December 1, 2006
Select an image that contains something hairy, furry, or fuzzy. A portrait is an ideal choice.
For your first attempt at this technique, start with an image that has a simple and uncluttered background
Start with the channel that contains the most contrast between what you want to select and what you don’t.
3.Choose Duplicate Channel from the Channels panel menu. In the Duplicate Channel dialog box, name the channel mask and click OK.
You’ve created an alpha channel for the mask. Now, you can edit the mask without harming the original channel.
4.Make sure the alpha channel is selected in the Channels panel and choose Image→Adjustments→Levels. Boost the contrast in the image by dragging the Input sliders for shadows, midtones, and highlights.
Make the element(s) you want to select to be all white or all black with a little gray in the wispy areas. In other words, you want to change most of the pixels in the image to either black or white.
You can select the person and his or her hair either by selecting the person or by selecting the background and inverting the selection.
In a mask, traditionally, white represents a selected area, black represents an unselected area, and gray represents a partially selected area.
5.When you’re done, click OK to close the Levels dialog box.
6.Refine the mask by selecting the Eraser tool and selecting Block Mode from the Options bar.
The Block Eraser is a great tool for cleaning up masks. It allows you to paint inside the mask without creating any feathered edges.
7.Press D to access the default colors.
The Eraser tool paints with the background color, so be sure you have the color you want before you drag. Press X to switch the foreground and background colors.
8.Clean up your mask by painting with black and white
Make sure to use short strokes so you can undo any mistakes you make.
9.Use the Zoom tool to touch up the details.
The Block Eraser tool has only one size, so you have to zoom in to paint thinner strokes and zoom out to erase a larger area.
Remember to leave some gray around the wispy areas; otherwise they may look chopped off.
10.Click the first icon on the left at the bottom of the Channels panel to load the mask as a selection.
A selection marquee appears around your mask.
11.Return to the composite image by clicking the RGB channel (or CMYK, if warranted).
The selection outline appears in your composite image.
12.If you need to invert your selection, choose Select→Inverse.
13.Now you can do one of several things:
◦With the Move tool, drag and drop your masked image onto a second image.
◦Choose Window→Color and mix a color of your choice. Choose Edit→Fill, and in the Fill dialog box, choose Foreground Color for your Contents. Click OK. Photoshop replaces the background with a solid color.
◦Bring a second image into your masked image. You can do this one of two ways. Press Backspace (Delete on the Mac) to delete your original background. Then with the Move tool, drag and drop the second image into your masked image. Make sure the second layer is under the masked image.
Or, even better, with your selection still active from steps 10, 11 and 12 above, click on the Add layer mask icon in the Layers panel. The advantage to this second method is that if you need to some heavy duty fixing on your mask you do so on the layer mask and the original image is still intact.
No matter which option you take, check the edges to see how clean your mask is. If you see a lot of background fringe (pixels around the edge of your element from your original background) you may need to do some clean up.
14.Make any final edits you need to make.
5.Save and close the file.
1.Go ahead and open a photo of someone
2.Use the Quick Selection tool to put an overall selection around the person. Spend a minute or two to get the selection as close as possible around all of the well-defined edgeswho has wispy hair
3.When you're ready to start working on the person's hair, click the Refine Edge button in the options bar to open the Refine Edge dialogPress F to cycle through the View settings to get to Black, since a black background shows off the light hair in this selection really well If the person in your example has dark hair, try a white background instead
4.Turn on the Smart Radius checkbox and drag the radius slider to around 10, as shown in . You should immediately see a big improvement, as shown in . Seriously, folks, if you've ever doubted how powerful this Edge Detection stuff is, take a look at what it's doing here. Press the P key to see your original and then press P again to see your current selection. All we've done so far is move one slider, and our selection is already starting to pick up more hair
5.Okay, we still have some work to do. In my example, we can definitely see the gray background behind the model peeking through around the edges of her hair, especially near her shoulders. And the hair is still way jagged. This is where we call in the ringer. The big dog. The head honcho. (Okay, I'll stop.) The Big Kahuna here (sorry, last one) is the Refine Radius tool. It's the little brush icon (circled in Figure 5) just below the Zoom and Hand tools at top left in the dialog.
