When I was a kid, one of my dreams was to become an astronaut. There was no Space Camp for kids at that time; my parents encouraged me by guiding my studies towards topics important to space travel.

Learn how to add a kid's face to this spacesuit photo, hovering above Earth.

Learn how to add a kid's face to this spacesuit photo. Notice the Space Shuttle's reflection on the face glass.

With digital photography, you have another way to encourage your kids—by putting them into space photos.

In this article I show you how to create this fun photo fakery, by placing a kid's face into a NASA spacesuit floating above Earth. Once mastered, this technique can be used to place photos under any type of glass: behind sports car windshields, in airplane cockpits, inside glass buildings, etc.

I provide step-by-step instructions for creating this project with Adobe Photoshop Elements. For those with limited time on their hands, I have a free template offer at the end of this article, with four space images.

This article uses the "layers" and "selection" features in Photoshop Elements. Step-by-step instructions are provided for layers; however, it assumes that you know how to select objects in photos. If these concepts are unfamiliar, you may wish to start by reading Editing Photos with Layers and Selecting Objects with the Magic Wand.

Selecting the Photos

We need two photos to create the space scene fakery. First, we need the space photo into which we insert the kid. Second, we need a photo of the kid's face.

Follow along with this tutorial by first downloading the astronaut high resolution image. Save the image to your hard disk in a place where you can find it, and then return to this page.

Then, select one of your own photos that you wish to place in the spacesuit. This can be an image from a digital camera or a scanned photo.

General Steps

Before diving into the specifics, let's review what we are trying to accomplish. Our goal, of course, is to insert a kid's face into the spacesuit image. The final image should be as realistic as possible.

One way to add realism is to retain the reflections from the glass covering the face. This requires that we separate the glass into a layer of its own, so that we may place it over the kid's face. Separating the glass from the background (in this case a barely visible NASA astronaut's face) is not a trivial task. Instead, we will simulate this by creating a nearly transparent layer.

In the end, the photo composition will have these layers:

  • Top layer: original photo with a low opacity setting, making it nearly transparent, but visible enough to provide the appearance of glare on glass
  • Mask layer: original photo with hole cut out for face
  • Face layer: photo of the kid's face
  • Bottom layer: original photo as background, filling in any gaps between mask and face

Creating the Template File

Now that you have downloaded the space photo and selected another photo to insert, let us create the template file. This file will contain all layers, except for the kid's face.

Tip: Skip the steps in this section by taking advantage of our free template offer at the bottom of this page.

All steps apply to Photoshop Elements 2.0 - 4.0:

  1. Start Photoshop Elements.
  2. Open the original astronaut file you downloaded.

    Commands:
    • File > Open
    • Locate the astronaut-1.jpg file and select it by clicking on it once
    • Click the Open button

  3. Save a copy of this image as a Photoshop (PSD) file.

    Commands:
    • File > Save As
    • Change the Format to Photoshop
    • Enter astronaut-1-template.psd as the file name
    • Click Save

  4. Crop the photo to the dimensions of the print. In this article I will use 4x6" photo paper.

    Commands:
    • Click the Crop Tool Crop Tool
    • On the top toolbar set Width to 4 in
    • On the top toolbar ser Height to 6 in
    • Drag your mouse over the area of the photo you wish to keep and hit Enter to crop

  5. The Layers palette, after the original image has been duplicated twice.

    The Layers palette, after the original image has been duplicated twice.

  6. Duplicate the photo into a new layer. This will be our mask layer into which we will cut a hole for the face to show through.

    Commands:
    • Right-mouse click on the Background image in the Layers palette
    • Choose Duplicate Layer
    • In the As box enter mask
    • Click OK

  7. Duplicate the photo once more and name it glass.
  8. If necessary, move the glass layer to the top.

    Command: In the Layers palette drag the glass layer with your mouse above the mask layer

  9. Hide all layers, except the mask layer.

    Command: In the Layers palette, click the small eye Layer visibility indicator to the left of the layer to be hidden

  10. Zoom in so that the astronaut's face fills the screen. This will make the job of selecting easier.

    Commands:
    • Click the Zoom Tool Zoom Tool
    • Drag your mouse over the astronaut's face

  11. Create a hole in the mask layer, through which your own photo will show.
    A transparent hole was created in place of the astronaut's face mask.

    A transparent hole was created in place of the astronaut's face mask. Notice that several strong glare areas have been left around the perimeter.



    Commands:
    • Select the mask layer by clicking on it in the Layers palette
    • Use the various selection tools Magic Wand Tool Lasso Tool Magnetic Lasso Tool to select the spacesuit's face mask to be removed (made transparent)

      If you are not sure how to select complex objects in photos, please see Selecting Objects with the Magic Wand for detailed instructions.

      I used the Magnetic Lasso Tool Magnetic Lasso Tool to select the entire face shield, but left the bright glare areas on the left and bottom edges.

    • Once the face mask is selected, hit the delete key to remove it
    • Reapeat selection and deletion steps as necessary, until a transparent hole exists to your satisfaction
    • Select > Deselect

  12. Reduce the opacity of the glass layer so that your photo will show through.

    Commands:
    • Make the glass layer visible

      Command: In the Layers palette click the location where the small eye Layer visibility indicator should be

    • Select the glass layer by clicking on it in the Layers palette
    • In the Layers palette set Opacity to 30

      With this setting, the face mask may appear transparent, but the glare of the Space Shuttle should become visible after your photo is inserted.

