performing a head swap in photoshop elements

by Melissa Gibson

Oftentimes, during a session, someone is either not looking at the camera or is making a goofy face.  With my little ones?  It’s more than likely a goofy face.  However, no worries!  If you have a good handle on how to swap heads in Photoshop Elements (aka PSE) you’ll have a little less stress when you’re editing the session.  This is a really handy editing tip that you’ll love to use.

Keep in mind, this isn’t just used for head swaps.  You can also use the steps if you need to swap arms, legs, dogs, cats, even eyes.  In this example, I’m going to swap the head of my little girl’s best buddy.

Step 1:  Open the images you are working with (in this case, I’m using two) and determine which head is being swapped.  Select the area you want to use in THE NEW IMAGE.  You do this by selecting the lasso tool.  I over select the area so that it’s easy to blend in.

Step 2:  Once you’ve selected the area, copy it by going to Edit > Copy

performing a head swap in photoshop elements photo

performing a head swap in photoshop elements photo

Step 3:  Bring up your second image.  THIS WILL BE YOUR FINAL IMAGE.  Paste the area that you just copied into this image by going to Edit > Paste.  Use the Move tool to drag the area into the correct spot in the new image.  You can adjust the opacity of this layer if you want to see the OLD head that is hiding underneath.  This is sometimes helpful to do in order to match it up easier.

performing a head swap in photoshop elements photo

performing a head swap in photoshop elements photo

Step 4:  Now you’ll need to add a mask to this layer so that you can brush off the extra area and blend in this new head.  If you are in PSE9, simply go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All to add the mask.  If you are Elements 8 or lower, you will need to download an action that will allow you to add a mask.  You can get a free action from The Coffeeshop Blog.  Just search “layer mask action”.  This action will change your life!

performing a head swap in photoshop elements photo

Step 5:  Now comes the fun part.  You’re ready to brush and blend in the new head by selecting a soft black brush (remember, black reveals what’s underneath) and setting the opacity of the brush to 100%.  Zoom in a bit and start brushing the edges.  If you mess up?  No problem, just select a white brush (remember, white conceals…or covers up) and brush over your mistake.  You can switch back and forth between black and white brushes until you have it just right.

performing a head swap in photoshop elements photo

performing a head swap in photoshop elements photo

Once you have the image looking great, just flatten and save.  I like to save a copy that is NOT flattened as well.

performing a head swap in photoshop elements photo

And there you have it!  How fun is that?  I really love doing head swaps…or foot swaps….or doggie swaps.  I hope this tutorial was helpful and I’m happy to answer any questions you may have!

performing a head swap in photoshop elements photo

performing a head swap in photoshop elements photoMelissa Gibson, Georgia
Copywriter | CMU Instructor | CM Mentor
website | facebook | pinterest | instagram | mentoring | ask a pro | daily project
Melissa is a proud MWAC who gears up with a Nikon D700, prime lenses, and edits her “fun, childlike, and whimsical” photography solely in Photoshop Elements. Melissa is one of the instructors for CMU’s Mastering Manual Exposure and the new Processing 103: Photoshop Elements and her goal both now and when she first began her photography journey in 2005 is to, in her own words, “remember my girls’ lives for them. They are so young yet growing so quickly. I know they won’t remember it all so I feel it’s my job to document it for them.” She is a self proclaimed goofball that loves reading, giggling, sweet tea, her iPhone, kisses, instagram, and having fun with her small family which includes her husband and three darling girls.

Read all photography tutorials from Melissa Gibson.

performing a head swap in photoshop elements photo

 sponsor giveaway update!

Congratulations the lucky random winner Ellen K in MD who said, “Thanks for sharing- I tweeted! :)“!  Email me at to claim your prizes!

Thank you to Shaded Studio for sponsoring today’s blog post!  Shaded Studio offers actions, presets, designs, and templates to simplify your workflow and free up your time.  How great is that?! They have also generously giving away a $100 gift card to their store to one lucky random winner!

performing a head swap in photoshop elements photo

To enter, simply share this post on facebook or twitter (you can use the sharing icons below if you’d like) and then come back and let us know that you shared it and where.  We’ll announce the random winner next week on Friday October 19th at noon EST right here on this blog post so make sure and come back and check.


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28 Responses to “performing a head swap in photoshop elements”

  1. threeleesinapod
    Oct 12 2012 at 11:53 am #

    AWESOME tutorial! I mostly use LR, but do have PSE8 and this is going to come in handy. Thank you!

  2. Oct 12 2012 at 12:06 pm #

    This is awesome, Melissa! Thank you for sharing!

