How To Use Puppet Warp in Photoshop

In this tutorial, we’re going to talk about how to use the Puppet Warp in Photoshop and it’s a handy tool to use in order to manipulate your subject’s pose!

Puppet Warp can be very useful for many distortions, such as shaping hair and repositioning body parts. You can distort the image by dragging over the pins that you create over the mesh.

In this video, you’re going to learn how the Puppet Warp works in Photoshop and how you can take advantage of all the options available in this tool.

Puppet Warp Options

These are the different settings that you can adjust for the Puppet Warp in the Options Bar.

  • Mode: Determines the stretchiness of the mesh.
  • Density: Determines the spacing of mesh points. Having fewer points gives you less precise control. While having more points increases precision but requires more processing time.
  • Expansion: Expands or contracts the edge of the mesh.
  • Show Mesh: Deselect to show only adjustment pins, making your adjustments easier to see.

Puppet Warp in Photoshop Keyboard Shortcuts

These are the Photoshop keyboard shortcuts that are available to you while in the Puppet Warp.

  • Ctrl A (Mac: Command A) – Select all pins.
  • Ctrl D (Mac: Command D) – Deselect all pins.
  • Shift-Click on any pins to select multiple pins.
  • Hold down the H key to hide pins. Release to bring back the pins.
  • Alt-Click (Mac: Option-Click) on a Pin to Delete it.
  • Hold Alt (Mac: Option) near to, but not over a pin to reveal a circle that allows you to rotate the pin.
  • Press the Esc key to cancel distortions.

Tutorial Image

 Convert Layer Into a Smart Object

On your working space, prepare a Background layer and a Subject with a masked out the background. Convert the Subject layer into a Smart Object by right-clicking > Convert to Smart Object

Select Convert to Smart Object

Apply The Puppet Warp and Create Pins Over Your Layer

Choose Edit > Puppet Warp.

Select Puppet Warp

Initially, it will apply a mesh around your layer, and you can disable this by going to the Options bar and unchecking the box for Show Mesh

Check the box for Show Mesh

Create pins over the layer by clicking on the Subject’s joints so that when you manipulate its pose, it looks more natural. 

Add pins to the joints

If you click-and-drag on a pin, you will see how the Subject’s body moves naturally as you add movement.

The Puppet Warp Mode (Rigid, Normal, or Distort)

The Mode determines the elasticity of the mesh, and by default, it is set to Normal where you can easily manipulate the position and pose of the Subject. 

Set the Mode to Normal

By switching it to Distort, then clicking-and-dragging on one of the pins, you will notice how it distorts the mesh by altering its perspective and scale around the pinned area. 

Set the Mode to Distort

If you set the Mode to Rigid, it has the exact opposite effect by having less elasticity than the Normal 

and Distort mode.  

Set the Mode to Rigid

The Puppet Warp Density (Fewer Points, Normal, More Points)

The Density determines the spacing of the mesh points, which means More Points increase precision but more processing time. 

Set the Density to More Points

The Fewer Points option gives you less precision but with faster processing time. 

The Puppet Warp Mesh Expansion

Zooming into the image, the Subject has a wayward backpack strap sticking out with its own mesh. In fact, you can click on it to add a point and transform its position. 

However, if you don’t want this to be the case and you want it to be part of the subject’s main mesh, then head over to the Options bar and adjust the Expansion.

Adjust the Expansion

Expansion controls how the mesh expands or contracts around the Subject, and you can adjust this by pixel. By increasing the Expansion value, the strap is now part of the main mesh.

Delete Puppet Warp Pins

Click on a pin you want to remove to activate it > right-click > Delete Pin.

Select Delete Pin

A faster way of doing it is by clicking on a pin and pressing Delete (Windows) or Backspace (macOS).

Another method is hovering over a pin and pressing Alt (Windows) or Option (macOS).  

Puppet Warp Pin Depth

If two limbs or parts of the Subject’s body overlap each other and you want the other one to be on top instead, select the pin you want to move. 

On the Options bar, you have two Pin Depth options, and you can click either of the icons to perform commands of moving the selected pin forward or backward. 

Select the Pin Depth

Puppet Warp Rotate Pin (Auto or Fixed)

On the Options bar, Rotate has a drop-down menu with two options: Auto and Fixed

Select an option for Rotate

With the Rotate set to Auto, clicking-and-dragging on a pin automatically rotates it, and you can see it in real-time with the Rotate Angle input box showing the angle of rotation as you move a pin. 

Click on a pin and change the Rotate to Fixed

This time, as you click-and-drag on the elbow’s pin, the forearm’s position is fixed and doesn’t change its angle even if you drastically move the pin around. 

Make Subtle Distortions To Keep Things Realistic

When you’re distorting an image, it’s essential to keep it as realistic as possible. 

For example, clicking on the knee’s pin and rotating it creates an unrealistic bend on the thigh area. To keep it affixed on its original position, click on the thigh area to add a pin on it and, therefore, “pinning” it into place. 

To rotate an area, hover your mouse near a pin until a circle appears around it. Drag your mouse on either side to rotate that part of the mesh.

Rotate the pins

Then, click on the Options bar’s checkmark to commit to the changes you applied on this Subject. 

The Advantages of Working Non-Destructively

Since the Puppet Warp tool is applied to a Smart Object, this makes it non-destructive. This means you can quickly go back and tweak the adjustments by double-clicking on the Puppet Warp label to bring the pins back and readjust it as you need.

You can also click on the Reset icon to reset the pins and start over. 

The Puppet Warp tool will surely be your favorite part in Photoshop as it allows you to have more control with the posture of your subjects, whether it’s a person or an inanimate objects.

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