Replace a Head in Photoshop

by Fred Showker

... continued from the previous page.

Colorization and Exposure are most important

3. Colorization and Exposure are the most important considerations in matching donor to host successfully.

Make a selection of the floating 'head' on its own layer by command/clicking on its layer icon. (cntrl/click) Once selected, (Note the selection is active by the "racing ants" around the cut-out!)
Choose Menu : Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels. (This may be different, depending on your software and version.) We use an adjustment layer for non-destructive adjustments until they're perfect.
Since the selection was active, note in your Layers Palette the new Levels adjustment layer is all black with white only where the head is. This is a Layer Mask.

make adjustments to match the blacks, whites and middle tonesSince your image may be different, I won't dictate exact settings. However, since this is a very high contrast image with few middle tones, we want to limit both the high and low ends of the image -- accomplished by moving the left and right sliders toward the center.

Control the mid-tones with the middle slider, and at this point your eye is the most important tool to use. Adjust those sliders until you are close to the host image tonal values. We will do more adjustments later. Once sized into position, we'll need to eliminate some of those middle tones in the final adjustments to match the original.

tight cropping to extract just the element we want

4. Precision Crop: Now is a good time to tighten and perfect our crop of the subject. I intentionally left it large to this point just for this purpose. It's easier to cut him out large than small.

Return to the Lasso tool and carefully eliminate all the image area surrounding the head. Take your time.

Final scale and attitude adjustments

5. Settle into Position Once the final cut-out is complete, you can now scale it to correct size, and settle it into position over Jack's head. Notice that I made a "backup" of the head on its own layer ... just in case I screw up this step. (Duplicate the Layer, or drag the "New Face" layer down onto the new layer icon at the bottom of the layers palette. A copy is created.)

Grab one of the corner selection handles, hold the SHIFT KEY (to constrain the proportions of the image) and carefully, slowly drag toward the center with the selection tool. Keep a careful eye on the size. You can 'Undo' (cmd/z, ctrl/z) if you want to try again. Use the chin and eyes as alignment guides, once they match you are close.

SIDEBAR: Many, many times, I'll reduce the opacity of the image I'm scaling (Using the Opacity slider on the Layers Palette) and place it directly over the host image while scaling. Overlapping the images during scaling gives a very clear, visual indication of their size relationship. In this case it wasn't necessary, but you should try it for future projects.

Matching color and tonal balance to the host image

6. Readjusting Tonal Balance With the image now scaled in position, it's easy to adjust tonal balance to match surroundings.

Choose: Layers > New Adjustment Layer > Levels and drag those sliders in a bit more. (Again, your scenario may be different -- use your eye to make appropriate adjustments. Don't worry, you can come back again and again to readjust until it's perfect.)

Adjust Brightness and Contrast to match the original

Choose: Layers > New Adjustment Layer > Brightness/Contrast and bring on the contrast. In the original host image note all the blacks are just about the same black, and the whites are all pure white with very little high or low middle tones. This slider helps match that.

Blurring Until now I haven't mentioned blurring. In order to look natural in its new environment, the new face needs to be blurred slightly. You can plainly see that I did not do it. The amount of "realism" you wish to retain in the new addition is up to you. Now is the time to blur while the selection is still active. Use Filter > Blur > Blur, and that should be enough. If it's too much, then Undo.

make any final crop adjustments 7. Final Cut & Crop: Now is the time to fine-tune your cut-out cropping and attitude adjustments. IN the above step we clearly see that the subject's neck covers much of Jack's tux shirt and bowtie. We also see the mistakes we made in the cropping of our subject's hair. In the original, the blacks flow into other blacks and we see very few "hair" outlines. Fix that, and mortise our subject directly into Jack's shirt.

(Above) Turn off layer visibility of layers above Jack's photo, so you can see it. (Click the 'eye' icon) Now, use the Lasso tool to make a precision selection of his collar, tie, shirt and portion of his shoulders.

Lasso Tool selects image to delete

TURN ON the layer with the new face, (Click the 'eye' icon) and while the selection is still active, click on the new face's layer to make it the active layer and DELETE. This removes the unwanted parts that were covering Jack's tux.

Now take your Lasso and get rid of the white fringe around the top of his head so his hair blends directly into the black surroundings.

As Senior forum member "iDad" pointed out, now you need to analyze and adjust the blacks where they meet in his hair. Click the LEVELS button in the adjustment layer and in the resulting Levels dialog you can tweak those blacks until they match. (Thank you iDad!)

zoom out and evaluate your work often

By this point I think you're done.

Zoom out and evaluate your work. It's just about right.
SAVE the file, give it a name, and then SAVE AS... again, giving it a different name. In the new file, begin dropping the layers, from the top down, so you end up with two layers, the original and the new head. Now toggle the new head off and on to see how they compare.

If it doesn't look right, close the file and open the un-flattened version and tweak any of the layers. Once it's finally the way you want it, SAVE the layered file, then flatten, then select its output format -- Tiff, JPG, PDF, etc., and SAVE AS... with the final name.
Bravo, you're successful.

Final Image
Jack, I hope you enjoyed the event!
Photoshop 911 forums Original Photoshop 911 Forum Post

And . . . thanks for reading

Fred Showker

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