Elena' s AI Blog

Super-girls don't cry in face-swaps

18 Mar 2024 / 34 minutes to read

Elena Daehnhardt

Pica AI, Web app:  Me with a White Horse, touched to add a smiler and colour
I am still working on this post, which is mostly complete. Thanks for your visit!


Face-swapping is a technique for altering digital images or videos by replacing one person’s face with another. It uses machine learning and computer vision algorithms to detect and map one individual’s facial features onto another’s face, seamlessly blending the two to create a composite image or video.

Face swaps are a fun way to digitally swap faces from two different photos or videos. They have other applications in marketing, education, multimedia production, and entertainment.

This post describes the simplest solution for creating perfect, effortless face swaps with the Insight Face Bot. I also mention a few other approaches for creating face swaps with coding or the help of available AI tools. This post also includes excellent related research papers and GitHub repositories.

Finally, we will write Python code to demonstrate face detection, image processing, and manipulation tasks such as face swapping, blending, and result presentation.

Face swap tools

There are several ways to get started with face swapping:

  • Mobile Apps: many popular mobile apps allow you to do face swaps, like Face Swap Live, YouCam Perfect, and HelloFace. These apps are easy to use and often come with pre-loaded celebrity faces you can swap yours with.

  • Online Tools: many websites offer free face-swapping tools. These websites typically work by uploading your photos and letting the website’s AI do the face-swapping magic. Some popular options include Pica AI and Face Swapper.

I have tried Pica AI web app, which is very effortless in creating face-swaps, and challenged it with my photo with glasses. Interestingly, Pica AI did not mind my glasses in the original image and produced quite a good result.

Pica AI:  Elena with a White Horse

Pica AI, Web app: Me with a White Horse

I am thinking twice before cutting my hair (I have a scheduled appointment with my hairdresser). The messy bun looks nice :)

Pica AI:  Elena with a new hair up-do

Face Swapper, Web app: Me with an up-do

  • Software Programs: Software programs that offer more features and control over face swapping are available for more advanced face swapping.
    1. Snapchat offers a variety of face filters, including face-swapping lenses, that allow you to swap your face with a friend or a celebrity.
    2. FaceApp is known for its advanced face-swapping and transformation features. It can change your age, gender, and more.

There are so many applications and online services that I could spend my weekend searching.

Further, I want to try my favourite tools and share my face-swap secrets with you. We will use Midjourney to generate endless scene possibilities and the InsightFaceSwap bot, which works instantly and flawlessly.

Ultimately, we will explore fantastic Python libraries that you can use to develop your face-detection or face-swapping applications.

Let’s swap!

We must choose the right tools and use good original photos to create high-quality face swaps.

The face-swapping steps include:

  1. Selecting good-quality original photos that we want to see in our face-swapping results. Refrain from repeating myself (I like to hard-test these apps sometimes), and avoid using glasses or other challenging details to get the best result.
  2. Creating or selecting scenery images (they also have one face to be swapped) wherein we want to integrate our original photos.
  3. Feed these two inputs to an AI app that can do face-swapping or code our algorithm.

Original photos

Here are some things to keep in mind when using face swaps:

  • Photo Quality: your photos’ quality will affect the face swap’s quality. Make sure your images are clear, well-lit, and have good contrast.

  • Pose and Angle: The faces in your photos should be facing in a similar direction and at a similar angle. This will help the software better align the faces.

Vivid imagination and great ideas

There are so many possibilities and ideas we can experiment with in face-swapping! The imagination is limitless. You can use face-swapping for fun or when producing your marketing or video content to save costs for photography and effort for building up scenery and equipment!

What did I want to draw? I wanted to draw myself riding on a robot horse (you can see the result in my previous post from September 2023 Two Years of Elena’s AI Blog, in which I also used Canva to look more appropriate). I also wanted to feel like a superhero and spend time at the Ocean coastline, among many other things. I use face-swapping for this website, as you see on my first page.

Scenes in Midjourney

Photorealistic and HD images

I use Midjourney to create scenery. I love using “photorealistic” and “HD” in my prompts for better image results. You can also specify a high-resolution camera and get photographic effects.

