There are many reasons why face swapping is a useful skill to have. We all know that almost perfect group shot where just one person has their eyes closed. You can easily correct this image using the person’s face from an image where their eyes are open. Face swapping can also be used for other reasons, and while the process may seem difficult, it’s actually quite simple.
Keep reading to learn how to do a realistic face swap in Photoshop in just 10 steps.
How To Face Swap In Photoshop – Step By Step
Step 1: Make A Selection Of The Face You Will Be Using
To create a face swap, you need two images; one for the body and the other for the face. Once you choose both photos, open them in Photoshop in two different tabs.
After that, you need to make a selection around the face you will use in the face swap. The easiest way to do that is using the Lasso tool, although you can use any selection tool that works for you.
You can find the Lasso tool in the toolbar.
Once you select the Lasso tool, you must change some of its settings in the Options bar.
First, make sure the New Selection option is enabled, which is the first icon portraying a single block.
Next, set Feather to zero, if it’s not already.
Lastly, check the box next to Anti-alias.
After that, make a selection around the subject face. Don’t select the entire face, just its main features, like the mouth, eyes, and nose. Don’t select the face edges either because this will make it difficult to blend the face onto the new head.
Step 2: Copy And Paste The Face On The Body Image
After selecting the face, you need to copy it. To do this, press Control + C (Win) or Command + C (Mac).
Then paste the face into the target image — open its tab and press Control + V (Win) or Command + V (Mac). The face will appear immediately on the canvas, and there will also be a layer for it in the Layers panel.
Step 3: Rename The Layers
To avoid confusion, rename the layers used in the face swap. To do this, double-click the layer you want to rename and enter the desired text. In my case, I named the top layer ‘Face’ and the bottom layer ‘Body.’
Step 4: Scale The Face To Fit The New Head
Once you put the face on the body, you have to scale the face so that it fits the new body. To do this, select the face layer.
Next, enable the Move tool by pressing V. Then, go to the Options bar and check the box next to Show Transform Controls.
Control points will appear around the face layer.
Click and drag any of the control points inward while holding Shift to scale down the face proportionally.
With the Move tool still active, place the new face next to the original body to check the orientation.
In some cases, the original face points in one direction while the new face points in a different direction, which is the case in the image above. As you can see, the original face points to the right while the new face points to the left.
To fix this, press Control + T (Win) or Command + T (Mac) to enable the Free Transform tool. Then, right-click the face selection and choose Flip Horizontal.
After that, use the Move tool (V) again to place the face on the body.
You may need to scale down the face again. To do this, click any handle around the face while holding Shift and drag it inwards, as shown in the previous example.
Step 5: Align The Faces
For the face swap to look natural, you need to line up both faces used in the face swap. However, it’s hard to do this when the new face covers the original face entirely.
Luckily, you can decrease the new face layer opacity in the Layers panel to partially see the original face. I suggest you bring it down to something around 50–60%.
Once you reduce the opacity of the face layer, you will partially see the layer underneath it. A lower opacity will make it easier for you to align the faces.
Align the subjects’ eyes first for best results. That’s because the eyes are the face feature that contributes most to a person’s identity and helps to align other features on the face. So by starting with the eyes, you will achieve a more accurate alignment.
To do this, keep the face layer selected and use the Move tool to align the eyes of both layers. Align the inner corners of both eyes for a more precise result.
After aligning the eyes of the subjects in the best way possible, you should ensure that they don’t accidentally misalign, especially when you rescale the new face.
To do this, keep the face layer selected and hit Control + T (Win) or Command + T (Mac) to enable the free transform tool. This tool will generate control points around the layer.
Then, go to the Options bar and check the Reference Point checkbox.
Next, once the reference point appears, click it and drag it to the corner of your subject’s eyes.
Once the reference point is in place, move the mouse outside of the transform box until a curved double arrow appears. Then, as you rotate the layer, it will pivot off the corner of the eye. The pivot allows you to line up the eyes better if necessary.
Step 6: Compare The Face To The Body
After aligning the faces, it’s a good idea to check how your work is going so far and make adjustments accordingly.
To do this, go to the Layers panel and bring the opacity back to 100%. Alternatively, press 0 on your keyboard with the face layer selected.
Then, zoom out on your image by pressing Control + 0 (Win) or Command + 0 (Mac) to view it in full size.
Now, check if the proportions are correct. In my case, the face features were still too large compared to the head.
Step 7: Make More Adjustments To The Face Proportions
If everything is already ok with the face size and proportions, go to step 8. If the face still doesn’t fit the body, then select the Face layer.
Next, enable the free transform tool by pressing Control + T (Win) or Command + T (Mac). After that, right-click or control + click the face layer and choose Skew.
Then, click any control points around the face and drag them inwards or outwards to distort the face.
You can even drag the face in a diagonal direction to better fit a heart-shaped or hexagon-shaped face.
Once you finish using Skew, you can also use the Distort option to change the face proportions. To do this, right-click or control + click the image and choose Distort.
Then, click any of the control points in any direction you want to distort the face. Distort the face until you feel it fits the head as naturally as possible.
Once you finish distorting the face, zoom out on the image again to compare the face with the body.
If you are happy with the results, you can move on to the next step, where you will learn how to match the colors and light of the face and body.
Step 8: Matching Light And Color
When you match light and color, your subject looks like a real person rather than a collage. Before anything else, delete the original face, so it doesn’t get in the way when editing the new face.
