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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.
Hi! I am Deke McClelland. Welcome to Photoshop Masking and Compositing Hair, my unflinching guide to isolating that most delicate detail in all of digital imaging, human hair. To you and I a strand of hair is an admittedly fine, but ultimately discrete object. To Photoshop, it's the usual series of pixels, and such thin strands of pixels. They come, they go, and they mingle with the surrounding environment.
One hair may be darker than its background and the next one lighter. The transitions may be obvious and abrupt, or so subtle you can hardly distinguish them. And here's the worst part, hair grows and shrinks when set against similar luminance levels. So a dark hair will appear slim against the light background and thicken up as the background darkens, even though the actual hair never changed. It's a photographic illusion that creates special challenges when masking. The upshot is that hair doesn't respond well to Photoshop's automated tools, which is why I'll be showing you a handful of advanced manual approaches, all of which produce excellent results.
I'll start by introducing you to the commands that do the best job of seeing hair, Calculations and Apply Image. Then I'll show you two unique Blend modes; Add and Subtract and their supporting options, Scale and Offset. From then on, we'll examine hair in a series of four projects. First, we'll isolate hair set against a blue screen or sky. Then we'll work on dark hair, even going so far as to paint in missing strands with the Wacom Tablet.
In Chapter 3, we'll select blonde hair, and just for fun we'll mask a translucent flame. And finally, we'll take on the tough stuff, hair of all luminance levels set against an almost identically colored and very busy background. Over the next three hours we'll start simple and then get very, very complex. Here is how to masking composite hair in Photoshop.
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