Reproducible results with –seed

Moreover, since Midjourney generates images randomly, the same prompt can produce different results. Sometimes, we want to make different alterations while preserving the same image. The seed parameter is handy when reproducible results are required.

With the “–-seed [seed_number]” parameter, we can control the algorithm’s randomness and get almost the same image generated the first time.

Mastering Midjourney Prompts for Stunning Images
Interested about the seed and other Midjourney parameters? - refer to my post Mastering Midjourney Prompts for Stunning Images. Mastering Midjourney Prompts for Stunning Images

I recommend playing with the “–-seed” parameter and trying region variations. These are useful for fixing little details, such as hand drawings, which are still challenging for AI.

Look-a-likes in Midjourney

The simplest “face-swaps” can be achieved with the following steps. This approach would produce a “look-a-like” image that captures the main traits of your original photo but is not really what we call “face-swaps.” However, this can also be useful so that I will mention it briefly.

A. Prepare your face image:

  1. Add your photo by pressing the plus icon at the bottom of the Discord screen. Alternatively, use your or other image from the Web;
  2. Right-click on the uploaded image and select “Copy Link”;
  3. Use the /IMAGINE prompt, starting with your image URL and followed by your desired prompt text;

/imagine https_URL Elena is at the ocean, HD

Midjouney:  Elena is at the ocean, HD

Midjouney: Elena is at the ocean, HD

I liked the first image, which looks quite similar. The first image option is usually the best, but the choice is yours.

Midjouney:  Elena is at the ocean, HD (the first variation)

Midjouney: Elena is at the ocean, HD (the first variation)

B. Create a scenery:

  1. Create a scenery image without your face, using a desired prompt;
  2. Click the half-moon-plus icon at the upper right of the image where you want to get the seed;
  3. In the search box, type in :envelope and click on the envelope (3);
  4. Get the seed number (2622739678), which will appear in your Inbox.

I like red dresses, so I included them in my text prompt.

/imagine Elena in red dress looks into the camera, is at the ocean, stormy weather, HD

I had to do several generations and created this variation:

Midjouney:  Elena in red dress looks into the camera, is at the ocean, stormy weather, HD

Midjouney: Elena in red dress looks into the camera, is at the ocean, stormy weather, HD

Note that the girl in the image is not looking into the camera. However, the body is positioned well. In other generations, the girl was standing in different directions. This is why adding this detail to your prompts might be a good idea.

C. Combine your face and the scenery image:

  1. Right-click on your face image from stage A, and get a URL (face_URL);
  2. Get the seed number (seed_number) from the stage B;
  3. Try out image generations by combining your face image with the previously retrieved seed value of scenery and a prompt (text_prompt).

/imagine https_URL Elena in red dress looks into the camera, is at the ocean, stormy weather, HD --seed 2622739678

I did some variations and different prompts.

Midjouney:  Elena is at the ocean, some variations

Midjouney: Elena is at the ocean, some variations

However, the result is not yet satisfactory. It looks so different from me!

Insight Face Bot

I love using the InsightFaceSwap bot, which can be invited to your Discord bot.

Indeed, you should install the Discord server to perform face swaps in InsightFace. However, it is so easy!

First, we create a Discord server. Press a big plus button on the left and choose “Create My Own”. You do not need to invite anyone to your server should you like to keep it private.

Discord, adding a server with Create My Own

Discord, adding a server with Create My Own

Next, you invite Insight Face Bot. You can get the Official InsightFace APP, invitation link for the bot. I am not affiliated with them, this is just an invitation link.

To invite the Insight bot, sign up for your Discord server, click on this link, and you will be asked to which server to add this bot. Fill out some fields, and you will be ready to go swapping.

If something is not clear, I suggest you read about installing and creating Discord servers in How to Make, Set Up, and Manage a Discord Server.

You get 50 credits to start using the free version. Each face swap costs three credits. Choose a good photo to start.