Home > Articles > Adobe Photoshop > Technique
Photoshop Compositing Secrets: Extracting Hair
By Matt Kloskowski
Nov 10, 2011
Photoshop Compositing Secrets: Extracting Hair Extracting Hair More Precisely Summary Print Share This Discuss Page 1 of 3 Next > From the author of Photoshop Compositing Secrets: Unlocking the Key to Perfect Selections and Amazing Photoshop Effects for Totally Realistic Composites
Learn More Buy If you've ever worked on compositing multiple graphical elements into one glorious image, you know how maddening it can be trying to make hair look as natural with a new background as it did in its original location. Matt Kloskowski, author of Photoshop Compositing Secrets, shares some great tricks he uses to get even the wispiest of baby-fine hair to cooperate in Photoshop (no matter how badly it behaves in real life).
If you want to get into Photoshop compositing, one of the first features you'll have to conquer is selections. If you've ever tried selecting people (especially people with wispy hair) from one background and placing them onto another background, you know that it can be a huge pain in the neck. But by using the Refine Edge feature and a few other tricks in Photoshop CS5, you'll start your composites out right—with a good selection. After that, making them fit into another background becomes a lot easier.
For detailed instructions and examples of how to create convincing and compelling composites, check out my book Photoshop Compositing Secrets: Unlocking the Key to Perfect Selections and Amazing Photoshop Effects for Totally Realistic Composites.
The following tutorial shows you step by step how to select a person with curves and troublesome hair (that is, troublesome for us—and maybe her stylist) so perfectly that we can blend her image indefinably into a different background.
Basic Hair Selection
1.Go ahead and open a photo of someone who has wispy hair. In Figure 1, the example I'm using shows an image with some cleanly defined edges around the woman's clothing, but she definitely has some flyaway hair, too.
2.Use the Quick Selection tool to put an overall selection around the person. Spend a minute or two to get the selection as close as possible around all of the well-defined edges, but don't worry about the hair yet. Just get the overall selection to be very close, as you see in Figure 2. Don't even try to select the hair edges at this point.
Refining the Edges
3.When you're ready to start working on the person's hair, click the Refine Edge button in the options bar to open the Refine Edge dialog (see Figure 3a). Press F to cycle through the View settings to get to Black, since a black background shows off the light hair in this selection really well (see Figure 3b). If the person in your example has dark hair, try a white background instead.
On the View menu, each view option has a letter next to it, which provides a quick shortcut key to jump directly to that background view. It's probably a good idea to memorize your favorites; I like Black (B), White (W), and Black and White (K).
4.Turn on the Smart Radius checkbox and drag the radius slider to around 10, as shown in Figure 4a. You should immediately see a big improvement, as shown in Figure 4b. Seriously, folks, if you've ever doubted how powerful this Edge Detection stuff is, take a look at what it's doing here. Press the P key to see your original and then press P again to see your current selection. All we've done so far is move one slider, and our selection is already starting to pick up more hair!
Refining the Radius
5.Okay, we still have some work to do. In my example, we can definitely see the gray background behind the model peeking through around the edges of her hair, especially near her shoulders. And the hair is still way jagged. This is where we call in the ringer. The big dog. The head honcho. (Okay, I'll stop.) The Big Kahuna here (sorry, last one) is the Refine Radius tool. It's the little brush icon just below the Zoom and Hand tools at top left in the dialog.
6.Just like other brushes in Photoshop, the Refine Radius tool has a size setting that can be controlled with the left bracket ([) and right bracket (]) keys on your keyboard. Resize the brush to cover the entire radius of any flyaway hair; then simply start painting around the edges of the hair. As you paint, you'll reveal part of the original background, so you can see just how far out you'll have to paint to get all of the hairWhen you release the mouse button, sit back in awe as Photoshop selects the hair but leaves out the background Sometimes Photoshop needs a few seconds to catch up, so be patient when using this tool. I know, I sound like a total Refine Edge fanboy—but you have to admit that this tool rocks!
7.Continue brushing around the edges of the hair to bring all of the wispy hair edges back You can paint in one long brush stroke around the entire head, or use smaller strokes in more concentrated areas. Honestly, I've tried both techniques, and I haven't noticed better (or worse) results from either method.
8.The selection is looking good now. Choose Layer Mask for the Output To setting, and click OK when you're done Now we have her selected from the background, on her own layer, with a layer mask attached to it. Since there's already a mask there, you'll just see a transparent background behind your model
9.Open a background image where you want to place the copied image. For my model, Jessica, I'm using a background that has a lot of bright natural light in it, since Jessica has light on both sides of her hair, and I think a bright background fits her best. With your background image open, switch back to the original photo and select the Move tool from the toolbox (just press V). Drag the photo to the new background and position it where you want it—for this example, I'm placing Jessica's image on the right side of the background
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