Face Swapping – No Surgery Involved

Photo Manipulation | August 10th, 2008

Today I’ll be showing you how to swap the faces of people from 2 different images.
Disclaimer: After you learn how to do this, you might be tempted to swap faces in your friends’ photos. While you might find it downright hilarious, if they cease to talk to you please don’t hold me responsible.

If you’ve every seen the movie “Face/Off” you would know that the only way to swap 2 people’s faces is through a new-age surgical procedure. Fortunately, with today’s technology you can do the same thing in a much easier and safer way.

In your ventures of face swapping you will find that some swapping requires very little work, while others require much more. For this tutorial I’ll use two people who have already been through something similar, I will be placing the face of John Travolta onto Nicholas Cage’s head (Great fun!).

STEP 1: Find two faces you would like to swap

Open both images in Photoshop. Make sure that both of the heads are facing the same way. The more similarities there are in their expressions, head positioning, and any other features, the better the result will be. For example:

If you are not comfortable using your own images yet, I recommend you use the same stocks as I did to go along with the tutorial step by step. Here they are: John Travolta, Nicholas Cage

Note: Avoid using images with facial hair or glasses, wait until you’re more comfortable with the basic technique, then move on to more complex photos. Also, for this tutorial I used small photos but you will have an easier time editing the little detail if they are larger.

STEP 2: Copy the face you want to Swap

Select the Lasso tool in your tool box, and make sure the feather is 5px (in the top of the page)

Now carefully circle the face, including all unique characteristics like wrinkles or dimples, and just a small section of the forehead. Once you have a selection, copy it (Edit>Copy or ctrl+c)

STEP 3: Paste the face onto the other head

Select the document with the second image, if you haven’t opened it… go ahead. Create a new layer by going to Layer>New>Layer, and paste the face (Edit>Paste or ctrl+v).

STEP 4: Transform to fit

Depending on your choice of photos, you might have a lot or a little to change concerning size and angle. To make the pasted face fit properly onto its new head, use the Free Transform tool (Edit>Free Transform or ctrl+t) to change the size or rotate it. In my case I had to rotate the face slightly clockwise, decrease the size, and make it narrower because Nicholas Cage has a long face in comparison.

STEP 5: Adjusting the Color

There are two main adjustments you should use: Hue/Saturation, and Brightness/Contrast. The settings I’m about to show you may be different with your images. You might need to add little or no Hue/Saturation but a lot of Brightness/Contrast, or the other way around. So keep that in mind, and play around with the values to see which gives you the best results.

First you want to make sure the new face matches the color of the new head. Select the face layer and go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer, choose Hue/Saturation. Make sure to check the box that says: “Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask.” Use the following settings:

As I stated earlier, if you are using your own images these settings will probably be different, play around with Hue and Saturation, but don’t change Lightness unless you really have to for the sake of the color. You will use a different adjustment layer for the brightness. Now you should have something similar to this:

STEP 6: Adjusting the Brightness

Now you want to adjust the face so it matches the brightness and contrast of the head. Just as you did in Step 5, go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer and make sure to check the box that says: “Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask.” Use the following settings:

If these settings do not give you a proper result play around with the Brightness and contrast until the face looks natural on the head. You should now have something similar to this:

STEP 7: Erase the unnecessary face edges

Clean up the face by selecting the eraser tool with these settings:

If you are using a larger image, use a larger brush size. Now carefully erase the areas around the face so there is no extra parts coming out of the head area. You can also erase parts that are not imporant, like some of the forehead area or side of the face, to better blend the face.

STEP 8 (Optional): Darken edges & spots with Burn tool

Your image should be looking pretty good by now, but there are still a few things to prefect it. Select the Burn tool from your tool box and use these settings:

You can use the same sized brush as you did for your eraser in Step 7. Now carefully burn spots in the image that are too bright and don’t fit with the rest of the face. If you don’t have this issue, you can skip this step. For my image, I need to darken the sides of the face, around the left of the nose, and above the nose. By now, the face should look natural on its new head.