The solution for swapping your face in an imaginary scene or any image is as follows:

  1. Upload your (or your desired) photo and register the identity (your_identity_id) with “/saveid” (high-quality, no glasses, and front-view photos preferred).
  2. Create your Midjoiurney scene or use any photo/image, but be mindful of copyright and legal issues.
  3. Use the prompt, in which you will be able to attach your scene image: /swapid your_identity_id your_scene_image

/swapid your_identity_id your_scene_image

Discord bots: Midjouney plus InsightFaceSwap for Elena in red dress at stormy beach

Discord bots: Midjouney plus InsightFaceSwap for Elena in red dress at stormy beach

The face is too large; there needs to be a better proportion.

To list all your IDs use:


To set your default swap ID with the idname already defined in your list:

/setid idname

I always wanted to fly over great falls, and as a super-girl, I can do it quickly:

The super-girl, close up face, flies over great falls on sunny day, high-resolution HD Canon camera

The simplest way to do the instant face-swap is to click the tree dots at an image frame and choose the “INSwapper” in the apps:

Midjouney: the super-girl, close up face, flies over great falls on sunny day, high-resolution HD Canon camera, open the INSwapper app Midjouney + INSwapper result: Elena as the super-girl, close up face, flies over great falls on sunny day, high-resolution HD Canon camera

Discord bots: Midjouney plus InsightFaceSwap for Elena as a super-girl that flies over great falls

If you are interested in creating fantastic portraits, you can also read Using Midjourney and the Picsi.AI by InsightFaceSwap Bot to create a personalized portrait.

Code it yourself

While writing Python code with libraries such as OpenCV or TensorFlow (read my previous posts if interested in TensorFlow usage) for face swaps is technically possible, it’s a complex task. Creating a face swap model for production requires expertise in deep learning and computer vision.

Here’s a breakdown of the challenges and potential approaches:


Data Collection: Large dataset of aligned faces needed for training Model Architecture: Knowledge of CNNs and GANs required Fine-tuning: Expertise needed for fine-tuning pre-trained models

Alternative Approaches:

Pre-trained Models and Libraries: consider using existing open-source libraries like DeepFaceLab and DeepFaceLive( see GitHub repositories DeepFaceLab andDeepFaceLive) or FaceSwap (Faceswap) that are built on PyTorch and TensorFlow and have pre-trained models. These libraries might require some configuration but offer a more accessible approach.

I suggest also checking the Ghost repository and the Google Colab demonstrating face-swaps in images and video. The paper GHOST—A New Face Swap Approach for Image and Video Domains by A. Groshev at el. explains the algorithm behind the application.

Cloud platforms like Google Cloud AI Platform or Amazon Rekognition offer pre-built APIs for face manipulation tasks, including face swapping.

Pre-trained models, libraries, or cloud services might be a more realistic approach for beginners.

To start coding face-swaps in Python, I suggest doing the following steps:

  1. Use libraries such as OpenCV, TensorFlow, Keras for image preprocessing;
  2. Check dlib (get_frontal_face_detector and shape_predictor) for detecting faces and facial landmarks, or OpenCV’s pre-trained face detection model (CascadeClassifier, see haarcascades);
  3. Resize the faces to have the same dimensions (cv2.resize);
  4. Create a mask using the convex hull of the facial landmarks, for instance, with cv2 (convex hull, a nice tutorial on Convex Hull), to blend the source image with the destination image well. The convex hull is a tight wrapper around key points on an object in an image, forming its basic outline. It guides seamless merging and prevents distortions at the edges.
  5. Create an affine transformation matrix for mapping the source facial landmarks to the destination landmarks. Facial landmarks act as a grid, while an affine transformation matrix warps the source image to align with the destination landmarks. The matrix holds the instructions for this warping, enabling the source image to align with the destination’s face shape.
  6. Finally, swap face images. To deal with the image edges and blending, you can try playing with masking and cv2.seamlessClone. OpenCV lets you seamlessly copy an object from one image to another using Poisson blending.


Try out the following GPT prompt to create your code draft. However, you will not get a complete solution (I have tried Google Gemini and chatGPT 4.0), at least yet:

Write me a Python code using OpenCV (CascadeClassifier, convex hull, affine transform), a function that swaps face from image1 to the face found in image2.

