The Puppet Warp feature of Photoshop CS5

With the new Puppet Warp feature in Photoshop CS5 your ability to manipulate features in your images becomes easier and more precise than ever before.

All of us have had a shot that would’ve been better
if only the subject was holding their arm just a bit more to the left, if only they moved their leg up a little,

if only they were in a better position to reveal more of the background. You get the idea. Here’s how to fix some of those if onlys by becoming the puppet master of your image.

Here’s an image of a kayaker who obviously is pointing the wrong way home. I will use
Puppet Warp to give him a better sense of direction.

Point Up

I’ll do a quick select of my subject with the Quick Selection Tool
quick select tool quick selected

Then I will create a new layer for the subject with the Layer Via Copy command:

layer via copy

With the subject as my active layer I will select the Puppet Warp function in the Edit Menu:

puppet warp menu

After I hit select, you see that the subject has been wrapped in a mesh that you can think of as actual points that flex or hinges that enable adjustment.


Now, I click around within the mesh to place control points that will either hold the mesh in place (solid yellow dot) or become the point that you can move the subject (black dot inside of the yellow). You can click on any point to make it active, add more points as you go along, or remove points by Option Clicking on them.

control dots

Now after a bit of arm twisting my subject is pointing the right way. It takes a bit of fiddling to get things just right, and you’ll see that adding and removing points during the process really helps.


When I like the changes I’ll hit the check symbol on the upper right and apply the changes.

Commit Warp

You notice now that the kayaker has three arms, and as much as that may help him paddle to shore, it makes for a rather disconcerting image. I will make the unaltered layer active and again using the Quick Select Tool, select the offending arm. I’ll also enlarge my selection by 2 pixels to prevent any fringing.

expand selectionbad arm select

Under the Edit Menu I’ll click Fill and choose the Content Aware option at 100% opacity.

content aware fill

When I click OK the old arm disappears and is filled by the appropriate background imagery.

content aware fill ok

Now all I need to do is flatten my layers, and my kayaker now becomes an expert guide home. If I really wanted to finesse this further I would play with the lighting on the newly moved arm because the shadows are a bit off and to make the muscle behind the elbow a bit more natural, but this will do for now.

Point straight