Handy Techniques for Cutting out Hair in Photoshop

When trimming out images in Photoshop, human hair or animal fur always proves it a difficult task and can be tricky to achieve a realistic look. Here are two techniques for both plain backgrounds, and those with a varied background tones, each achieving pretty decent end results.

Technique One: Images with Plain Backgrounds

The best photos are those professional studio type shots that are taken against a plain white background. These shots make it much easier to find the edges of the subject, but cutting out fine hairs can still be a little difficult. Here we are using the common Channel technique to trim out hair of this beautiful lady.

Step 1

Open your image in Photoshop. This particular image doesn’t have a pure white background, but it is a plain color and has good contrast between the subject and grey backdrop.

Step 2

Now go to Channels palette and review each of the Red, Green and Blue channels. Each one will be made up of somewhat different tones, pick the one with the most contrast between foreground and background. Drag this channel onto the new channel icon to copy it.

Step 3

Then select the new channel and adjust the Levels (CMD+L) to dramatically increase the contrast between light and dark areas.

Step 4

Due to the minor difference in tone of the background, it appears grey in the darker areas. Now use the Dodge tool set to a low Opacity to target the highlights and brush over this background area to really brighten it up.

Step 5

Use Burn tool to target the shadows to significantly darken down the inner areas of the image to pure black.

Step 6

Use the brush tool to finish off the blacks by painting over the remaining areas of the inner section of the image.

Step 7

Inverse the image to switch over the black and white areas (CMD+I), and give a quick check for any stray areas that may have been missed by the brush.

Step 8

CMD+Click the Channel thumbnail to load the selection, then turn back on the visibility of the original channels. Go back over to the Layers palette and copy the selection. Paste it on a new layer and hide the original to see the cut out image against transparency.

Final Step

This selection is now with the finest trimmed hair to give realistic look. You can paste this photo on any background.

Technique Two: Images with Detailed Backgrounds

Here is the technique that can be use to trim out the hair of image having some background.

Step 1

Open the image in Photoshop. This image has a contrast between foreground and background, but certain areas of the hair do blend in with the darker tones of the backdrop.

Step 2

Now start by trimming out the clear edges using the Pen Tool, but when you reach the hair simply create a rough tracing.

Step 3

Around the hair portion, aim to include only solid areas of hair that aren’t merging with the background, otherwise the lighter tones will mess things up later.

Step 4

Then make a selection with a feathering of 0.2 pixels to remove any edges then paste onto a new layer. Decrease the transparency of the image so that the original hair line can just be seen.

Step 5

Now use the Smudge Tool to draw in areas of new hair, using the original outline as a template. Begin with a 4px brush to flesh out the thick base hair and disguise the jaggy lines from the path.

Step 6

The new hairs will soon tissue out the image back to its original appearance. It doesn’t look too bad at this stage, but repeating this process with a thinner brush will draw in those individual hairs.

Step 7

After that, use a 2px brush with the Smudge Tool to draw thin stray hairs in varied directions to add realism to the image.

Final Step

At the final you have the photo that can be placed on any background with easy and no hair loss. Enjoy!

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