Introduction: Head in a Jar Prank

Picture of Head in a Jar Prank

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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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


silm (author)2017-04-14

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

T0BY (author)2016-12-06

Anyone tried it with their pets?

Jesper_E made it! (author)2016-10-29

Such a great idea!
My wife was met this morning by our two sons in the fridge! She refused opening it again until we had taken them away! Boys were laughing on the floor. :)

Jesper_E (author)Jesper_E2016-10-29

A sidenote tip - I made the boys shower prior to taking the photos to get the wet look in their hair.

T0BY (author)Jesper_E2016-12-06

Good idea!

mikeasaurus (author)Jesper_E2016-10-31

I love the look with eggs in there, so funny!

T0BY (author)mikeasaurus2016-12-06

It's brilliant!

PeterJK (author)2016-11-23

This is so cool XD

T0BY (author)2016-11-23

How unique! Genius!

jaybee92 made it! (author)2016-11-01

Thanks Mike! made this for work, brilliant :) Still doing pro?

mikeasaurus (author)jaybee922016-11-01

Gross and spooky..I love it!

Thanks for sharing a picture of your gruesome creation, enjoy the Pro Membership!

iSuat made it! (author)2016-10-28

Thank you so much

mikeasaurus (author)iSuat2016-10-31

They're perfect on your booze shelf!

stemaste (author)2016-10-30


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.

mikeasaurus (author)stemaste2016-10-31


Thanks for sharing, enjoy the Pro Membership.

Jacobim (author)2016-10-27

Here is my Halloween version. The jar is an old 'flagon' with a crack in it so decided not to add water - but it still works pretty well I think...

mikeasaurus (author)Jacobim2016-10-27

The subject is perfect :)

Winged Fist (author)2016-10-27

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;-(

mikeasaurus (author)Winged Fist2016-10-27

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. :)

blbgrimm (author)2016-10-24

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

LaurenLaLa (author)2016-10-21

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!

mikeasaurus (author)LaurenLaLa2016-10-21

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

LaurenLaLa (author)2016-10-21


jtmcdole (author)2014-03-20

What about having a jar in a jar so the print is protected from the water?

eaba89 (author)jtmcdole2015-10-27

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!!

bpark1000 (author)eaba892016-10-21

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

eaba89 (author)jtmcdole2015-10-27

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!!

cbaker6 (author)jtmcdole2015-10-05

it would look like a jar with a head in it inside a larger jar with fluid

Oscelot (author)jtmcdole2014-03-20

He said to laminate the print first.

antioch (author)Oscelot2014-03-20

Which doesn't render jtmcdole's question invalid.

But does render it irrelevant. It is of course possible, but would necessitate unrequired effort and the result would be sub par.

"unrequired" == "optional" effort if one doesn't have or care for laminating. You also have no standing to sugest it would generate sub-par results.

aleghart (author)jtmcdole2014-03-21

Keeping to being "positive and constructive", look at in analytically: A jar has a much smaller mouth than a body. Wide-mouth jars will have a same-size or larger mouth than the base. To fit a jar in a jar, you must make the inner jar smaller than the outer jar...that's just physics. Thus, your "head" image will be smaller than a single jar alone. Further, you will be able to see both the inner jar and it's lid, breaking the illusion. Result: tiny head, in a jar, in a jar. Not a head-in-a-jar. Some of us have goofed around and have observed the real-world...which gives us some standing. Instead of whining about other commenters having no standing...just do it your way and post a picture. Not a proof, but a data point showing full-, partial-, or no success. Have fun with it.

Avocadoes (author)aleghart2015-07-09

Lol you guys are like having a buisness scientist argument thing

PaganRaven (author)jtmcdole2015-03-31

Just saw your question but I do know this - trapped air, whether in a bottle inside a bottle or jar will look almost like a mirror. Hence, it will look as though you set a mirrored jar inside the jar.

dumle29 (author)jtmcdole2014-03-26

The thing that pulls this off, is the refraction of the water to air (well water to glass to air) if you put an air filled jar inside the jar, it would just look like a piece of paper in a jar in a jar :) laminators are dirt cheap if you don't have one, and the thing that makes the lamination work, is that there's no air between the plastic and paper.

JK2001 (author)2016-10-21

How about a bit of fluorescent dye and a UV LED ?

mikeasaurus (author)JK20012016-10-21

Good idea! You should try it and show us the results!

amcgamcg (author)2016-10-21

That is some prank!!! Thanks!!! made it! (author)2014-04-01

I work in an Anatomy lab - this was a sure fire hit this morning

The photoshop job turned out better than expected. One things for sure - I will be using a far bigger jar next time.

Great stuff! (author)r.om2014-04-01

Oh, and here is my face wrap around picture, in case anyone is interested.

Siraxta (author)r.om2016-10-17

thank you!!

mikeasaurus (author)r.om2014-04-03

Your face is perfect, thanks for sharing the pictures and your version for others to use, too!

DustinQ made it! (author)2015-10-28

Made this last year and doing again this year. A crowd favorite! Jar is from the Container Store; it's perfect.

Siraxta (author)DustinQ2016-10-17

Your dead-face is just perfect! Would you be willing to share it? I'd LOVE to have your head in my fridge this halloween ;)

mikeasaurus (author)DustinQ2015-10-28

You have an excellent dead-face :)

Thanks for sharing a picture of your head in a jar, enjoy the Pro Membership!

bruceissmart made it! (author)2016-10-15

These are two examples of what I did. One dead pan expression, one with a grimace (which I gave to my daughter (My daddy wasn't as enthusiastic as I was,,,But he came around. He loves his daughter!)). I put the dead pan pose in the fridge at work. Was asked to take it out because it was freaking some people out. (It worked!!)

in fridge at work

mikeasaurus (author)bruceissmart2016-10-15

The communal fridge at work is the best! Thanks for sharing your pictures

mcalzadias made it! (author)2016-10-09

Excellent easy follow instructions, be sure that the jar can fit the 8.5 sheet

rees73079 made it! (author)2015-11-07

I did a quick and simple (not to scale) version using the PiscArt smartphone app for Android. Three mean-face selfies on a white background, blend pics, trim with scissors, place in a gallon size Ziploc bag, add water.

About This Instructable




Bio: 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!
More by mikeasaurus:Sky SketcherUnusual Uses for Duct TapeEasy Embossed Moleskine
Add instructable to: