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Cleaning Up a Dirty Hair Mask in Photoshop CS

Using Photoshop's paint tools to add in what masking takes away By Dave Nagel
In compositing, there's nothing worse than a bad mask. And nowhere is it easier to mess up your mask than on a subject's hair, especially when it's blurred or obscured by a complex background or hazy foreground, making it pretty much impossible to get an accurate mask at all. There are two possible solutions for this. One is to settle for a mask that looks like it was done with an X-Acto knife (the kind you see in pop magazines). The other is to retouch the masked image with Photoshop's paint tools.

In other words, we're going to doctor our photo by drawing in strands of hair that might have been deleted in the masking process. To some of you, this probably sounds about as difficult as the masking process itself. But it's not. It's really just a matter of selecting the right painting tool to get the job done quickly.

Here's an example of a difficult hair situation. The job in this case is to remove the smoke from the picture, restoring the proper colors to the face and hair and also placing a "clean" background back into the image. The background itself isn't too difficult, but you can see that portions of the hair are obscured by smoke, while even the portions that aren't completely obscured do have a smoke-gray overlay. So there's color correction to be done, in addition the the masking job itself.




So I start off, as usual, with a bright blue background layer and then begin removing the elements from the image that I don't want, and I also do an initial color correction. And, obviously, that looks terrible.



So rather than going in and masking this thing out pixel by pixel (which, by the way, still didn't look good), I'm going to eliminate the problem altogether by deleting all of the fringes and drawing them back in myself with nice, clean strands. And we wind up with something like this.



And, pulling back, we get a complete picture showing our new image, which I like to call "Female Caught on Smoke Break Who Decided She Wanted To Use This Picture for Her Corporate Mug Shot and Needed the Smoke Removed from the Picture but Didn't Expect Her Husband To Use It in a Tutorial."


Here's how it works.


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Related Keywords:adobe photoshop, masking, hair, painting, hair brush, paint brush

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