To do this, first, duplicate the layer by selecting the Body layer and pressing Control + J (Win) or Command + J (Mac).
Then, turn the original Body layer off by clicking the eyeball icon.
Afterward, select the face layer thumbnail while holding Control (Win) or Command (Mac) to create a selection around the face layer.
But before deleting the face, you need to contract the selection. To do this, go up to Select > Modify > Contract.
Then, in the dialog box that will pop up, enter the number of pixels to determine how much the selection must contract. In my case, I set it to 5, and I advise you to do the same. Click OK when you’re done.
Now, select the Body Copy layer and press Delete on your keyboard. After that, press Control + D (Win) or Command + D (Mac) to deselect the face.
This action will delete the original face. To check this, click the eyeball icon next to the Body Copy layer while holding Alt (Win) or Option (Mac).
To return to the previous view mode, click the same eyeball icon while holding Alt (Win) or Option (Mac).
Now you have to blend the face with the body. To do this, select both the face and body copy layers by clicking one layer after another while holding Shift.
After that, go to Edit > Auto-Blend Layers.
In the dialog box that appears, keep Panorama selected and the two settings at the bottom of the panel selected.
Click Ok when you’re done, and wait while Photoshop AI processes the changes. This blend will be the starting point for blending the light and colors of your image. And if you’re lucky enough, this feature will do most of the job for you.
After auto-blending the layers, a new layer called “Face (merged)” appears in the Layers panel. While the effect works quite well, you may still notice skin tones and texture differences. Luckily, you can fix this using the Healing tool.
To do this, create a new layer above all the layers in the Layers panel by clicking the plus sign icon at the bottom of the panel.
Then, name it Heal to make it easier for you to identify the layer.
Next, go to the toolbar and select the Healing Brush tool. Its icon looks like a band-aid.
Go to the Options bar to adjust the healing brush settings. First, set Sample to Current And Below.
Next, set Source to Sample, if it’s not already.
Finally, open the Brush Options.
Set Hardness to 0% to allow you to blend the skin tones better.
As for the brush size, you can adjust it while using the brush healing tool by pressing the right or left bracket keys. The right bracket key ] increases brush size, while the left bracket key [ decreases its size.
After adjusting all the necessary healing brush tool settings, keep the Heal layer selected and zoom in on the target area. In my case, that was the forehead. To zoom in on your image, press Control + + (Win) or Command + + (Mac).
Next, position your cursor on the face and hold Alt (Win) or Option (Mac). Then, drag over that area.
Once you drag over the area, your cursor will turn into a target icon, indicating you are sampling pixels.
Next, release the mouse and paint over the edges of the face so that they blend better with the original head.
When painting the desired area, you will notice that your cursor will turn into a circle. That circle is a preview of the pixels you sampled. If you feel these pixels don’t suit the area you are painting, you can go back and sample other pixels.
You can even sample pixels from the original head and use them in the face area. After all, the key here is to get rid of any hard edges and blend the face and the head so smoothly that they will look like they belong to the same person. Continue using the brush around all the edges of the face.
Step 9: Creating Adjustment Layers For A Better Blend
You can adjust the contrast and colors to blend the face better with the head. The advantage of using adjustment layers is that you can apply effects non-destructively. That means you can delete those layers anytime without affecting your entire work. You can even turn on and off the adjustment layers to check if they are necessary.
To create an adjustment layer for the face, click the face layer thumbnail while holding Control (Win) or Command (Mac).
To adjust the layer’s contrast, click the Curves icon in the Adjustments panel.
This icon creates a new Curves adjustment layer with a layer mask, which ensures that the curves adjustment layer is only applied to the face.
You can use the curves adjustment layer to adjust the lights and tones of the face. To do this, click the curve. A control point will appear on it. You can drag this control point up to lighten the pixels in the area or down to darken them.
Click the Color Balance adjustment layer icon in the Adjustments panel to adjust the layer color.
Once the color balance layer is created, click the layer mask connected to the curves layer while holding Alt (Win) or Option (Mac). Then, drag and drop the layer mask into the new color balance layer. The effect will be exclusively applied to the face area.
In the Color Balance dialog box, you can control the amount of a specific color in your image.
For example, if your image has too much cyan, you can drag the cyan-red slider to the right, and if your photo is too yellowish, you can drag the yellow-blue slider to the right. Play around with these sliders until the colors of the head match.
And that’s pretty much all you need to do to blend a face swap effectively. You can finish your work using the color lookup option in the Layers panel if you want, which I’ll outline in the final step.
Step 10: Apply A Color Lookup Effect (Optional)
The color lookup adjustment layer applies a general color effect to your image. This adjustment usually helps in matching colors in an image entirely. Although the result sometimes looks harsh, you can adjust its amount after applying it.
To apply the color lookup effect, click the Adjustment layer icon.
Then, choose Color Lookup.
Next, use the 3DLUT File dropdown menu to choose the color profile you want. You can play around with different options until you find the one that suits your image.
In my case, I chose 3Strip.look and reduced the effect’s opacity to 34% because otherwise, the result would look too harsh. To reduce the opacity of the color lookup layer, select it and enter the desired value.
You will have now successfully face-swapped your images.
It’s worth remembering that the angle of your face image can skew the look of the final result. For example, if you are using a close-up portrait, some features will need to be heavily scaled to get the proportions right. This whole process becomes much easier when you have two similar images you are working with. An image where you want to replace the face of someone mid-blink, for example, is a far easier process but can follow similar steps to this.