How To Lose Your Head!

In this tutorial, I will teach you how to lose your head – the safe way! As usual, I will start off with the basics, and then suggest how you could carry on from there. Let’s get started.

Setting up for this photo manipulation is quite similar to the previous (and now rather famous!) cloning tutorial, in which you need a camera (obviously), a tripod (or just a steady place to put your camera) and 2 photographs of the same scene, one with your model (or yourself) in it, and one without.

For this tutorial, I will be using these 2 photographs below. I had accidentally shifted the camera a teeny bit when I was taking these shots, but the difference is almost negligible, so these images can still be used. But for those of you trying this out for the first time, and have never done the cloning tutorial before, remember not to move your tripod and camera in between shots, ya?

Just to reiterate from the cloning tutorial, this is so you will get a consistent look (distance of scene from camera, angle, et cetera) for both your photographs, as this is crucial for the photo manipulation to work.

The 2 photographs :

How To Lose Your Head!

How To Lose Your Head!

The second photograph, which I’ve mentioned before that I like to call the blank template, is only necessary for the parts you’d like to be invisible, but enough with words, let’s get to the steps.

Step 1:

How To Lose Your Head!

  1. Bring both the photographs into Photoshop. If possible, work with the highest resolution photographs that you can get your hands on. This will allow you to work on the more minute details, to make your finished product more realistic.

    Move the image with the blank scene to the top, above the image with the model. In my example, my blank scene is named Blank and the one with the model is named Model. You may name your layers whatever you choose (or not name them at all), but I will be using these names in this tutorial to make things easier to understand.

  2. Add a layer mask to the Blank layer.

  3. Fill the layer mask that you have just added to the Blank layer with the colour black.

  4. Click on the Brush tool (shortcut button : B), and make sure that the foreground colour is white.

  5. While the layer mask of the Blank layer is still selected, and using a brush size of your liking, start brushing away on the head. What this does is cover the bottom layer, which is my Model layer, with the top layer, which is my Blank layer, making it look as though the head of the model is transparent. πŸ˜€

    In the image above, I showed a feathered brush of size 20. In reality, I alternate between different sizes and I use a small solid brush to get the edges of the head which touches the shirt. For intricate selection, I use paths as well.

    To know more, jump over to my previous tutorial on how to do precise selections. πŸ™‚

Step 2:

At this point, you should have an interesting headless image, like so :

How To Lose Your Head!

Some people are happy to stop here, but we are not, are we? Oh no, of course we’re not. πŸ˜€ Let’s recreate the back of that shirt.

How To Lose Your Head!

  1. First we have to create a base colour for the back of the shirt. I used Photoshop’s Eyedropper tool (shortcut button : I) and chose a colour from the shirt. While we know that the shirt is black in colour, the Eyedropper tool would tell us exactly which specific shade of black a part of the shirt is. This is more important for clothes of other colours rather than black. Black is relatively easy to fake. πŸ™‚

    Then, use a solid brush (as opposed to a feathered brush) to create the shape of the shirt. Use your judgement here, and decide what looks right to you. You can use an actual shirt as a reference.

    Optional :
    One sure way to get the shape and colour and such of the inner back of the shirt right… Is to actually take a photograph of the back of that shirt, and paste it in at this stage. I would recommend doing this if you’re creating a photo manipulation for prints larger than A4.

  2. Next, we have to match the noise of that base colour to the noise of the photograph, otherwise, it will look very obviously fake since it would be of a solid colour, and would stand out from the rest of the image. What we’re looking for here is to make it look as realistic as possible.

    To add noise, select the layer with your base colour and click on Filter > Noise > Add Noise. Experiment with the noise amount to match the noise in your photograph. For the photograph I used here, the image wasn’t all that noisy, so I added about 2% noise.

    I had also decided to lighten the base a bit here since the black I originally chose blended way too well into the shadows. 

  3. At this step, I began to add shadows to make the back of the shirt seem slightly less 2 dimensional. I played with the shadows a lot before I settled on this, subtle but yet you can tell there are shadows.

    To add shadows, you can use either use the Gradient tool (shortcut button : G) with a gradient that goes from black to transparent, or you can use a small feathered brush and brush in the shadows yourself. Play with the opacity of the layer until you are satisfied with the look of the shadows. 

  4. And the finishing touch is adding of the shirt label and the seams of the collar.

    The shirt label is just a rectangular box which is filled with white, and with its opacity lowered. The seams were made by using the brush tool, and painting a line around the collar.

How To Lose Your Head!

And that’s it! Pretty easy, no? The tricky part is to make it as realistic as possible. If you’re going to set up a photoshoot especially to try this tutorial, keep in mind to keep as much shadow away from the collar area. The final image below still looks a bit off (to me, at least) since there are heavy shadows around the neck area, when there isn’t supposed to be a head there to cast the shadow. Heh.

How To Lose Your Head!

And here’s one more example.

How To Lose Your Head!

Other cool things that can be done using this technique, along with properly posed photographs, include getting beheaded (place your head somewhere else in the photograph!) and becoming 100% invisible (clone out your arms, hands, and feet too!)! And if you’re like The Decapitator, you’d maybe want to leave the neck alone, and add some blood, flesh and bone! Heh.

Go on, then. Show us what you can do! πŸ˜€

This entry was published by mr malique’s co-author, Zul. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect mr malique’s opinions.
Zul is a hobbyist-photographer, an engineer by education, but a web designer by profession. He can be found roaming the streets begging people to accept HTML into their hearts. Other times, he can be found not making much sense at
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