I recently came across this genius of a project by Steve Payne: ReplaceFace. Payne is a very talented digital artist that had the brilliant idea to photoshop the heads of celebrities onto the bodies of Russian generals painted by George Dawe. The results are awesome & completely badass!
I was totally inspired, and sent him an email asking about prices for custom work – how cool would it be to have a portrait of myself & my boyfriend hanging in our apartment? Unfortunately, I didn’t hear back from Payne, and a quick internet search turned up some pretty pricey quotes for printed & framed versions of work he’s already done – way out of my price range. I work in the advertising/marketing industry, and know my way around Photoshop… I figured I could make my own versions for way less. Payne mentioned in his introductory post that he found hi-res images of the original paintings online, so I started to track down paintings of my own. WikiMedia Commons & the Google Art Project were incredible resources, if a little tedious to sort through. After browsing through different categories of paintings, I decided on 19th century oil portraits. Although I liked the military-themed paintings that Payne chose, I opted for full-length photos – that way I could choose two photos that matched in style for me and my boyfriend. After extensive searching, I chose L’impératrice Eugénie à la Marie-Antoinette by Franz Winterhalter (1854) and Louis XVI, roi de France et de Navarre by Antoine-François Callet (1789).
Next, I took a bunch of photos while trying to mimic the pose in the painting – harder than it looks! I printed out the painting for reference, and eventually got a couple shots I thought would work – then narrowed down to the winner.
Next I photoshopped my face in. In my first attempt, I tried to make the painting match my face, and that didn’t turn out well. The lighting on my face was splotchy/funny, and the proportions looked a little off – something weird with the neck. Also, getting the skin to match mine was iffy:
I started over from scratch, and resized/rotated my face to match the painting this time – that looked much more realistic. After searching for tutorials that showed how to make skin look realistically darker (and turning up nothing usable – I won’t even delve into that topic), I played around with layer effects, levels, paint colors, and color correcting until it was perfect. Luckily, Marie’s skin was pretty much lily-white in the painting, which gave an excellent base to make it match my skin tone. Finally I used Simon Stratford’s Photoshop Oil Paint technique to match the texture of my photo to the painting, and voila! Perfection! I think it looks super realistic, or at least as realistic as a 19th century painting can be!
… and here’s my boyfriend as Louis XVI, perfect because Louis & Marie were really a couple!