Monday, March 15

Basics - Selecting Hair

Selecting Hair

Extracting fine hair detail from a background is one of the most tricky jobs in Photoshop. A professional way to do it takes you to the channel palette, where you prepare a mask that can be loaded as a selection.

01 Prepare the Channel

After opening the photo, switch from the layer palette to the channel palette.
From the Red, Green, and Blue channel, choose the one that displays the greatest contrast to the background. Copy it by mouse-dragging it to the New Channel button. The copy is highlighted in blue and active.

02 Improve the Channel

Select Levels (Ctrl+L) from Image > Adjustments. Set the White and Black marker to make for a harder contrast.
Then continue improving the channel with the Dodge and Burn tools. Dark background areas should be lightened, too bright areas in the hair should be darkened.

03 Fill Contents

Now our goal is to select all remaining areas that need to be extracted and color them black.
You could use the brush tool with a black foreground color, or you could select those areas with the selection tools and fill them with black.
Then press Ctrl+I on your keyboard to invert the channel

04 Extraction

If necessary, fix remaining spots, then turn the black and white channel into a selection by holding the Ctrl key and clicking on the channel’s mask icon. Click on the RGB channel switch back to the layer palette.
Copy the selection in the menu (Layer > New > Layer via Copy) or with Ctrl+J.

With Elements, too?

Unfortunately, since Photoshop Elements doesn’t have a channel palette, you can’t use this image processing tip with the small Photoshop.
Alternatively you could try the background eraser or Image > Magic Extractor. Still, both tools deliver noticeably less professional results – at least when you’re extracting hair.

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