Photo Retouching: how to process hair like a professional

Photo Retouching: how to process hair like a professional

In the latest instalment of our Raw Tuesday series on photo retouching we explain a simple technique for cutting out hair, as well as share how to get rid of roots and drop in a new background.

Photo Retouching: how to process hair like a professional

Hair extraction is one of the most common digital portrait photography conundrums. Luckily, the Refine Edge tool feature in CS5 and CS6 offers several settings that make short work of extracting hair, so you’ll quickly be trimming locks like a professional hairdresser.

How to cut out hair and add a new background

How to cut out hair and add a new background: step 1

01 Select the background
Sometimes it’s easier to select the background then invert the selection, so grab the Magic Wand tool from the Tools Panel and click on the background to begin selecting it. Hold Shift and continue clicking around it until you have a rough selection of the entire area.

 

How to cut out hair and add a new background: step 2

02 Invert the selection
Press Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+I to invert the selection. Next, click Refine Edge in the Options bar. This brings up the Refine Edge dialog box. Hit F to cycle through the views until you find one that works best for your image. We’ve chosen the checkerboard background here.

 

How to cut out hair and add a new background: step 3

03 Refine Edge settings
It’s worth experimenting with the different settings and sliders on offer as the effect they have will depend on the resolution of your image and the intricacy of your selection. In this particular case, we chose Radius 2px, Smooth 1, Feather 1.

 

How to cut out hair and add a new background: step 4

04 Paint to refine
Select the Refine Radius tool from the left of the Refine Edge dialog box, and paint around the edges to clean up the selection. Vary the brush size using with ] and [. Hold Alt to switch to the Erase Refinements tool, then paint to undo any brush strokes that go wrong.

 

How to cut out hair and add a new background: step 5

05 Increase edge contrast
When you’ve finished painting, you may need to increase the contrast setting to make the edge harder. We set Contrast to 25%. The Output drop-down menu at the bottom of the box gives a range of output options for your selection. Choose New Layer with Layer Mask.

 

How to cut out hair and add a new background: step 6

06 Add a background
Highlight the Background layer then click on the New Layer icon. You can drop in any background you like. We’ve chosen to add a simple blue tone. However,  you could choose any kind of background that you like – even one of your own.

PAGE 1: How to cut out hair and add a new background
PAGE 2: How to retouch hair to get rid of roots

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