How to Mask Hair in Photoshop to Bring Out Fantastic Details

How to Mask Hair in Photoshop

Want to provide your brand images with a more lively and realistic look? You are at the right place. Today I am going to show you an amazing masking hair technique that I use to make my images more lively.

This Photoshop refine hair tutorial is a bit tricky. So, at first, it may take 6-10 minutes to mask hair in an image. However, with practice and a few tries you will be able to master it and apply it within 2-3 minutes. So, my advice would be do not lose your patience as learning how to mask hair in Photoshop will help you forever to enhance your image quality. Let’s not waste any more time, start reading the process and mask hair following it.

Best Way How to Mask Hair in Photoshop

Masking hair in Photoshop is a bit tricky as you need to make many selections to retouch the hair details. However, do not get frightened, you can easily add hair details following these 4-step Photoshop hair tutorials. Let's begin!

Step 1: Select Subject, Apply Layer Mask and Solid Color

First, you need to select the subject. You may have a question why do you need to select the whole subject when you’ll just refine hair in Photoshop? Selecting a subject will help you not only refine hair but also other parts of the image. So, I think it is a good way to start the masking hair process.

  • To select the subject- Choose Select>Subject. It will select your subject automatically.

    Erik Almas

  • Select layer mask from layers down below the options. It will create a layer mask and change the background into a transparent background.

    Select layer mask from layers

  • Since the background has turned transparent, you may have a hard time seeing the selection. So, to see the selection clearly, Go to create a new file or adjustment layer. It is right beside the layer mask icon. Click on the icon and select the solid color.

    Since the background has turned transparent

  • A color pick (Solid Color) dialog box will appear. Choose a white color to see the selection properly. The image has probably turned white, right? Click and drag the color fill layer underneath the masked layer and the subjects will be placed on the color fill layer.

    color pick

Step 2: Select Channels

Before selecting Channels, you need to temporarily disable the layer mask to take the image back to its original look.

  • Click and hold the shift key and click on the layer mask. The layer mask will be disabled temporarily. If a red cross mark appears on the layer mask, it is successfully disabled.

    Click and hold the shift key

  • Now, you need to select channels. Go to the Menu Bar>Window>Channels. Some options like red, green, blue, and RGB will appear under Channels options. Or you can directly choose channels from the layers menu. You will find Channels right beside the layers.

  • From the Channels options, choose the one that most contrasts the subject and the background. It will help you make the hair selection Photoshop easier. If you are confused about which channel you should select, choose the blue channel, it creates the most dark and light contrast in the image.

    Note: Choosing the channel will change the image color however, it is just for photo editing accurately.

    From the Channels options

Step 3: Accurate Subject Selection Using Channels & Invert

After the channel selection, let’s select the subject.

  • Click and drag the channel to the “create a new layer” option and duplicate the channel layer to refine hair.

  • Click Ctrl/Cmd+L for the Level box. Drag the dark arrow to the right to darken the subject and drag the light arrow a little to the left to lighten the background. Make sure the subject is darker. It will increase the contrast and help you select the dark areas accurately. Click “OK”. The image will not look good after this process but it is just for selecting hair in Photoshop properly.

    From the Channels options

  • For selection- Ctrl/Cmd+Click on the channel copy image. All the lighter areas will be selected. So, you need to invert the selection to convert it to the darker areas.

    For selection

  • To invert the selection- Choose Select>Inverse. The selection will be inverted to the dark areas resulting in selecting hair in Photoshop.

    To invert the selection

Step 4: Enable the Layer Mask & Paint the Details

It is time for the main part. Let’s do Photoshop mask hair.

  • Go to Layers>Click on the layer mask and it will be enabled. The image has turned back to normal, correct? Now, let's mask the model hairs.
  • Click Alt/Optn + layer mask and the dots will appear on the selection.
  • Choose Brush Tool from the Toolbar. Increase brush size and select a soft round brush from the brush preset picker. You will find the brush preset picker from the tools options.
  • Now, Zoom in on the model’s hair and start painting over the hair. You will see the hairs are getting masked providing a realistic and natural look.

    Layer Mask & Paint the Details -1

  • Again, click Alt/Optn+Layer mask to see the results in real time. If you see the masking hair looking fake or faint, paint over the areas and refine hair till it looks natural and detailed. Also, paint over the edges like clothes to smoothen clothes and other objects. It provides a realistic feeling.

    Again, click Alt/Optn+Layer mask

  • The final image with masking hair in model photo retouching.

     Layer Mask & Paint the Details -2

Wrapping Up

Were you able to refine hair with my how to mask hair in Photoshop tutorial? Though it may seem hard and tricky at first, with little practice you will be able to master it within no time. So, follow the instructions sequentially and provide a detailed and smooth look to your models that captures the viewer's attention instantly.

Lastly, If you also want to learn how to retouch skin in Photoshop and provide a smooth look to your model, check out this article: How to Retouch Skin in Photoshop.


What is the usage of Channels in Photoshop?
Channels in Photoshop are a really great way to create a contrast between light and dark. Many people use quick selection tools to select a subject, however, channels automatically create a contrast that helps you make an accurate selection with a few clicks and edit the selected area to provide a detailed look.
Can I hide the hair selection in Photoshop without deselecting it?
Yes. Click Ctrl/Cmd+H and it will hide your selection without deselecting it. You can also bring back the dots following the same process.
How can I remove stray hairs in Photoshop?
You can easily blend stray hairs with a clone stamp tool. Take tones from the background and paint over the stray hairs. The stray hairs will blend in with the background. Retouch the removed area till it looks natural.
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