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Making a Pirate Face Picture

Have you ever wanted to be a pirate? Perhaps when you were young, the idea of wearing a patch over an eye, firing cannon balls, and amassing huge chests of plundered gold appealed to you. If you don't have the energy or motivation to find a ship or get a crew together, don't fret. You can still act the part! In the following tutorial, I will show you how to manipulate a photo of yourself to make it look as if you've been swashbuckling across the open seas.


  1. Take a new file (3000px X 2400px) and name it as “pirate face manipulation”. Take an image of a pirate character. We have taken a sample from “”. Drop it on the “pirate face manipulation” file.

  2. Keep the pirate character out of the image and remove everything else, using “pen tool”. Now we have a pirate character with a blank face and we can put any face in the place of the devoid face. Please notice the layer, named “pirate costume”.

  3. Now we should take another image to have the face which will be put into the empty location under the “pirate costume” layer. We have taken a sample from “”. Let’s name the layer as “pirate face”.
  4. Rotate the new Pirate face image as needed to fit best.

  5. We should adjust the color balance [ Image> Adjustment > Color Balance (+44), 0, (-36) ]. Also we need to adjust the brightness and contrast [Image> Adjustment >Brightness/Contrast, brightness: (-49) and contrast: (35) ]. The parameters may vary with your chosen image.

  6. We should now remove everything else except the facial portion at layer “pirate face”, using “eraser tool”.

  7. Take the “eraser tool” [ soft round ] and erase the unnecessary portions of the “costume layer” so that the “pirate face” layer merges intimately with the “costume layer”.

  8. You should able to see some differences between the two layers and they are not yet merged correctly. We have to make some more adjustments of the properties [ hue/saturation, brightness/contrast, color balance ] of the two layers. For example, we have adjusted the “saturation” [ (-16) ] here, in the layer “pirate face”.

  9. Now we should take the “burn tool” and burn some areas of the face, so that it looks more natural and some parts of the face take a ‘sun burn’ look. We set “burn tool” at “Range: midtones” and “Exposure: 15%”. Again at “Range: highlight” and “Exposure: 15%”.

  10. We should again adjust the “saturation” [ Image>Adjustment> Hue/Saturation, (-9) ] and finally the face is totally merged with the costume.

  11. Now we should take an image of a skull. We have taken a sample from “”. Crop the skull from the image and drop it over the “pirate costume” layer. Decreasing the “opacity”, we should move and rotate the skull so that it fits to the pirate face.

  12. Adjust “brightness/contrast” of the skull, brightness: 64 and contrast: (-36). Set the “skull” layer at “hard light” mode.

  13. Now under the “skull” layer, right beneath the eye socket, draw a black hole with “brush” [ soft round ]. Also erase the unnecessary parts of the skull.

  14. Use “dodge tool” to raise up some parts of the skull. Set the “dodge tool” ” at “Range: midtones” and “Exposure: 20%”.

  15. We are almost done with the pirate face manipulation and now we shall be putting a relevant background to enhance the image. Here we have taken a sample from “”.

  16. Now we should edit the “brightness/contrast” of the background image. We set the parameters at “brightness: 100%” and “contrast: 42%”.

  17. We select all the layers without the “background” layer (old-ship-at-sunset…). We create a group (Ctrl + G) with the selected layers. Rename the group as “Pirate Light”.

  18. Adjust the “saturation” (-48) of the background layer. Burn some areas of the background layer and make it darker.

  19. Now duplicate the group and rename as “Pirate Dark”. Darken the layer “Pirate Dark” and erase some of the vital areas e.g. face, sword etc. so that we can see the brighter parts of the lower image. Merge both the groups.

  20. Merge both the “Pirate Dark” and “Pirate Light” layers and rename it as “Pirate” layer. [ Points 17, 18, 19 and 20 are for advanced users ]

  21. Now “burn” [ “Range: midtones” and “Exposure: 30%” ] both of the “background” and “Pirate” layers.

  22. Create a new adjustment layer at the top of all layers. Go to layer à new adjustment layer à color balance (-17),(3),(54). Thus we should adjust the color balance of the whole image.

  23. Again adjust the “Saturation” of the background by going to image à adjustment à hue/saturation. Set the saturation at (-44).

  24. Now we should some smokes to create a more mysterious atmosphere. We shall take a new layer above the old ship background layer and draw some smoke using “soft round” brush.

  25. We should go to filter à liquefy. Use “forward warp” tool and “twirl clockwise” tool to create some to create some smoke effect.

  26. After applying the “liquefy” tool, we should decrease the “layer opacity” to around 50%. Now we should erase some areas using “eraser” setting the “opacity” to 50%. After erasing the smoke, we can get a more natural mystic sea-shore atmosphere.

  27. To finish the whole process, the last job that we have to do is to apply some lights on the pirate character and the ship behind. We can do this using either the “brush” or “pen” tool. For pen tool, we should select the areas and right click on the screen, apply stroke path à tool à brush [ simulate pressure ].

  28. Finally, we are done with this manipulation.


Bill is the project manager at Spotted Frog, an online marketing firm based in Philadelphia. He enjoys short walks on the beach, blogging about design, and playing pinball.