1. The Right Kind of Image
Before we start trying to extract an image in Photoshop, we do want to ensure that we have an image that will be more conducive to getting a clean selection. We want to avoid images that fall out of focus around the edges of the hair. Images that are sharp from the very front to the back are the best and yield the best results. This is the type of image that I’ll be working with right here.
2. Selection Tools
Typically I like to start with the quick selection tool and drag a selection around my object and select everything that is NOT my object being selected. In this case I will select the background around the model. This typically makes it easier for the next step which involves refining the edge of our selection to really include all the hair and fly-away hairs.
3. Refine Edges
Once you have your “marching ants” selection you’re ready to refine this thing. Go Select>Refine Edge and I like to tick on “Smart Radius” and increase the radius about 4px or so depending on the size of your image. The golden child of this refine edge tool is the little brush icon to the left called the “Refine Radius Tool”. Take this tool and begin painting around the edges of your selection-specifically the hair-just as I do in the video above.
4. Drag Model to New Document
Once we create this selection we will create a mask that hides everything we have selected by holding our Alt/Opt key and hitting the create a new mask button at the bottom of the layers panel. Once this model is selected from our image we can grab the move tool (V) and drag her over to the new background and drop her into our new background.
5. Final Adjustments to Mask
To apply our final adjustments to our mask we want to grab the brush tool (B) and look to the control bar and set the brush tool to the blend mode of “Soft Light” and gently brush near the edges with either black or white to paint away only the black or white colors and build a realistic looking edge. The soft light blend mode with the brush tool allows you to paint with that black or white color and, instead of actually painting with that color, it will only intensify what black or white is already in the mask. This allows us to quickly paint over the edges without making a complete mess of our mask. After cleaning up your edges you will have a great looking mask for your complex hair selection! Be sure to watch through the video for a detailed walk through of how this is done.