STEP 9 (Optional): Sharpen

Only do this if your face is blurry from resizing and rotating it earlier. If the face looks perfect already, or if you find that sharpening it only makes it worse, disregard this step. Select the face layer and go to Filter>Sharpen>Sharpen.
Note: If your image is blurry, and sharpening it makes it TOO sharp, instead go to Filter>Sharpen>Unsharpen Mask and play around with the settings to get a result you like.

You are done!

Using the same exact method, but slightly different settings in the Brightness and Hue adjustments I took Nicholas Cages’ face and placed it on John Travolta’s head:


Once you get more comfortable with this technique, you can start swapping faces onto another head with facial hair. In such a case, all you have to do is erase the section of the new face that covers the mustache or beard. In case of glasses or sunglasses, with the Lasso or Pen tool carefully select the glasses and copy them, then paste them above the new face and place them as you see fit.

If you have any questions feel free to ask!

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44 Comments to “Face Swapping – No Surgery Involved”

  • Daniel | August 12th, 2008 at 2:20 am

    Great tutorial, putting John Travolta on a head that isn’t really that wide is just hilarious!

  • admin | August 12th, 2008 at 3:02 am

    Thanks! glad you liked it.

  • david | August 22nd, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    That is hilarious! Excellent work as well dude. I’m going to try that out. ๐Ÿ˜€

    I think the john-face nic-head one is better simply cos it looks like a completely seperate person. It looks like both and neither ๐Ÿ˜€

    On the nic-fac john-head I can see where nic’s face ends and john’s takes over, but I guess thats because john has such a stupendously wide face ๐Ÿ˜€ Also I don’t think I have ever laughed at anything more than that one, it is so funny.

    Thanks for posting these up man. Peace.

  • Aldo | August 26th, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    Nice tutorial :)

  • Sam | August 26th, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    Nice tutorial! I’d probably use a mask instead but this works too :)

  • Yoni | August 29th, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    Sam: Yes, mask would work just as well but I think this is easier to understand for beginners.

  • cristine mae | September 12th, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    dat’s nice…can u help m to swap this 2 pic i’ll try it but i didn’t get the adjusting color it’s not same

  • Yoni | September 13th, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    cristine mae:
    can you show me what the problem was? maybe upload and image and post a link so I can understand what you need to do

  • Jen | September 24th, 2008 at 10:25 am

    LOLZ like face/off!! hahahha funniness XD

  • m4tricol | October 23rd, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Hi, nice tutorial, i wrote a similar topic (in italian lang) using jessica alba and charlize theron faces. :-p

    Im hoping that you will keep on posting great stuff, you have a great blog

    regards m4tricol

  • Jordana | October 30th, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    The john travolta on nicholas cage looks great except the top of the forehead looks a bit strange because the wrinkles aren’t there but are everywhere on the rest of the face lol

  • Antares19 | March 10th, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Awesome! I love it!! :D:D

  • Ethan | April 17th, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Awesome tutorial. It worked beautifully the first time I tried it but for some reason I followed the same steps again and this time when I paste the selection onto the other image it pastes a white cut out of the selection. How can I fix this?

  • Dave | May 7th, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Great tutorial ! Perfect for my daughter’s 8th grade end of year project where she will use the faces of her classmates in many photo settings !

    Thanks !

  • Yoni | May 13th, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    @ Ethan, make sure you look at which layer you copy the image from. You may have cut out a selection from a white or background layer and have no noticed. Let me know if this was not the problem

  • Tanmay | May 28th, 2009 at 4:48 am

    Hey Dude what a work can u tell in which version of photoshop have you done this

  • Yoni | May 31st, 2009 at 10:18 am

    @ Tanmay: I did this in Photoshop cs3, but I believe any version CS and after would work fine, maybe even earlier versions.