Please let me know how it goes; I might include a link to your project in this post.

However, GPT-generated code will have to be fixed in many parts.

I used the OpenCV library in a Python environment, specifically tailored for use in Google Colab. It outlines a function named swap_face that automates detecting, extracting, and swapping faces between two given images.

The script starts by importing cv2 for OpenCV functions and numpy for numerical operations.

The cv2_imshow function from google.colab.patches is imported to display images directly in Google Colab notebooks, as Colab does not directly support OpenCV’s imshow.

The swap_face function is defined as swapping faces between two images. It takes three parameters:

  • scene_image_path: The file path for the background image where the face will be placed.
  • face_image_path: The file path for the image containing the face to be copied onto the background image.
  • paste_source_images: A boolean flag indicating whether to include the original images alongside the final result for demonstration purposes.

The function is called with paths to the input images and the paste_source_images flag set to True.

# Code for the article
from google.colab.patches import cv2_imshow
import cv2
import numpy as np

# Function to swap faces between two images
def swap_face(scene_image_path, face_image_path, paste_source_images=False):
    # Read images
    scene_image = cv2.imread(scene_image_path)
    face_image = cv2.imread(face_image_path)

    # Load pre-trained face detection model
    face_cascade = cv2.CascadeClassifier(cv2.data.haarcascades + 'haarcascade_frontalface_default.xml')

    # Convert images to grayscale for face detection
    gray1 = cv2.cvtColor(scene_image, cv2.COLOR_BGR2GRAY)
    gray2 = cv2.cvtColor(face_image, cv2.COLOR_BGR2GRAY)

    # Detect faces in both images
    scene_faces = face_cascade.detectMultiScale(gray1, 1.3, 5)
    desired_faces = face_cascade.detectMultiScale(gray2, 1.3, 5)

    if len(scene_faces) != 1 or len(desired_faces) != 1:
        raise ValueError("Each image must contain exactly one face.")

    # Extract face coordinates
    x1, y1, w1, h1 = scene_faces[0]
    x2, y2, w2, h2 = desired_faces[0]

    # Resize the second face to fit the dimensions of the first face
    face2_resized = cv2.resize(face_image[y2:y2+h2, x2:x2+w2], (w1, h1))

    # Create an elliptical mask to define the blending region
    mask = np.zeros((h1, w1), dtype=np.uint8)
    center = (w1 // 2, h1 // 2)
    # axes = (w1 // 2, h1 // 2) # This can be adjusted based on the face shape
    axes = (w1 // 3+15, h1 // 3+18) # Here I have adjusted for my own image
    cv2.ellipse(mask, center, axes, 0, 0, 360, 255, -1)

    # Apply Gaussian blurring to the mask edges to smooth the transition
    blurred_mask = cv2.GaussianBlur(mask, (21, 21), 0)

    # Convert the blurred mask to 3 channels
    blurred_mask_3ch = cv2.cvtColor(blurred_mask, cv2.COLOR_GRAY2BGR)

    # Use the blurred mask for blending
    face_area = scene_image[y1:y1+h1, x1:x1+w1]
    blended_face = cv2.seamlessClone(face2_resized, face_area, blurred_mask_3ch, center, cv2.NORMAL_CLONE)

    # Place the blended face back into the original image
    result_image = scene_image.copy()
    result_image[y1:y1+h1, x1:x1+w1] = blended_face

    if paste_source_images:
      # Paste the source images for the example
      width, height = scene_image.shape[:2]
      x, y = width, height # We keep these coordinates for pasting
      width, height = width // 3, height // 3 # Make the image three times smaller
      scene_image_resized = cv2.resize(scene_image, (width, height ))
      result_image[y-height:y, x-width: x] = scene_image_resized[0:height, 0:width]

      width, height = face_image.shape[:2]
      width, height = width // 3, height // 3
      face_image_resized = cv2.resize(face_image, (width, height ))
      result_image[y-height:y, x-width*2: x-width] = face_image_resized[0:height, 0:width]

