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The Design Center, DT&G / Photoshop Department / Creative Collage  

Photoshop for the Holidays

Give'em something to laugh about...

Santa and the kids We often get requests for putting someone's head on someone else's body. That's a popular one. And, this time of year, people are looking for clever ideas for greeting cards or gag gifts. So, I thought it would be fun to write this quick tutorial -- and at the same time do a gag picture for my daughter and new son-in-law. So we'll get two birds with one stone.

I started with this lovable photo of the typical department store Santa with the kids on his knee. I'm sure many of you have been in photos just like this -- I know I have. But don't ask me where this came from... I have no idea where, or who these people are. However, the photo has sufficient resolution, and all the charm I need for the little gag. Besides, the faces will be gone in a minute.

Once finding the shots I'll be using for the "new faces" I simply use the Lasso Tool to rough out the heads, and drag them into the work photo file. Once selected, just tap "V" and drag them into the work file. They'll arrive, each on their own individual layer.

Notice, I've left some of the original picture around each photo. For now, I just want to check to make sure they'll work out in this setting. At this point I'll select and use the Transform (Cmd/T or Ctrl/T) and with the shift key, scale the images until they are about the right size for the picture. You'll find photo gags like this a big funnier if the heads are a little larger than one might expect.

Once sized up, return to the Lasso Tool (Tap "L") and begin trimming away the excess background from the new faces. Notice that I will leave a sliver of the background.

sliver of background

In this kind of assembly, you can save yourself some time and trouble -- with a uniform sliver -- by selecting the image (Cmd/click or ctrl/click the layer thumbnail to select it) then choose: Select > Feather and set the feathering to one pixel, then Select > Inverse (to select all the background) and simply Delete. The sliver will get thinner. Delete again, and thinner yet. It took me three deletes to get a nice smooth edge with no background. You could use the Defringe command, but it's far too coarse for me.

Wooops! Too much...

touch up neededOnce all the background is trimmed, we're ready for some color corrections. But wait a minute! Oh No! Trimming the background away took too much, and now I've got a piece of the kid's ear showing. This can't happen!

Using the Clone Tool (aka "rubber stamp") I'll return to the background layer, and simply smear a little of Santa's beard over the ear to take it away.
Choose the Stamp Tool (Tap "S"), option/click or alt/click, close to the offending part using an appropriately small brush. Now remove it simply by painting.

Clone Tool fix

Color corrections

Now comes the part that will make or break the effect. You've got to adjust the color and contrast of each new face to match that of the 'host' photo. In our situation, I needed to add red to both photos and lower the contrast on Paul's photo. Also, since Paul is Ugandan, it wouldn't be quite right to have pearly-white hands. So I simply used the lasso tool again to select the hands, Cmd/J (Ctrl/J) floated a copy, and set that copy to "Multiply" in the layer blending mode. This doubles the density of the floated image. From there, all I had to do is choose Adjustments > Hue/Saturation and bump the Hue slightly toward the 'blue' range to approximate his natural flesh tone. In the final photo, it's not quite dead on, but it's close enough for a gag.

adjusting the color

This can be done with an adjustment layer -- but really, why bother. With the undo command, you should hit the correct temperature in a few tries. After red, I added a slight bit of yellow to the middle tones of Santa's photo. This brings them into harmony.

I also had to 'calm down' the highlight reflections on Paul's skin. This was an outdoor shot -- couldn't find an indoor one -- so the sunlight was laying down some pretty hot reflections. For this I used the Select > Color Range function, and set the pull-down for "Highlights". That did the trick, and once selected, I merely played them down with the Contrast control.


When all looks good, you're ready to print your masterpiece to see how you did. I'll probably print this to a nice folding card stock, and send it to them as a gag -keepsake- holiday greeting card.

New faces with Photoshop

Here's the actual finished photo Don't they look cute!

That's really all there is to it -- taking only about 20 minutes from start to finish. I wouldn't do that for everyone's holiday card, but for the kids, what the hey!

Happy Photoshopping

Fred Showker
    Fred Showker, Editor / Publisher, DTG Magazine and Photoshop Tips & Tricks

If you're looking for an easy way to do changes like this -- and you find yourself doing them frequently, you need to check out a product called Chameleon from Akvis Software. This plug-in gives you photo collages with a mere click of the button. See my previous review. AKVIS also makes other great plug-ins! I've used them all and have a great time discovering things that can be done with Retoucher, and AKVIS Coloriage. Their latest is called "Sketch" which really does a great job of converting images to a sketch. I'll show you that one next month.


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