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2.2 How to Cut Out Hair in Photoshop Using Channels

In this lesson, you will learn how to mask hair in Photoshop by using Channels to create quick selections and masks of complex hair.

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2.2 How to Cut Out Hair in Photoshop Using Channels

Welcome back to The Ultimate Guide to hair in Photoshop. Next up I'm going to talk about my second most preferred way to extract hair in Photoshop, and that is by using channels. Channels are great to use on images where a lot is going on in the background of the image. But you still have a decent amount of contrast between the environment and the hair. Let's do our first round of practice on this subject with curly blonde hair. First things first as always you want to have the body and other solid areas of the subject like a hat or any thicker areas of hair already extracted with a layer mask still intact. That is very important here. We do want to left click Hide layer mask just for now but we will be flipping it back on a little later on. Now with the subjects layer active go to Channels. Here you will find your red, green and blue channels. Clicking through them you will notice how each channel will show in different levels of contrast. The lighter areas represent the color of the channel selected. More importantly however the lighter area is the area that will be selected. So right off the bat we want to choose the channel with the most contrast between the hair, and the background. We want the hair to be white, and the environment to be black and or dark at the very least. In this particular image red is looking to be our best choice but each image will be different. So once you have found the most appropriate channel let's right click Duplicate Channel and make the Duplicate Channel active. Next we want to push this contrast between hair and background even further. So let's create a Levels Adjustment Layer. We want to use the sliders to make the hair white and the background black. Still again we do not want to push things too far, or the edges of the hair become crispy and over processed. Once we are happy with our levels we can then hit Okay, and then control click the duplicated layer to make our selection. Quick control click that will always make an automatic selection of any layer you are clicking on. Finally we can go back to our layers turn our subjects layer mask back on, and then masking our hair using a white brush. Now we do have this area over here on the right that could definitely use some work. With this image we could just mask it out right here with a brush and call it a day. However it wouldn't be that simple if there were some tricky hair strands in our way. So instead let's undo our masking and go back into our channels. Channels can be selected and painted on just like normal layers. So first let's paint black on a few of these spots on the left side here. Now let's select some of the problem areas using the lasso tool. Then just like before go into levels make your adjustments pinpointing those areas in particular, and giving them a little extra attention. Then select and mask just like before. Now in my PSD here I have all this hair scattered about and whipping in the wind. To get this hair I need to extract the strands from both of these images here. Now imagine trying to mask this one strand at a time. Not gonna happen. Even with its black background it's a tricky image to really extract. So while I extract all this hair using channels I'm going to quickly go over the whole process again with some tips and tricks thrown in there along the way. First make sure your subjects body and other solid areas are extracted. Second hide your layer mask so you can properly see the channels contrast. Third pick a whatever channel looks to be a good starting point, and then duplicate it. Fourth adjust the levels so the background around the hair appears black, and the hair appears white. Be careful not to overdo it, and fry the hair. Fifth if needed you can spot tree areas with a black brush, or the Lasso Tool. Adding a slight feather to the lasso tool, will also help you fight any harsh edges that may be popping up. Six hold CTRL and click the Channel to get your selection. If you find that your hair is black and the background is white which can happen very often all you have to do is reverse the selection with a control I. Finally turn your mask back on and mask in your selection. You can do even more refining with a regular old black brush if needed. And there you have it another one in the bag. Channels are incredibly powerful and I urge you to play with them as much as possible. If it can extract hair then it can extract other notoriously annoying objects. As good as channels are however still have one other tool I prefer. It's stole my heart almost a decade ago the Refine Edge tool is coming up in the Ultimate Guide to Hair in Photoshop.

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