Severed Head Tutorial for Photoshop CS3

Updated February 21, 2017

In Photoshop, you can learn to sever a head from a body with just a few commands. If you want an even more ghastly effect, dangle the severed head from the headless person's hand. This will be perfect for a Halloween card visual, or for any time you feel the need to create something particularly gruesome. The secret is to find the best photo for beheading. Try for one that features outstretched hands.

Find a suitable photo online. Upload it to your computer, or browse for a photo in your own files.

Open Photoshop. Click "File," then "Open." Find your chosen photo, and click "Open."

Select the head, face and part of the neck with the "Magnetic Lasso Tool," by tracing around the area.

Press "Control," and "J" to copy and paste the selection onto a new layer. In the "Layers Palette" on the right, click the "Eye" to the left of the new layer to hide it.

Select the original layer in the "Layers Palette." Drag the "Clone Stamp Tool" from the toolbox on the left. Place your cursor on the background, press "Alt" and "Click" and then begin cloning the background over the face, head and neck so the area is completely obliterated.

Reveal the severed head layer, by clicking the empty box to make the "Eye" reappear in the "Layers Palette." Select this layer.

Drag the "Move Tool" from the left toolbox over to the head. Move it down, and position it so that it looks as if it is dangling from an outstretched hand.

Click "Layer," then "New." Use the "Custom Shape Tool" to make a large teardrop shape below the severed neck. Click the foreground box to bring up the "Color Picker." Pick a blood red. Use the "Paint Bucket Tool" to fill the empty shape with blood.

Double-click the layer to bring up the "Layer Style Blending Options." Click "Bevel & Emboss." Under Structure, use these settings: For Style, choose "Inner Bevel;" for Technique, choose "Smooth;" for Depth, move the slider to "171," for Size, "5." Under "Shading," set the Angle and the Altitude at 30 degrees each. Check "Use Global Light." Gloss Contour is the half white/half shade default setting with Anti-aliased unchecked. For "Highlight Mode" use "Screen" at "Opacity" 75. For "Shadow Mode," use "Multiply" at "Opacity" 75, with the colour box showing red.

Click "Layer," then "Duplicate Layer" to make a few copies of the blood drop layer. Select each layer and move the individual blood drops around so they appear to drop from the neck, and from the severed head.

Use the "Ellipse Tool" to create a narrow horizontal oval on the top edge of the severed neck. Fill it with red. Use the same "Layer Style Blending Options" as in Step 9.


To dangle the severed head realistically, choose a photo with outstretched hands. A photo with hands held out palms up will work too; you can place the head on the hands.

Things You'll Need

  • Photoshop Graphics software
  • Picture
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About the Author

Linda Johnson is a veteran writer and Photoshop and Illustrator aficionado. She is a TV-radio producer, ad agency owner and a winner of Addy Awards and the First Place Award for Best National Public Service Film. In addition to Johnson's online work, her writing has appeared in "Poetry Guide," the "Indianapolis Star" and Indianapolis Dine magazine.