Color Palette

How to switch the face of someone famous with your face

A few years ago I started making a lot of cheesy Valentines with my face inserted on the body of someone famous.  Then I would write something super cheesy for the Valentine.  I have gotten better over the years and thought this would make a great Gimp tutorial.  The tutorial is mainly concepts, so you could probably do this in Photoshop as well.

For this tutorial I will be using the Valentine I did for Pirates of the Caribbean.

Step 1 - Mimic the photo you wish to use

Orlando Bloom in Pirates of the Caribbean
Looking at this photo it is pretty obvious where the light is coming from. There is a strong light to his front right, and also a smaller back light on his left.  We will want to do the same thing.  Get a light or two and set it in front of you; put a smaller light to the left.

Lighting is really important; we can change the skin tone, but changing lighting is extremely difficult.  It is easier to get the lighting right while taking the picture than trying to get it to look well in the Gimp.

Me trying to look like Orlando
Notice how I tried to get the lighting to be the same.  It is not perfect, but it is pretty good.  Also; try to get the angle to be the same as well.  You can rotate your face in Gimp, but not change the angle.  It looks like I will need to do just that. My face will need to rotate a bit counter clockwise, but the angle is pretty good.  It helps when you are doing this to look at the ears and see how much of the ears you want showing.

Obviously it is pretty helpful to have someone who is pretty good at photography as well as someone who can guide your face while looking at the image you are trying to duplicate.

Step 2 - Get an image of the face

Use the free select tool and select just the face (no hair).

Select the face with free select tool
You can do this quickly.  It does NOT need to be exact.  The only reason we are doing this is so that we can extract the colors.  Once you have it selected, delete the background and save the image (save as face.jpg or something like that).

Step 3 - Get the color palette

We want our skin tone to match the image as close as we can. We can always try to tweak that by hand working with levels and hue and saturation, but I find this to be difficult. An easier way to do this is to apply the same color palette to our face as the face of Orlando.

With the picture up of the face, go to Image>Mode>Indexed.  With "Generate Optimum Palette" selected, click "Convert." Now go to Windows>Dockable Dialogs>Palettes
Right click on a new or existing palette and select "Import palette."  Select image as the source, give the palette a name and press import.

Step 4 - Apply the color palette

Open the image of the face you wish to convert. Go to Image>Mode>Indexed.

Select "Use custom palette" and press the icon to select the color palette you saved in the previous step.

Now your face will only have the colors of the face of the celebrity.

These two images are using the exact same colors.

It might be easier to see the difference, in this example of flowers:

Example of normal image

Example of image with color palette

The first image is the original.  The second image has Orlando's color palette applied.  The vibrant colors are now less vibrant and more earthy.

Step 5 - Place your face on top of the celebrity's face

Create a new layer and call it something like "My face."  Drag your face onto that layer and resize and place the image so it is exactly over the face on the layer below.  I usually turn the opacity down on the "My face" layer so I can know exactly where I am placing it.

Image with the opacity down to help with placement
Once the image is placed, turn the opacity back up.

Image placed over face
Step 6 - Show only your face

There are a lot of ways you can do this next step.  You can use layer masks, you can just erase the background, you can select the background and delete it etc...

It does not really matter how you do it, but this is how I do it:
I create a copy of the background layer and put it just above the face layer.  Then I use the erase tool and start from the nose erasing Orlando's face.

Levels are off a bit
Once you have erased the face, your face will appear instead. (Tip: if you erase too much, you can press and hold ALT while using the tool to anti erase.)

Even though the face is in place, the levels are off.  Go to Colors>Levels and adjust the levels until it matches well with the neck color.  (Don't forget, while adjusting the levels, in addition to value (black and white) you can also adjust the levels for red, green and blue)

Keep working at it until it looks seamless.  This is pretty good.

Step 7 - Bells and Whistles

Like I mentioned earlier.  I do these for Valentines, so I like to make cheesy sayings.  You don't have to do this, but it makes it a lot of fun.  Remember that Google is your friend and you can search for a lot of different fonts. I did a Valentine for the Twilight movie; to get a font, I just Googled "Twilight font" and got something pretty good.

Below you can see some of my before and after to get some ideas for what you can do.

Glee - Before
Glee - After

Lost - Before
Lost - After

Michael Jackson - Before
Michael Jackson - After

Mr. Darcy - Before
Mr. Darcy - After

Mr. T - Before

Mr. T - After

Chuck Norris - Before

Chuck Norris - After
The Office - Before

The Office - After

Pirates of the Caribbean - Before
Pirates of the Caribbean - After

Star Trek - Before

Star Trek - After

Twilight Edward - Before
Twilight Edward - After

Twilight Jacob - Before
Twilight Jacob - After

Wolverine - Before

Wolverine - After

Zac Effron - Before

Zac Effron - After

Inception - Before

Inception - After

Robin Hood - Before

Robin Hood - After
MI4 - Before

MI4 - After

Thor - Before

Thor - After

About McKay


  1. Well done,I like all the extra examples!

  2. Hey thanks Mike! Doing it has made Valentines day a lot more fun for me!

    Also; thanks for posting a link to my other tutorial on your site. I have been loving your site! I especially like your photography tutorials... will have to try some of those out some time.

  3. As long as I've been using GIMP (5+ years now), I never have used that color palette feature. I have a few photos that have the potential to be improved if I used a different set of tones. Thanks a ton for the great tutorial!

  4. Your photos are amazing Rick! I had a great time going through your website. I am glad you enjoyed the tutorial. Hopefully the color palette works for you... kind of restrictive with just 256 colors, but still a great thing. I am amazed at what I still don't know about the Gimp.

  5. can anyone create a video of this ? thanks

  6. Outstanding!
    I am definitely going to try it. Thank you so much!

  7. Stunning!! Funny!!! Really cool! I just installed Gimp on my Ubuntu. I used to hate Gimp and only used Inkscape, but I'll give the raster graphics world a try. Play time!!!!

  8. Thanks Sitrac. I remember the first time I installed Gimp. I hated it as well... took my a while to get used to, now I love it! Could still use some work on the layout, but it is an amazing program.

  9. It was funny how face of an totally :D innocent man is put on body of a warrior. BUT BRILLIANT results, really

  10. hello, i'm french, sorry for "faute d'orthographe ou de grammaire" but your are "défiguré" orlando bloom, he is a parfect boy ! i'm so sad :(
    this "idée" is good, but that are bad, bad bad (for orlando bloom)

  11. who cares for orlando bloom and his retarded frizzy long hair anyway. personally I think he looks like a girl. he's just some male whore being pimped by motion picture industry execs, still cashing in on (yawn) uberpasse hippie-looks truth be told. informative tutorial here, though. a bit too tedious a process for my short-attn-span. nice to know though nonetheless, just for reference. well done..

  12. i dont understand #5. create new layer? where i can find it? pls put picture of it

  13. Simply marvelous especially Mr T and Michael jackson make me laugh. Please teach us all.

  14. Super useful and simple. Thanks for the guide!

  15. Sometimes you look a lot better than the originals.

  16. Hey there! I was wondering if you knew what the Michael Jackson Bad font was?? Is there anyway you can send?

    1. I just looked up my old Gimp file and it looks like the font I used is called "tagDo." I no longer have the font. You can probably look it up doing a Google search.

  17. I used to hate Gimp and only used Inkscape, but I'll give the raster graphics world a try...!!!!

  18. Any tips on how to keep quality of the photos when applying the extracted color to desired image?

    1. The way I do it now is by going to colors>color balance and trying manually to match up the colors. I apologize that this tutorial is a bit outdated. I will try to do a new one this upcoming valentines day.


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