Learn How to Mask Hair, Down to the Final Fragile Follicle, in Photoshop

My final video course of 2011 for the lynda.com Online Training Library is now live. Titled Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Hair, it lives up to its name, showing you how to mask and composite the most fragile of all photographic details, hair, in that most powerful of masking applications, Photoshop.

Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Hair

(Yes, I’m aware that the term “follicle” specifically refers to the root of the hair, not the part we see and therefore need to mask. It’s all about the alliteration, dammit!)

My goal is to boost both your skills and your confidence. As well as pass along lots of useful, in-the-trenches techniques. All in just 3 hours and 6 minutes! Here’s an illustrated outline of the four feature-rich chapters and the fun, challenging projects that accompany them:

Chapter 1, Calculating a Hair Mask

I start by introducing you to the best of Photoshop’s Hair-identification commands, Calculations and Apply Image. Then we’ll review those commands specialized blend modes, Add and Subtract, as well as their refinement options, Scale and Offset. In the end, I’ll show you how to hair a person captured against a blue screen or clear sky background, and set her against an aqueous backdrop, as pictured below.

Chapter 1, Calculating a Hair Mask

Chapter 2, Masking Dark Hair

In the next chapter, we’ll take a look at ways to mask a dark-haired subject (which includes most people, btw) set against a busy background. You’ll also see what to do when hairs and backgrounds interact with each other, as they almost invariably do. Mask in hand, we’ll blend the model with a futurist backdrop, match the light sources, and paint in a few missing hairs using a Wacom tablet. The final effect appears below.

Chapter 2, Masking Dark Hair

Chapter 3, Masking Light Hair

Next, we’ll focus on the more rare phenomenon of light hair. Specifically, I’ll show you how to mask a blond-haired model into a vibrant backdrop. Plus, you’ll see how to mask a translucent flame. As witnessed below, so the flame effect is a bit over the top. But I’ve never been of a fan of subtlety.

Chapter 3, Masking Light Hair

Chapter 4, Masking the Tough Stuff

In the last chapter, we’ll take on the tough tough. Not only does the subject of the photo have tons of alternately thick hair—sometimes coarse, sometimes wispy—but she’s set against a busy background, and her hairs are at once lighter, darker, and the same hue and saturation values as the details that surround them. Which makes for a daunting project. And yet we pull it off in just 48 minutes. (That’s hands-on training time, btw. Once you come to terms with the approach, you’ll be able to repeat it in about half that time.) When all is done, we manage to retain just about every last vestige of hair, as illustrated below.

Chapter 4, Masking the Tough Stuff

If you’re interested, click the following link to begin your free 7-day trial subscription to lynda.com, which will give you plenty of time to view this course. If you’re already a member, click here to start watching Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Hair.

And bear in mind, this is a satellite course for my primer Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Fundamentals, which teaches you everything you need to know about the wide world of general-purpose masking in Photoshop.

Next entry:Deke’s Techniques 091: Removing Unwanted People from a Photo with Photoshop

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  • I love your course

    Thank you so much for sharing.

    I really love your course.

  • CS 4 Channel and Mask

    I like the book but I think the lesson’s would be better taught if the approach taken were to simply show the easiest way, to learn the lesson until you have that down pat then look at the shortcuts.

    I think a prime example is lesson number one Channels two many mechanics in that lesson,Lab Color, CYMK, Dual Tones, Tritones, Quadtones, after reading and trying to take all that in my freakin brain was fried!


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