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Advance Hair Selection Tutorial – Masking Hair In Photoshop

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You may have a photo that has an object or person with some wild, flowing or flyaway hair. However you would like to change the background behind the person or object, and are not quite sure how to do it. The following is a hair selection tutorial that will show you how to navigate the technique of masking hair in Photoshop.

 So, to get started; the first thing you need to do is to start with the image of the person, (I am using a woman with rather long hair, but it is messy and out of control) and a background.

Messy and curly hair image

Background image

Go to the right hand side of the screen and click on the layer thumbnail to duplicate the woman layer.

First layer

Then you would press CTRL+J in you keyboard to duplicate the layer with the image. To know it learn how to use Photoshop keyboard shortcuts. You want to try to use one layer for each different technique.

Duplicate the layer

Next we will discuss channels, if you are not familiar with them, as you will be using them to mask the different layers. Each RGB image is made up of 3 channels; a red channel, a green channel and a blue channel. These three distinct channels build the final RGB image.


These channels can also be used as Selections; for example, if you press CTRL or Command on the Keyboard, and then click on any of the channel icons (to the right of the screen) you will load a selection.

Load a selection using channels

So then click on the blue channel and see what happens.

Select blue channel

Press command or ctrl and click on blue channel and see what happens. Now, in a layer mask, the white are the opaque pixels, and the black are the invisible pixels.

Press command or Ctrl and click on blue channel

Now go back to the layers panel and click on it. You are going to create a new layer.

Create new layer

Then you will fill it with black, then close off the visibility to the other layers, so you can get an idea how that all works.

Fill the selection with black color

Next you will press CTRL+D to deselect the selection, now you will notice that there are black pixels in the background area (where it is grey) and no pixels in the middle where the hair is located. The reason for this is because in the blue channel the background section is white/grey and you can see the pixels, whereas section where the hair is black, which then hides the pixels.

Press CTRL D to deselect

If you press CTRL+J couple time, you can see clearly where the black area is and the white parts.

Press CTRL J couple time

Now that you are aware of this, you are going to use the different channels to select the hair. So you would select the channel that has the most contrast between the background and the hair, which in this case would be the blue channel.

Select blue channel

So you want to duplicate it by clicking on that channel and dragging it over to the new icon. Now you have a duplicate channel (you don’t want to work on the original channels).

Duplicate blue channel

Now that you have a duplicate to work on, you don’t want to work on the white pixels, so you will have to turn the black pixels white and the white pixels (background area) black. To do this you will press the CTRL I.

Press CTRL I to turn the black pixels white and the white pixels black

Then you will be able to select the area right around the white pixels (the hair in this case). Next you will use the Lasso Tool and go around the face and neck area, about an inch out from the face area.

Select the face and neck area using lasso tool

Then fill that area with white.

Fill the selection area with white

By pressing the CTRL+D to deselect, and press the B on the keyboard for the Brush Tool. Next you will fill in the shoulder areas on both sides, and part of the hair area along the face.

Using brash tool fill in the shoulder areas with white

Next, you will have to turn the area outside the image black. To do this you need to go to image, then adjustment, and levels.

Select levels from images and adjustment

In the levels area you would bring the level up to adjust the darkness of the background, then press OK.

Adjust the darkness of the background using level

Then you would select the Burn Tool, and set the range about 60%, that will be good.

Select burn tool

Then use the tool to fill in the background area with the darker hue.

Fill in the background area with the darker hue

If you try to use this tool on the white area, you will notice that nothing happens.

Nothing happen in white area.jpg

So now, when you paint around the small bits of hair on the edges, it will simply fill in the dark background without affecting the hair at all.

Paint all small bits of hair

Now click CTRL on the icon to choose the blue channel copy to make a selection.

Press CTRL and click on blue channel copy to make a selection

And now go back to the layers panel. Add a layer mask here, and close off the visibility to that panel.

Add a layer mask

Then you can bring up the previous background and see how well you did or you can choose to add a different background if you wish.

Final image with the desired background

So there you have it, a quick tutorial on how to remove background from hair image. It is not really quite as difficult as it seems, once you know how to follow the basic steps. Now that you know how to mask hair in Photoshop, you are free to add different backgrounds or scenery as you wish to your image. You can produce sharp, professional looking images every time.

About the auther 

Rokaiya is a creative graphic designer, Internet marketer, and a blogger. She joined the team of clippingpathspecialist.com is a brand of Outsource Experts Ltd on 2010 as a head of it’s marketing department, and she's been working with the tool ever since! She likes to share tips and tricks on photo editing and graphic design!

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