Head in a Jar Prank





Introduction: Head in a Jar Prank

About: I'm Mike and I make crazy things at Instructables HQ in San Francisco. Follow me and try a few of my projects for yourself!

Hungry? Scare those fridge-bound famished food foragers with a head in a jar!

Using a photo editor, two pictures are blended together to create flat image of a head, which is then laminated and submerged in a jar. When the flattened image in inserted into the curved jar, along with the distortion from the water, gives the illusion of a decapitated head in a jar of preserving fluid.

Here's what you need to make your own:

Making your own head in a jar is easy, but requires some photo editing skills. I've included a tutorial on how I made mine, and took me about 30 minutes to compose. Personalizing this prank will make it more effective. But, if you're not a pro with photo editing, you can download my flattened head image below.

Step 1: Take Photos + Import

To make the head printout you'll need 2 pictures of a head, a profile and a portrait. With the camera at eye-level, take a picture straight on and one from the side. Ensure your subject is well lit. Also, ask them to make a face.

Next we'll import these images into a photo editing suite. Since the final output will be on a standard A4 / 8.5" x 11" printer paper, start by opening your photo editing software and opening a new document set to your printer paper size. Then, import the profile and portrait pictures of your subject onto new layers and resize them to fit your workspace. We'll resize them again after merging the faces together.

Step 2: Adjust Levels + Align Images

Using your photo editor trim away any background so that you are left with just the face.

After trimming, if your two pictures have different lighting adjust the lighting levels (ctrl+L in most applications)

Using the eye as a level, align the two images so the features match up from the profile to the portrait (eyes, mouth, nose all aligned). Almost all photo editors have a ruler function, these help keep things true.

Step 3: Crop Profile

To merge the two faces together you'll need to remove the face portion of the profile image. Make a selection to eye on the profile (picture 1) and delete the face (picture 2). Then, move the profile picture to one side of the portrait to match the location of the eyes (picture 3).

Step 4: Erase Profile Edge

Select the erase tool and set it to a soft brush. Erase the edge of the profile picture where the two faces meet. Changing the opacity of the eraser you can work the brush to feather away some of the details and blend the two images.

Step 5: Copy Profile

With one side completed, make a copy/duplicate of the profile and paste to a new layer. Flip the copy horizontally and move over to the other side of the portrait picture.

You may need to adjust the levels of the duplicate layer to match the portrait, and use the eraser tool again to feather away portions of the duplicate profile to blend into the portrait.

Don't worry too much about the chin and neck, these will be cropped out of the picture when we're ready to print. You should have a reasonable version of a flattened head.

Step 6: Merge and Resize

When you are satisfied with the layer placement, blending, and lighting levels, merge your layers together. Next, resize the image to fit your paper space. You can enlarge your image to crop out the neck and top of the head, or you can work more brush magic in these areas; such as with the clone stamp tool, or prediction tool (depending on your photo editor)

Step 7: Save File + Print

After saving my image I printed it out. There should be an option in your print dialogue box that enables you to fill the page with your image, this will be "fit to media" or something to that effect.

When I printed mine it printed with a small white margin. Since I wanted just the image I used a paper cutter to trim off the white border.

If you want to use it I've included a PDF of my flattened head image below.

Step 8: Laminate

Since this image will be submerged it needed to be laminated so it wouldn't disintegrate. Most people don't have a lamination machine at home, but your local school, office supply store, library, or copy centre likely has one that you can use. Lamination costs about $1 a sheet.

Step 9: Prepare Jar

You'll need a jar large enough to hold your picture. I got this 5 litre glass jar at my local hardware store for $15.

Filling the jar about halfway with water, I used a mix of yellow, orange, and green liquid food dye I tinted the water to resemble a preserving solution. Just like in the vintage science fiction movies.

Step 10: Put Head in Jar

Curling the laminated printout to fit through the jar neck the sheet was inserted, the jar was then topped off with water until full. The jar was then sealed. The head in a jar was now ready to be placed inside the fridge to prank hungry foragers.

Step 11: Place in Fridge

Place jar into fridge. Maybe you hide it behind a few items so that a person has to be digging to find it, or maybe you leave it right up top to scare people as they initially open the fridge.

Since the solution reminded me of brine solution I decided to add a few hard boiled eggs to my head jar for fun.

Have fun scaring your friends with a head in a jar!

Have you made your own head in a jar? I want to see it!
Share a picture of your version of this project in the comments below and be awarded a 3-month Pro Membership on Instructables.com

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230 Discussions

Thanks greenpondgirl. I have an annual halloween party and what I am really looking for is to make heads in jars of the guests that I have invited. Thats why I was asking if anyone would be willing to make the image out of photos that i could send. the party is saturday so if anyone is interested I could pay you for your work.

I’ve tried but cannot seem to make a decent one. Is there anyone willing to make these for me if I send you the pictures needed? I can pay you for your time. Please email me or reply here if you are interested. Wyld2006@hotmail.com.

1 reply

google "face texture" and you'll find plenty to print, or copy/paste and resize to fit your jar. I made quite the collection last year doing that.

fun stuff - has anyone tried this with a panoramic shot to try and minimize the photoshopping steps?

1 reply

I have a Ricoh Theta S panoramic camera and thought of giving this a try, but the trick is, those panoramic cameras only take 360 photos from one point of view. You'd need a scanning camera running around a rolling track that can take images from all around your head and stitch them for best results. There are lots of printable scanners that work with smartphones like this, perhaps one could be rigged to go around one's head: https://www.thingiverse.com/search?q=scanner&sa=&dwh=9359d15f9b04d79


1 year ago

This is scary af if you wake up in night and open your fridge for some food.


1 year ago

Anyone tried it with their pets?

This is so cool XD


1 year ago

How unique! Genius!


Yes, some ingenuity, but overall I'm satisfied.
I do not laminate the image, I used a sheet protector for ring binders, and then sealed with a hot wire.

1 reply


Thanks for sharing, enjoy the Pro Membership.

Awesome idea, and great Instrubctable! I saw this project on Kimmel this week, with the EXACT SAME PHOTO, and thought I might see the first shout-out for Instructables on national television, but they gave no credit! That's not nice;-(

1 reply

Thanks for the heads up :)

Lame they didn't give attribution, they even used the printout in this project! I take pride in knowing that the picture printout is my old boss, and now his face has been shown on TV. :)

I'f like to try taking my picture through a window with my nose pressed up flat against it. Then when the picture is submersed it'll look like my nose is squished into the jar!

1 reply

That's a really smart idea. Please share a picture of your results!

That might actually work! If you use something like concentric beakers one slightly smaller than the other, put the photo in the inner one and only fill fluid in the space between the two. It'll take much less fluid, be much lighter, no lamination required and possibly give you the same effect.

Great instructable! Will try it out. Thanks!!

Problem is that inner beaker will try to float, a lot! You will need lead weights in inner beaker.

That might actually work! If you use something like concentric beakers one slightly smaller than the other, put the photo in the inner one and only fill fluid in the space between the two. It'll take much less fluid, be much lighter, no lamination required and possibly give you the same effect.

Great instructable! Will try it out. Thanks!!