  3. Andrea Gagen
    Oct 12 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    Thanks for the tips. I end up doing quite a few head swaps in sports team shots since they're usually spur of the moment ones.

  4. Pam
    Oct 12 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    I have a photo or two that could try this out on! Thank you Melissa!

  5. cgoemans
    Oct 12 2012 at 7:04 pm #

    Thanks for this! I shared on fb :)

  6. Mrchambers
    Oct 12 2012 at 10:35 pm #

    Thanks for taking the time to put this together and sharing with us. I shared on FB & Pinned it.

  7. Oct 13 2012 at 2:10 am #

    Thank you for sharing Melissa!

  8. Oct 13 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    Great tutorial, Melissa!!

  9. Johnna Brown
    Oct 13 2012 at 4:11 pm #

    Thank you! Little different technique then I usually use so I’m excited to try it:)

  10. Kristin Dokoza
    Oct 13 2012 at 9:14 pm #

    Thank you Melissa! I'm totally going to give it a try!

  11. Oct 13 2012 at 9:15 pm #

    thanks for sharing these super helpful steps, melissa!

  12. Melinda T
    Oct 14 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    Great tutorial! And I shared by tweeting.

  13. Ellen K in MD
    Oct 15 2012 at 4:46 pm #

    Thanks for sharing- I tweeted! :)

  14. Dana S
    Oct 16 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    This is great! I shared on Facebook.

  15. Maureen Petru
    Oct 16 2012 at 5:38 pm #

    I just tried a head swap using your tutorial. Wow! It is the first time I would say my head swap might possibly pass as completely un-noticible to anyone. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this out and share it!

  16. Christi H
    Nov 04 2012 at 3:31 pm #

    Wow, just tried this! I will keep this tip handy. Thanks !

  17. Nov 14 2012 at 2:03 pm #

    Thanks for posting this tutorial and sharing it on Rock the Shot’s post. I think I have a clearer idea of how to do this for the family portrait I’ve been working on (my family). Of course, it’s a classic tale of the photographer’s children have no photos…my daughter loves having her picture taken, but my boys… you’d think I was going to poke them with hot needles!

  18. jane
    Feb 02 2013 at 11:45 am #

    please put more tutorials.thanks

  19. Jun 06 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    @melissagibson thank you so much – I have been wanting to learn this FOREVER and a client’s family portrait of 17 people finally forced me to sit down and learn it. Thanks tons!

  20. Dec 10 2013 at 2:40 pm #

    I don’t know what in the world i did wrong, but this is not working. When I use a brush to to blend all I get it black lines & then I use white & I get ghostly looking shadows. What am I doing wrong?

    • May 08 2014 at 1:50 pm #

      Oops! Make sure you are on the white layer mask thumbnail that’s next to the layer mask where you’ve added the new head/face. It will be outlined in white/blue/black when it’s active. Then, you’ll use a black brush to brush away the extra. Sounds like you are using a black brush on the image itself instead. :)

  21. May 03 2014 at 7:02 pm #

    I wish this would work for me. I press “paste” and then try to move the cut face and the face is actually just planted in the middle of the picture and when I choose the move tool, it just moves my entire picture with the head just floating in the middle … it won’t let me move it to the area that needs to be swapped out! :( So bummed!

    • May 08 2014 at 1:48 pm #

      Hi April! Sorry you’re having troubles. Sounds like the move tool is grabbing the image rather than the new layer itself…where you’ve added the head. In the layers panel on the right side, click on that layer mask that shows the head. That will activate the layer and you’ll see a box around the head on the image. Then, you can move it around. Hope that works! :)

  22. Jenni
    Jul 21 2014 at 4:31 pm #

    Thank you so very much!! I’ve been trying to do a head swap using another tutorial that wasn’t in elements then I found this….. and I finally got the job done in a couple minutes!!

  23. jodie b
    Sep 08 2014 at 10:46 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this is technique, your tutorial is great!! , it was so much easier to do than I thought it would be!! and done so quick! : ) : ) ; )

  24. Becky
    Sep 15 2014 at 10:11 pm #

    I’m stuck at the paint part… it is just black on the photo and I’m not sure what to do next… any help would be great! Thanks!

  25. Kimberly
    Nov 12 2014 at 5:45 am #

    Thank you so much for this valuable info! I have always wanted to learn to do a head swap on my photos! So, I completed the process and saved a flattened and unflattened copy. Now, when I go to my pictures file, the image is saved as .psd instead of .jpg. How do I save it and open it like my jpg images?


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