  13. Make the Background layer visible.

    Command: In the Layers palette click the location where the small eye Layer visibility indicator should be

  14. Save your work.

    Command: File > Save

Inserting the Face

The only thing left to do is insert a kid's face into the template.

This is the original photo of the kid's face used in the examples.

This is the original photo of the kid's face used in the examples.

  1. If you have created the template file in the previous section, make sure it is still open in Photoshop Elements.
  2. If you have downloaded one of our templates, open it now.

    Commands:
    • File > Open
    • Locate the file to open on your computer (astronaut-1-template.psd, astronaut-2-template.psd, astronaut-3-template.psd, or space-shuttle-template.psd) and select it by clicking on it once
    • Click the Open button

  3. Open one of your own digital photos containing a kid's face you wish to insert.
  4. Copy the face into a new layer of the template file.

    Commands:
    • Use the various selection tools Magic Wand Tool Lasso Tool Magnetic Lasso Tool to select the face, neck, and shoulder

      If you are not sure how to select complex objects in photos, please see Selecting Objects with the Magic Wand for detailed instructions.

    • Once the face has been selected, Feather the selection so that it blends with the background

      Commands:
      • Select > Feather
      • Enter a value in Feather Radius. Generally a value of 1 to 3 is sufficient.

        Because the photo I chose is set against a complex palm tree pattern, I used a setting of 3 to lessen the appearance of green in her hair. Experiment to find the proper feather radius setting for your photo.

      • Click OK

    • Create a new layer from the selection

      Command: Layer > New > Layer via Copy

    • Right-mouse click on Layer 1 in the Layers palette
    • Choose Duplicate Layer
    • In the Document drop-down list select the name of the template file
    • In the As box enter face
    • Click OK

  5. Close the photo with the kid's face without saving it.

    Commands:
    • File > Close
    • On the prompt asking if you want to save changes, click No

    This action closes the photo and makes the template file visible.

  6. Image of the face has been inserted and moved under the glass layer.

    Image of the face has been inserted and moved under the glass layer.

  7. Move the face layer under the glass layer.

    Command: In the Layers palette drag the face layer with your mouse under the glass layer

    The face layer will eventually have to be under the mask layer, but it is easier to position and size above the mask.

  8. Size and position the face image to fit the opening in the mask layer.
    Face image has been sized to fit the mask opening.

    Face image has been sized to fit the mask opening.



    Commands:
    • Click on the face layer in the Layers palette to select it
    • Click the Move Tool Move Tool
    • While holding down the Shift key, drag one corner of the photo image to size it. At this point an approximate size is sufficient.

      Tip: Always remember to hold down the Shift key on your keyboard while sizing photos to prevent distortion.

    • Drag within the image to position it within the mask opening
    • Repeat sizing and positioning steps until the photo fits the opening to your satisfaction

      Tip: To make it easier to position and size the photo, zoom in close by pressing Ctrl = several times. Zoom back out by pressing Ctrl -.

    • Click the checkmark button on the toolbar to accept position and size

  9. Move the face layer under the mask layer.

    Command: In the Layers palette drag the face layer with your mouse under the mask layer

  10. Make sure that all layers are visible, including the background.

    Command: In the Layers palette click the location where the small eye Layer visibility indicator should be

  11. Opacity of the glass layer has been set to give a realistic glare on the face mask.

    Opacity of the glass layer has been set to give a realistic glare on the face mask.

  12. If necessary, adjust the opacity of the glass layer so that the kid's face and the Space Shuttle's reflection are visible.

    Commands:
    • Select the glass layer by clicking on it in the Layers palette
    • In the Layers palette adjust Opacity to your satisfaction

  13. Save your work.

    Command: File > Save

  14. If you have a printer, print the finished image.

    Command: File > Print

  15. If you do not have a printer, save the finished image as a JPEG file and upload to an online developer (see Online Digital Photo Developing).

    Commands:
    • File > Save As
    • Change the Format to JPEG
    • Accept the suggested name or enter another unique name for this file, ending with .jpg
    • Click Save
    • On the JPEG Options screen set Quality to 12 and Format Options to Baseline ("Standard")


I hope you enjoyed making this photo project. Don't forget that you can use these techniques to put your kids into almost any photo with glass: vehicles, airplanes, buildings, etc.

Free Template Offer

To save you steps while creating this photo project, we have developed the following 4x6" Photoshop Elements templates, into which you can insert your own photos:

Astronaut 1 in spacesuit above Earth

Astronaut 1

Astronaut 2 in spacesuit above Earth

Astronaut 2

Astronaut 3 in spacesuit, waving

Astronaut 3

Nose of Space Shuttle in space

Space Shuttle

To use the templates, you will need the following:

  • Knowledge of how to download, save, and open ZIP files
  • Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0, or the older 3.0 or 2.0 versions, installed on your machine
  • Basic knowledge of how to use Photoshop Elements

* Go to the Template Downloads page »