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Last year, a few weeks before Halloween, I was visiting my mom. I was cruising around online and saw some plastic brains and other organs in jars for Halloween decorations. I looked at how the water was distorting the items in the jars, and got the idea to try it with pictures. It turned out to be pretty easy!
I put my kids’ heads in a couple of jars (I found most of what I needed in my mom’s house), and then put them in my mom’s fridge and waited. It actually took her a few times going into the fridge to notice them, but when she finally did her reaction was priceless!
I brought them home and set them on our steps for Halloween. The trick-or-treaters got a kick out of them – lots of people stopped and took pictures. This year I’ll add my head, and maybe my husband’s.
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What you’ll need
- picture of a face
- wide-mouth jar
- ruler OR tape measure
- laminator OR contact paper OR office store that laminates
- food coloring
- glow stick
Measure the outside of your jar from the bottom up to the point where the jar starts to get narrower at the neck. The wider the mouth of the jar, the better. If you have a very large jar, keep in mind that you might not be able to print your picture large enough. Smaller jars are better (just think of it as a shrunken head!).
Take a picture of a face. A dark background is best, but it’s not super important. Personally, I think eyes open are creepier than eyes closed.
Using whatever photo software you’re comfortable with (I’m using Photoshop), first you want to crop the picture to show the hair, the head, and a little bit of the neck.
Change the height of the picture to the height you measured on the jar, minus about half an inch. (I measured the straight part of my jar to be 6.5 inches, so I changed the height of my picture to 6 inches.) Make sure that for this step you’re keeping the ratio of the height and width locked.
Now, uncheck the box that keeps the ratio locked. You want to widen the picture by about 50%. My picture started out about 5-inches wide, so I changed it to 7.5 inches. Remember, you don’t want the height to change now.
Once you’ve widened the picture, you want to change the size of the canvas – the size of the paper the picture will be on, basically. You’ll be printing onto a normal sheet of paper, so change the canvas size to 8.5”x11”. (If you’re really good with Photoshop, you’ll want to read this.)
Print the picture. If your printer gives you the option of scaling the picture to fit the paper, uncheck that option. You want the picture to print at the exact size you made it, not larger to fill the paper.
Cut the picture out. Put it in the jar (make sure the jar’s dry!) just to make sure you didn’t make any sizing mistakes.
Wet your fingers and wet just the edges of the picture, top and bottom, and gently tear off the very edges of the picture. Make sure to only use a tiny amount of water, or the ink will bleed.
Lay the picture on a paper towel to dry, or dry it with a hair dryer.
Once the picture is completely dry, laminate it. If you have a laminator, fantastic! If not, contact paper works fine, but it’s hard to get a perfect seal around the edges. Be aware that some water may seep into the picture. If that happens it won’t be terrible – the effect can actually look good. But it will get worse over time, so you might want to keep the picture dry until it’s time to set up your Halloween display.
Once the picture is laminated, cut off the extra plastic, leaving about a half-inch buffer all around.
Fill the jar a few inches from the top with water (you want room to stir). Add food coloring to make a murky color – mostly green and red seem to work best, but I throw in a little of everything. Chances are, once you reach the correct color it will be too dark. Just pour half of the colored water out, add clear water to the top of the jar, stir, and you’ll be good to go!
Put the laminated picture into the jar and screw on the cap (if you don’t have a cap, just use aluminum foil or something else not see-through).
Break open a glow stick to activate it, and tape it on the back of the jar.
It’s not quite Halloween yet, so I’ve put my head in our pantry. I can’t wait to see who stumbles upon it first!
Did you learn something from this post? If so, I’d really appreciate a share on Twitter or Facebook, or a pin on Pinterest. Thank you!
For Photoshop Pros
I’ve simplified these instructions because most people do not have Photoshop skills, but if you know what you’re doing you can make the effect even better. You’ll need two pictures for the head: one from the front, one from the side.
Combine the pictures (just flip the side picture and use it for both sides), blending the areas where they meet. This way, the jar will look good from all angles.
This is a lot easier to do with someone who has a lot of hair, but it’s still totally doable with short hair – it’s just harder to blend where the ears and skin meet than where a mess of hair meets. But remember, any mistakes will be a lot less obvious once the picture is in murky water.
These are the pictures I printed out for my kids’ heads last year.