Puppet Warp, Part 2

Last week we took a very quick look at the Puppet Warp tool in Photoshop. Puppet Warp, Part 1.  Today let’s take a more in-depth look at this great tool.

As a quick review: Puppet Warp was introduced into Photoshop in the CS5 version.  It is not available in prior versions, nor is it available in Photoshop Elements.    I am using CC2015. The paths I mention will be similar, if not exactly the same, as in CS5 and CS6.

1.  To find Puppet Warp go to the top menu bar:  Edit > Puppet Warp

2. When you select Puppet Warp, a mesh is placed over the object on your active layer. Options are available in the Options Bar:

  • Mode: Click on the down-pointing arrow to choose either: Rigid, Normal, or Distort.  I typically leave this set to the default of Normal; but play with the options, as you can get some pretty fun results (especially with Distort.)
  • Density:  Click on the down-pointing arrow to choose either: Fewer Points, Normal, More Points.  The default is Normal.  I usually leave this set to Normal as well.
  • Expansion: This indicates the pixel size of the mesh from the edge of the subject. The default is 2 px.  I usually change this to 0 px for a tight fit.
  • Mesh: You can check or uncheck this box, depending on whether or not you would like to see the mesh or not.

We’ll look at Pin Depth later in this tutorial.


Although it’s good to understand what all of your options are, leaving them all set to their default state usually works just fine.

  • A refresher from last week:  When you move your cursor over your document, it will turn into the image of a “pushpin.” click down on any part of your image that you want to remain stationary.  Click and drag any part of the image you would like to make an adjustment to. In last week’s tutorial, we moved the left tail end of the bow, scooting it over to the right a bit. Once we had made the move, we clicked on the checkmark in the options bar to commit our change.

Here are a few more things you need to know about Puppet Warp in order to use it effectively.  When you place a pin (anchor point), the image rotates around that pin.

The first image below is the original. I would like to have the rooster looking upward.  I placed pins throughout the middle of the entire image to keep the other animals in place. I placed a pin on the rooster’s tail, his wing, and then on his head. I moved the head pin to the right. I have greatly exaggerated the movement, so you can see how the pixels are rotating from the pin on the wing. (There is also a slight movement of the tail. If I had placed more pins around the lower part of the body, near the tail, we wouldn’t have had any tail movement.)

I used Control + Z to undo the changes I had made to the rooster.  I next placed pins right where I had them before, but in addition, I placed a pin on the rooster’s neck. This time when I clicked on the pin on the top of his head, the pixels were rotated from the new anchor point (neck), creating a better look (and, of course, I didn’t exaggerate this movement).  However, it’s still not great looking.  Pixels can get distorted easily if you don’t have enough pins placed, or don’t have them placed accurately to get the movement that you want.  With a more precise movement of the cursor, it IS possible to get a better result with this particular pin placement; but there’s also an easier way.

Once again, I have placed the pins on the rooster on his body, neck, and head.   With the headpin active (you can tell it’s active by the little white dot in the middle of the pin), click on Alt, and a circle will surround your pin.  Place your cursor near the circle, and a curved double-ended arrow will appear.  Move your cursor in the direction that you would like your pixels to move.  The pixels will move from that anchor point (head), rather than a neighboring one (neck)).

Using this method, I have made a few slight changes (with no distortions!)  to the animals.  Can you tell what they are? The original piece is on the left; the altered one on the right.

 But, oh, dear… now we have the goose’s beak in front of the pig’s ear. What if we want it behind the ear? We’ve already clicked on the checkmark in the options bar to commit our changes, and the mesh has been removed? Not a problem.  Puppet Warp changes are applied as Smart Filters, so we can always adjust them as needed.  Click on Edit > Puppet Warp to bring back the mesh on your image.

Remember I said we would come back to Pin Depth, which is available in the Options bar? That is what will help us with the goose’s beak.  Click on the pin on the goose’s head to make it active, then click on the Pin Depth with the arrow pointing down. That will cause the pixels on the top of the image to be placed in the rear position. So now we have the goose’s beak behind the pig’s ears.

 A few last-minute facts:
  • Right-click a pin to open an options panel, to quickly delete Pins, Remove All Pins, and other options.
  • Press and hold H on your keyboard to temporarily hide pins.
  • Don’t like your result? Click the Cancel button in the menu bar at any time to start all over again!

The image used in today’s tutorial is an embellishment that is included in Farm Fresh.

I hope you have fun using Puppet Warp!

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Comments (5)

  1. Sara LEGLER

    Karen, I can seem to access a link to the off of this tutorial. ?

    February 3, 2018 at 4:02 pm
  2. Sara LEGLER

    I meant PDF

    February 3, 2018 at 4:02 pm
    • Karen

      It’s there now, Sara. I am experimenting with a new program and didn’t get the link in before the blog published. Thanks! I’m glad to know you like having the PDF!

      February 3, 2018 at 4:05 pm
  3. Nancy aka physioscrapper

    Thanks so much for this Karen! I totally missed before when learning about it, Pin depth, as well as, the options for more/less points and the expansion. It is these little things that make all the difference for a great finished project. Thank you for taking the time to go over it!

    November 9, 2019 at 5:00 pm
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