      # Arrow line colour in BGR
      red_color = (0, 0, 255)
      result_image = cv2.arrowedLine(result_image, (x-width-20, y-height//2),
                        (x-width+20, y-height//2), red_color, 2, tipLength = 0.3)

    return result_image

scene_image_path = '/content/red_dress.png'
face_image_path = '/content/super_girl.png'

swapped_image = swap_face(scene_image_path, face_image_path, paste_source_images=True)

Playing with OpenSV, CascadeClassifier for face detection and simple face-swaps

Playing with OpenSV, CascadeClassifier for face detection and simple face-swaps

The function reads both images using OpenCV’s imread method. It uses a pre-trained Haar Cascade classifier to detect faces by converting the images to grayscale and then applying the detectMultiScale method.

Faces are detected in both images. The script checks to detect exactly one face in each image. If not, it raises a value error.

Coordinates of the detected faces are used to extract the face regions. The face from the second image is resized to match the dimensions of the face in the first image.

We create an elliptical mask to define the region where faces will be combined. Gaussian blurring smooths the edges. This mask is used to blend the resized face with the background image via OpenCV’s seamlessClone method for a natural-looking blend with nearby color and texture.

I have used the Gaussian blur to merge two images. This is not a perfect solution. To create finer face swap, refer to the Kaggle notebook by Hamed Etezadi Face Swap Using Dlib. The code is also in GitHub repository.

If paste_source_images is True, the script pastes the original images onto the final image for comparison. It resizes the source images, places them in designated positions, and draws an arrow between them to indicate the face swap. The modified scene image is returned.

However, you will still have much to do. For instance, you must correct the colour of the swapped faces since two input images have different colour shades.

I have asked chatGPT the following:

How could I further improve the code?

Improving the face swapping code can enhance its versatility, efficiency, and output quality. Here are some suggestions for further improvements:

### 1. **Enhanced Face Detection**
- **Use More Advanced Models**: Consider using more sophisticated face detection models like DNN-based models available in OpenCV (e.g., `cv2.dnn.readNetFromCaffe` or `cv2.dnn.readNetFromTensorflow`) for more accurate face detection, especially in challenging lighting or angles.

### 2. **Dynamic Mask Creation**
- **Face Landmarks for Precise Masking**: Integrate facial landmarks detection (using libraries like dlib or the `face_recognition` module) to create more precise masks that better fit the facial features. This can significantly improve the blending of the swapped face into the target image.

### 3. **Blending Improvements**
- **Multi-scale Blending**: Instead of a single Gaussian blur for the mask, use multi-scale blending techniques to create a more seamless and natural-looking blend, especially at the edges.

### 4. **Handling Multiple Faces**
- **Support for Multiple Faces**: Extend the function to handle images with multiple faces. This would involve iterating over detected faces and applying the swap operation to each pair of faces. Careful consideration is needed for matching which faces to swap if the number of faces in both images is different.

### 5. **User Interface Enhancements**
- **Interactive Parameter Tuning**: When deploying the script as an application, provide a user interface for adjusting parameters like the blend strength, mask size, and position adjustments in real-time.

### 6. **Performance Optimization**
- **Optimize for Speed**: Profile the code to identify bottlenecks. Operations like face detection and DNN-based processes can be computationally expensive. Consider optimizing these parts by running the face detection only once and caching the results or by utilizing GPU acceleration if available.

### 7. **Error Handling and Validation**
- **Robust Error Handling**: Implement more comprehensive error checking and handling, especially for the image reading and face detection steps. Providing detailed error messages can help in debugging and usage.

### 8. **Extensibility and Modularity**
- **Plugin Architecture for Different Algorithms**: Design the code with modularity in mind, allowing easy swapping of face detection, landmark detection, and blending algorithms. This would make it easier to update or improve individual components without rewriting the entire codebase.

### 9. **Automated Testing**
- **Unit and Integration Testing**: Develop a suite of automated tests to ensure future changes do not break existing functionality. This is especially important for verifying the accuracy of face detection and swapping under various conditions.

