly as you show in your tutorial and when I go up to edit and cut it keeps telling me that the selected area is empty can you tell me why?


Betsy August 4, 2012

Is there an “opposite” to the eraser tool? Like, for example if you’re masking something and go a little over where you wanted to, you can just switch the brush from black to white and paint back over where you messed up. If you erase a little too much, is there a way to un-erase without deleting everything?


Candy August 4, 2012

Thank you for the tip of erasing back and blending at 50%… I am always trying at 100% and sometimes it needs that “softer” blend! Thanks for this great article! : )


Sarah at The Blog Guidebook May 31, 2012

I always knew switching heads was possible! I’ve thought of that for my own family photos, but never knew how to do it. Thanks you so much! Hugs!


Tyler March 6, 2012

A very interesting and informative blog. Good group photos.


Ynna February 24, 2012

Great post! This tutorial is really awesome and very helpful. I will definitely follow all the tips that you’ve mentioned and thanks for the Photoshop tricks that you have shared with us.


Dawn L February 23, 2012

Thank you! Loved it. I could have used this info sooner;-). I will save it.


Rachel February 21, 2012

Oh gosh – I still can’t believe my cute little grand-booger stuck his tongue out! He’s usually the angelic little poser! 🙂

I had no clue you did all that work to the photo – to make the wonderful one that is blown up on my wall right now.

Sorry we made you nervous… but we’re we funny??!?


Jenny February 17, 2012

love this! is there any way to swap heads in Lightroom?


Althea18 February 16, 2012

Thanks for the coolest Photoshop tricks you share with us. Awesome!


raenze February 15, 2012

Thanks a lot for the tutorialyou have shared us here…This is awesome and very helpful…


Paula Tohline Calhoun February 15, 2012

Great tips. Thank you!

BTW, you missed replacing the face of the lady on the right in the pink shirt. Her eyes are closed, too! 😆


Fonda February 15, 2012

Ohhhh head swapping can be SUCH a lifesaver!! And it’s so easy once you get the hang of it! 🙂 🙂 🙂


Serendipity is Sweet February 15, 2012

Thank you so much for this! I will definitely use it. I’m pinning 😉


Georgina M. February 15, 2012

Awesome photoshop tricks there! I’d like to give them a try! How many years have you been editing using photoshop? I’m inspired by this post!



Jessica February 14, 2012

I love this trick… Used it many a time to make great group photos! I actually considered it a miracle when I got a picture of my little family for New Years this year and DIDN’T have to use this trick, lol!


Wendy February 14, 2012

Awesome! I will have to try this and go step by step through your directions. Love the pictures along the way and your finished product is awesome!


Alyssa February 14, 2012

Thanks for the step by step tutorial…This is a big help to me…


Angie February 14, 2012

Easy way to make everyone in a group portrait look fantastic!–>RT @iheartfaces: How to Swap Heads {Photoshop Tutorial}


Christine February 14, 2012

I do this all the time! It really works when there’s a huge group. Great tutorial!


Kristi February 14, 2012

A family member did this to a family picture a few years ago – except that he replaced everyone’s head with either Grandmama (for the girls) or Granddaddy (for the boys). It was hilarious! He made their heads proportional to the size of the body, even the babies. Priceless!!!!


Dominika February 14, 2012

Brilliant! I found it both funny and extra helpful. Just love it!


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