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In this installment of his popular Masking & Compositing series, Photoshop guru Deke McClelland shows how to select hair—down to the individual strands—and composite portraits against new backgrounds. The course covers how to mask out hair, paint in detail, blend hair, merge channels, and match light sources. Deke also explores special techniques for working with both dark and light hair, as well as extracting hair from complex backgrounds.
All right! Here I am still working away inside that file called Merged iterations.tif and I'm going to show you one more trick where Dodge and Burn are concerned. Notice if I were to switch back to the Dodge tool and I painted over this shoulder right here, that each time I scrub back and forth over the shoulder, I make bigger and bigger modifications. However, let's say I don't want to do all that scrubbing. Here's another way to work. I'll press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac to undo that change and I'll turn on this airbrush mode icon up here in the Options bar.
Now, if I just click and hold over certain areas you can see that I'm incrementally modifying those areas on the fly, and that gives you a little better control, because that kind of scrubbing back and forth you can very easily go too far at a point, where if you are just clicking and holding in a specific location until you get the results you want and at a point it will top out, you won't get any more modifications after you hold for say about three seconds. However, during those three seconds you can gauge exactly the degree to which you want to move forward.
That's my first brush stroke, now I'm going to go ahead and click and hold again at certain locations and you can see now I can move pretty quickly through here until I get to this strap and there I need to hold for a couple seconds until I get the final result I'm looking for. All right! That looks pretty good and I'm going to paint up in this area, the hair, paint this region as well, paint up into the top region in the left-hand side of the image. And notice that we've got some kind of choppy edges at some points over here in this left-hand region that has created so many problems for us in the past.
We're going to deal with those independently in the next exercise, just want you to see they're there. We've also got this big area of gray under the flame. I'll press the O key to switch over to my Burn tool, and then I'll paint some of the stuff away. Now at this point I'm not really interested in getting the flame exactly right, so I'm not going to worry about it too much, might paint up this side of the hair just a little bit, otherwise that area is looking pretty good. Over here on the right-hand side we've got some very decent results right off the bat. So I'm going to switch over to the Dodge tool.
I'm not going to have to make too many modifications in other words, and then I'll scroll down here or might kind of paint down this region. I don't want to go too far outside the hair, that way I don't want to paint over the hair because I'll end up expanding it and that's not what I'm looking for. I'm going to click and hold on this dress strap and see what kind of changes I can make here, and then I'll click and hold again in order to basically completely mask it in to shape. It looks like we've done a pretty good job on the edges, so let's just go in with the standard application of the Brush tool.
I'm going to select the brush, right-click, increase the Hardness to 100% this time, press the Enter key a couple of times to accept that change, press Shift+Alt+N or Shift+Option+N on the Mac in order to switch to blend mode to Normal. My foreground color is still white, so I'm just going to paint inside the image taking care of course, not to get too close to the edges, I just want to paint away the stuff that is obviously, supposed to be, Oops! I always do that. You have to be careful about that. I'm going to press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac. I have a habit of trying to paint too much at a time and then if you end up going too far or making mistake, you've to undo the whole darn thing.
So another reason I advocate short brushstrokes where possible. Looks to me like we got some weird junk going over here and I'll explain what's up there in a moment. In the meantime, let's just go ahead and paint this stuff away, might as well zoom-in here and make sure I didn't damage the knuckle. Looks pretty good actually. And then I'll go ahead and drag down into the hand region, click right there on that strap in order to make it go away, all the way. Had a little bit of something there that was left over, otherwise I think we're in pretty good shape.
I'm going to go ahead and press Ctrl+0 to zoom-out and that is very nearly our final mask. The one problem is I'll go ahead and grab my Rectangular Marquee tool. We've got this area right here. I'll go ahead and zoom-in on it and you can see that we're calling attention to those hairs that are growing in the wrong direction and we've also got a lot of scraping going back and forth here. That's just not acceptable, especially if you take a look at the RGB image, which shows an opaque region of hair at that exact location.
So we're going to have to rebuild that small area of the mask manually and I'll show you how to do that in the next exercise.
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