### 10. **Documentation and Examples**
- **Comprehensive Documentation**: Enhance the documentation, providing clear explanations of how the code works, the purpose of each parameter, and examples of different use cases. This can help users and other developers understand and effectively use your code.

Implementing these improvements can make the face swapping code more robust, user-friendly, and adaptable to a wider range of scenarios.

We still have so much to do to create high-quality face swaps!

InsightFace Library

Luckily, you don’t have to use bots or heavy coding. You can install the InsightFace for Python and enjoy your creativity with AI!

It has an MIT license. You can use the InsightFace Python Library code for academic and commercial purposes, except for the pre-trained models.

To swap faces with InsightFace Library, you must start with face detection and then use their model to swap faces. However, it requires minimal coding.

For all inpatients, you can try Swapseed to use Insightface’s face-swapping on your computer locally.

Benefits and drawbacks

Face-swap technology has gained popularity for its entertainment value and creative applications. Still, it has raised concerns about privacy and potential misuse in the digital age. It’s commonly used in various apps and software for fun and artistic purposes. Still, it has also been the subject of ethical and security discussions due to its ability to manipulate visual content.


  • Entertainment: Face-swapping apps are fun for creating entertaining videos and photos to share with friends.
  • Special effects: Face-swapping is a useful special effect tool in the film industry.

  • Social commentary: Face-swapping can create interesting social or political commentary.


  • Misinformation: Deepfakes are created using face-swapping and can spread misinformation or damage someone’s reputation.
  • Identity theft: Face-swapping technology could be misused to create fake IDs or other documents for fraudulent purposes.
  • Privacy concerns: Uploading photos for face-swapping apps raises concerns about data security and unauthorized use of personal images.

In short, Deepfakes are manipulated images of a person created using deep learning. The paper by N. Ruiz et al. Disrupting Deepfakes: Adversarial Attacks Against Conditional Image Translation Networks and Facial Manipulation Systems is the first step towards protecting your images from bad actors and defending against deep-fake generation. You can see their GitHub repository.

Face-swapping has both positive and negative applications, so it’s important to use it responsibly and be aware of the potential dangers. Defenses against malicious usage are being developed, but it’s always best to get permission before using someone’s face in a face swap.


Face-swapping technology has exciting possibilities but also potential pitfalls. In this post, I’ve demonstrated an easy solution to face swapping using various alternatives, including AI applications, research projects, and Python libraries. I’ve also provided Python code that elegantly demonstrates the use of OpenCV for face detection, image processing, and manipulation tasks.

Did you like this post? Please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions.

AI-generated art and music/sound posts that might be interesting for you


1. Face Swap Live

2. YouCam Perfect

3. HelloFace

4. Pica AI

5. Face Swapper

6. Snapchat

7. FaceApp

8. Two Years of Elena’s AI Blog

9. How to Make, Set Up, and Manage a Discord Server.

10. Using Midjourney and the Picsi.AI by InsightFaceSwap Bot to create a personalized portrait

11. InsightFace Python Library

12. DeepFaceLab

13. DeepFaceLive

14. Faceswap

15. Ghost repository

16. Ghost in the Google Colab

17. GHOST—A New Face Swap Approach for Image and Video Domains

18. Haarcascades

19. OpenCV

20. dlib, get_frontal_face_detector

21. Tutorial on Convex Hull

22. Tutorial_on warp_affine

23. swapseed

24. Quick Start documentation

25. Midjourney docs: Parameter List

26. Official InsightFace APP, invitation link for the bot

27. State of the art deep face analysis library

28. Disrupting Deepfakes: Adversarial Attacks Against Conditional Image Translation Networks and Facial Manipulation Systems

29. Disrupting-deepfakes GitHub repository

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About Elena

Elena, a PhD in Computer Science, simplifies AI concepts and helps you use machine learning.

Elena Daehnhardt. (2024) 'Super-girls don't cry in face-swaps', daehnhardt.com, 18 March 2024. Available at: https://daehnhardt.com/blog/2024/03/18/ai-face-swaps-open-cv-face-detection/
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