M. T. Dremer studied graphic design at Muskegon Community College and has been using Adobe Photoshop for more than a decade.
Step 1: Find a Picture of Your Favorite Superhero
Before I begin, I just want to take a moment to describe the possible uses for such an image. Obviously, if you’re taking pictures of a superhero and putting your own head on it, you want to avoid using the finished picture in any commercial images. In other words, the movie or comic company that created the superhero might sue if you use the picture for anything other than fun and/or non-profit applications. Some good places to use them would be on personal image sites like image shack, or for your profile on Facebook and MySpace. You also want to steer clear of pictures of regular people dressed up as your superhero. This is more out of courtesy than anything else. There is nothing weirder than seeing your Halloween picture posted on someone else’s Facebook profile with your head removed . . . scary.
So, the first thing you want to do is find the picture of your favorite superhero. The quickest way to do this is to go to a search engine like Yahoo or Google, click on ‘images’ for your search and type in the hero’s name. It helps if your superhero has been in a movie or television show because it’s easier to put your head on their body if it’s a real body. Find a picture that looks good and save it to your computer. For my example I’m using a made-up superhero based on a stock photo.
Step 2: Find a Picture of Yourself That Matches
Matching your photo to the superhero photo is crucial. Try to find a picture of yourself where your head is facing the same direction that the superhero’s is. This will make the photoshopping part of the process a lot easier and a lot quicker. If you don’t have a picture of yourself in the right position you can always take a new photo, or go back to the internet to find a different photo of your superhero that does match. This also applies to lighting and things like glasses you might be wearing in the photo. (However both of these are not essential. That’s what photoshop is for.)
Now take both of your selected pictures and open them in photoshop. (In my example the non-superhero picture needed to be flipped. This can be accomplished by going to Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal.)
Step 3: Cut Your Head Out
Once in photoshop, look for the lasso tool. It will be on the lefthand toolbar, near the top, and it will look like a tiny lasso. Select it and you can now trace around your head so that it becomes a selection. Once you have it outlined, go to Edit > Copy, then paste it into a new layer on your superhero’s picture.
Depending on the size of each image you may need to make your head larger or smaller to properly fit over the superhero’s head. This can be accomplished by selecting the layer your head is on, then going to Edit > Transform > Scale. This will display bounding boxes around your head. Hold shift and click on the corner bounding box and drag accordingly until your head is the right size. (Note: It helps if your picture is larger than the superhero’s because enlarging a smaller picture can make it look fuzzy.) Also, you may find that your head is slightly skewed in a different direction. Go to Edit > Transform > rotate. With this you can click on one of the bounding boxes and rotate your head until it matches your superhero’s.
Take this time to erase any bits of your picture that you may have copied along with your head. This is usually things like the neck of your shirt or maybe bits of the wall that can be seen around your hair. Simply select the eraser tool and make sure the brush you’re using has a fine edge and is relatively small. (This can be adjusted in the brush menu on the top of the page.) Then just erase around your head until none of the background of your picture is left. If you make a mistake and erase part of your head, you can always undo it or go back to an earlier step in your history window on the right.
Step 4: Fitting You Into the Image
Even though your head is now the right size and it’s properly cut out and cleaned up, it still doesn’t quite look right. In my case, the hero is wearing a hood, but the person in the other photo is not. For your hero, they might be wearing a hat or a mask that needs to be on top of your face, rather than under it. Once again, the lasso tool is your best friend. Go to the layers on the lower right side of the screen and click on the eye icon to make your face invisible. Now that you can see the superhero’s face again, select the hero’s layer. Next, use your lasso tool to trace the outline of the hood (or hat) just like you did the face until the entire unit is selected. For me, I’m only selecting part of the hood and cloak under the neck, because I don’t mind if the new face is slightly longer than the old face. Now copy this hood onto a new layer, then go back to the layer window, and click and drag the new hood layer above the layer where your face is. This will position it on top of your face rather than beneath it, but since we cut it out, it will look like your face is actually under the hood. Click on the eye icon again to re-display your face.
During this step, you also want to look for things that set your picture apart from your superhero. Maybe your neck is slightly to the left, but the superhero’s is slightly to the right. In this instance you may need to erase some more of your original face. For example, if the necks don’t match, then erase up to your jaw line and match up the edge of your jaw with the edge of the hero’s. The opacity setting for each layer is a great tool here. Simply select the layer with your face on it and in the tiny bar above the layer window click the opacity arrow and adjust it to the left. This will allow you to see a transparent version of your face over the superhero so you can match everything up.
While you’re in here, you might also notice that some of the hero’s face is visible around yours. Maybe their hair was bigger or they had a big chin, but there is a way that you can adjust this. Go to the tool menu on the left and select the smudge tool (It’s the same icon as the sharpen and blur tool.) With the smudge tool you can go to the superhero layer and smudge the background in over their head. You don’t have to smudge away their entire head, just enough that it isn’t showing underneath your inserted face.
Step 5: Fine Tuning
Alright, everything fits, but under scrutiny you can still tell that someone edited the picture. While you won’t be able to make it perfect, there are some things you can do to really make it work.
First, there is shadow. Take note of the light source on the superhero. Maybe the hood is casting a shadow or their forehead is darker because the light source is below them. In either case, you will need to artificially add these shadows to your own face. The Dodge/Burn tools are great in this regard. They can be accessed on the menu on the left and they essentially lighten or darken spots of the picture just like a paint brush. Using this you can darken specific parts of your face, or lighten them, to match the lighting on the face of the superhero. If you find that you can’t get something dark enough, however, you can also create a new layer in between the hood and your face and use the brush tool to draw in some black shadows. These are useful because you can adjust their placement separately from each picture and you can adjust its opacity until it looks just right.
Second is color. You may have noticed that your skin is slightly off color from your superhero’s skin. This is also an issue of lighting, but it’s handled differently. Select the layer with your face on it and go to Image > Adjust > Color Balance. From this menu you can adjust which colors are distributed on your face. If your superhero was in front of a blue light, then you can add more blue to your face to make it fit. The same is true for every color. Mix and match until it’s a perfect fit.
The brightness/contrast tool, located under Image > Adjust > Brightness Contrast will help to bring your face into the foreground and the hue/saturation tool, located under Image > Adjust > Hue/Saturation, will allow you to add and remove color from your picture however you see fit.
Step 6: Work With the Image
When you know all of the tools and methods above, it’s really just a matter of fine tuning and un-doing. Obviously not every project will turn out perfectly, but with enough practice you too can become a superhero (Or any other famous person who has ever had a picture taken of them).
- This method can be used for any hero, celebrity, or fictional character you can think of (if a picture exists of them). The sky is the limit.
- The images you create should never be for commercial use.
- Results may vary depending on what photos you use.
- Try not to use pictures of regular people in costume.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
M. T. Dremer (author) from United States on October 09, 2011:
Rusty - Thank you for the compliment!
Josh Carey - Are you referring to Adobe Photoshop? I believe a free trial version can be downloaded at www.adobe.com. After that you can use any combination of pictures you wish to achieve the result I outlined above. Other than that, there are no other downloads for this tutorial.
Josh Carey on October 06, 2011:
WHERE'S THE DOWNLOAD! WTF MAN
C Levrow from Michigan on January 06, 2010:
I am shocked that you made the blonde chick fit into that photo! I didn't think it was going to happen and you did it! Good work and good how to article!