  • roshan | August 12th, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    its a good softy…

  • seth | November 1st, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    i think i like john cage better than nicholas cage! lol :)

  • MO7 | March 18th, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    not bad

  • Melvin Teo | April 21st, 2010 at 10:22 am

    WOW! It’s easy to use , simple steps .
    I used CS4 Extended . But sometimes it just mess up the shape when the face is different , you have to resize the face .

  • Tayyab | June 8th, 2010 at 5:24 am

    Nice.I like your way of teaching.

  • Tobias | March 21st, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Great! Easy and pratical many thanks ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Yunus | May 30th, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Thankuuuu….! Very muchhhh..!

  • Miranda | June 12th, 2011 at 11:18 am

    That Is Awesome, Ima Try It. (: Thanks.!

  • Cheyenne | October 11th, 2011 at 11:57 am

    That was amazing how you did John’s. It looks so crazy with his face on a different head ๐Ÿ˜›

  • Cheyenne | October 11th, 2011 at 11:58 am

    It was amazing how you did John;’s. I cant believe how much different he looks when his face is on another head ! ๐Ÿ˜›

  • janeena | November 6th, 2011 at 10:26 am

    great tutorial, but where can i do this kind of editing? what particular application should i install on my laptop??

  • tinagleisner | December 14th, 2011 at 8:31 am

    Fascinating & looks easy enough for me to try but first I have to find the legal rules for doing this, i.e. I have a former employee complaining that I’ve used him in a video photo … and even though you can’t see enough of the face, I’d rather just paste over him

  • Norma | December 20th, 2011 at 10:06 am

    This is nicely written for a beginner — I love these step-by-step directions! I want to use this for a more practical purpose — when taking photos of groups, I always take 3 or so shots, then use face swap to replace someone with their eyes closed or other strange look with a good one. You will probably laugh at me for my problem, but with Photoshop Elements I cannot figure out how to turn off a selection tool (lasso tool, magic wand, quick selection)!!! If you could solve this problem I would be forever indebted to you. Releasing the mouse button does NOT close the selection for me.

  • Yoni | December 20th, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    @janeena: Photoshop?

    @Norma: You should be able to deselect something by clicking once outside of the selection. But I have never used Photoshop Elements (it is very old!) and highly recommend you use a newer version.

  • Jimmy | December 23rd, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    Or if you have an iphone you can use an app.

    There’s one that lets you mask the faces and swap them iSwap, and there’s another one called Face Juggler that swaps them automatically- not quite as accurate but good enought to be fun. There’s some people have made at http://www,facejuggler.com

  • Jimmy | December 23rd, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    sorry it’s http://www.facejuggler.com

    I put a , instead of a .


  • Norma | December 28th, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Hi! Thanks for the reply, Janeena. I’m using Photoshop Elements 8 — bought about 6 months ago, so it’s not that old even though I think there is a newer version out now. When I try clicking outside the selection, that doesn’t do anything — the lasso stays active no matter what I do. Maybe it’s a problem with my Mac somehow. I will ask a genius at the Apple Store.

  • thankdude | February 1st, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    thanks for that dude !

  • Mio | April 25th, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    This is hilare!

    My teacher showed this to me and I’ve been swapping people’s heads for hours. This is genius! Well done ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • catherine | April 27th, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Itz amazing i would like to try 1s.

    could you help the exact link to download this software?

  • Sean | August 2nd, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    I would suggest using a layer mask and painting to blend the two faces as opposed to copying/pasting then erasing the faces to blend. Leaves a much more desirable result.

  • Thomas | August 3rd, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    Great tutorial! I am new to Photoshop and am currently running Cs5. I had fun messing with people, however, I noticed when you paste the face onto Cage the outline kind of fades.. While when I do it is a crude line to which I have to match the skin tone PERFECTLY to get a realistic looking effect. Any pointers ?

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    nice tutorial, like it

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