In this tutorial, we will learn a powerful technique to how to cut out hair in photoshop creating advanced masking; Calculations.

With this technique, you will be able to mask even the most complicated images like the hair of a model. For this tutorial, we will use an image with some complexities like the hair and the shape of the model face.

For perfect masking we usually have to use more than one method, in this case, we will use calculations and pen tool.

Let’s start.

Before We Get Started

For this tutorial you are going to need:


Back Ground

Step 1 Create a new channel using Calculations

This tool merges two channels for creating a new one. This is great because we can create a new channel that contrasts the model and the background.

a) Open your image and double click on it in the layers palette to make it editable

b) Select the channels palette

c) Select Calculations in the top menu: Image > Calculations


d) This tool merges two channels for creating a new one. Usually, we select the red one above and the blue one below. In this case because of the contrast between the hair and the sky we will select the Green channel above and the blue below.

how to cut out hair in photoshop

e) Now for the mask to work, we need that the inside of the model is complete with background black, so we select invert the blue channel

calculations how to cut out hair in photoshop

f) Now we set the blending mode to subtract with a 100 percent offset (90% of the cases you will use this blending mode)


g) Select Ok to create the new channel. This will appear in the channels palette as Alpha 1

Alpha channel

As you can see all the hair strains are perfectly white and insolated.

It is very important to notice that these are the settings for this particular image. Every image is different so according to the case you will have to play with the settings like the channels or the blending mode to achieve the best mask.

Step 2 Creating a path for the face

Now as you can see certain areas of the face and part of the neck and body are not perfectly white.

Since this is made of curves we can use the pen tool for this area

a) Deselect the new alpha 1 channel, select the RGB

b) Create a new path using the pen tool following the face contour and selecting parts of the head, neck and body

creating path

c) For this tutorial we are assuming you are familiar with the pen tool. In case you are not next week we are going to publish a tutorial specifically for the pen tool.

d) Select path in the palettes and in the options select make selection

make selection

e) Enter a feather radius of .5 pixels


f) Return to the alpha channel (select only this channel) and paint this mask with white.

advanced masking

Step 3 fine adjusting

We still have some areas like gray or with small part of white, and it should be perfectly white and black

a) Select a soft brush

b) Set the mode of the brush to overlay, if you select a white color it will only paint in the white parts, not painting the black ones (important the brush must be set to overlay)

soft brush

c) Now select a black color to fine paint the black parts

d) Your channel should look like this:

advanced masking

Step 4 Create the mask

a) Deselect the alpha 1 channel and select the RGB

b) Return to layers

c) Load the selection, in the top menu: Select > Load Selection

load selection

d) Select the Alpha Channel 1 and click on invert

load selection

e) Now delete the background


Step 5 Fine adjusting hair

Now we have some fringe (blue color in the hair) caused by the blue background, there are different forms to correct this.


a) Create a new layer

b) Load the alpha channel mask (Repeat C and D from step 4 but DON’T SELECT INVERT this time)

c) Remove the inner part of the mask (face and neck) you can do this using the polygonal lasso selecting subtract from the selection.

polygonal mask

d) Using the eyedropper sample some color of the hair and paint the selection with this color

paint hair

e) Soft the inner part of the mask using a soft brush with the eraser tool

f) Set the blending mode to color

blending color mode

g) Duplicate this layer and set the blending mode to overlay at 35%

Now we can use any background and we have all of our hair even the thinnest strings.


The next part of this tutorial will be done with a blond model because the calculations change.

Other methods:

Content aware fill

How to remove the background of an image: Magic Wand

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Javier Cantero

Javier Cantero