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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Making Hair Selection a Lot More Easier in Photoshop

Author: Daniy

It’s a common question asked with many Photoshop users: How can I make the hair selection from an image with accuracy? This question mostly asked by Photoshop beginners which usually tend to choose their own photo as the object of their exercise. They started to make selection around the body, and as the selection is done, they erase the outer parts of the selection so changing the background images would be a lot easier. But the hardest part came when they reach the hair area which usually blended with the background.

Forcing to close the selection with manual hair-by-hair tracing would almost make the selection result became jagged and the hair look would become unnatural. Some users then apply the fastest way by applying “feather” to smoothen the selection, so there would be a soft transition between the object and the background. This might work in some cases, but sometimes not. The picture gets the bad collage effect that the picture couldn’t balance with the new background, whether it’s blended or contrasted.

So what is needed to be done to have the perfect hair selection as it would possible to combine with any backgrounds? The answer still gets around the selection techniques, but it’s more than just using tools and how to apply them. You should combine the following items in your preference.

Selection tool; undoubtedly there are many tools to do the selection from lasso, magic wand, marquee, and pen tool [if you feel more comfortable to deal with it].

Channel palette; this palette contains information from each of your separated colors based on the active color mode. RGB color mode consists of Red, Green, and Blue channels which usually proofed on screen media, such as monitors or LCD projectors. Otherwise the CMYK color mode is made up from 4 separated channels which are Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. This color mode usually applied on printed media such as papers.

Remember, that every channel provides certain values which represented on a monotone-colored look. By using it, you can make a selection based on certain channel which provides more detail selection range.

Layer Blending Modes; this palette applies the behavior of certain layer against the layer below it. Spanning from multiply, lighten, screen, overlay and up to 23 modes you can experience to get various blending effect throughout your image. You can maximize the feature of these blending modes to enhance the quality of your hair selection.

Defringe; the final way to enhance your selected image to get blended with the new background. It will automatically remove the tiny edge pixel which usually occurs on every selection. You can have it from the Layer - Matting menu, and select Defringe. When a dialog box of certain number appears, I usually left it with 1 pixel amount and let them do the best work.

So, what’s the step?

The first step is use the selection tool to manually select your image area. But, this I usually do: separate the image between the body and the head. Why is that? Since hair selection is the hardest part, I can easily select the body part and left the head for the main task. By separating the head, it also means that you are working on less area which requires less resource from your machine.

After separating the head section and put it on a new separated layer, you can start using the help of channel palette. I usually work within the RGB color mode and choose the green channel since it contains the contrast value of an image. The shortcut to load from channel is by holding the Ctrl [Mac: Command] key and clicking on the corresponding channel. You should have a more detailed hair selection by now and erase the outer part of your selection.

Using the Layer Blending modes is the next step to enhance your selection quality. You can have those blending modes right at the top of your layer palette. I usually choose the screen mode to do the work and the image will automatically blended with the new background. But if try to experiment with another mode, maybe you’ll find a more interesting result.

The last key is defringing your selection to wipe those white pixels around your selection. I think you have a better result for your hair selection right now.

And, if you want to make yourself inside a movie poster, maybe you'll be interested on my other photoshop tips here.

About the Author:

Daniy is a graphic designer, photoshop user, and a blogger who write and share his thoughts and ideas around the web

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