How to make hair brushes in Adobe Photoshop to improve our selections
Last week we started this series to learn how to create custom hair brushes to enhance the look of our photos when we make selections and we want them to be perfect. In this article we are going to learn how to use these brushes correctly to improve the final result of our montages with Adobe Photoshop .
Some time ago I heard from a professional retoucher that if a selection takes you too long you are losing money. For this reason he recommended looking for a method that would allow us to go much faster. Today we are going to learn how to create hair brushes in Adobe Photoshop to use in those photographs where precise selections are nothing short of impossible.
In Engadget Foto we have seen enough techniques to improve the selections in our photographs. But at the time of making one in a portrait it can be quite complicated because of the model’s hair. It blends into the background, it is out of focus, there is no contrast … And the whole job gets complicated.
And I tell you from my own experience, there are times that not even knowing a thousand different techniques can you do a good job . For this reason today we are going to learn how to create hair brushes to use on those occasions where we want a perfect result.
We can create as many brushes as we need or types of hair we find throughout our photographic lives. We just have to save them in a custom folder within the Brushes window and that’s it. We are going to see the steps to create them and also how to use them in our long-suffering images.
How to create a hair brush in Adobe Photoshop
I have seen the method that I am going to explain below in a video that has convinced me by its relative simplicity. You can do the same with more steps but welcome the savings.
The most important thing is to find photographs in which the models’ hair allows for simple selections. Studio photographs against neutral backgrounds and sufficiently contrasted to be able to make a quick and precise selection to later convert it into a brush that we can use when we need it.
We can always search our archive or try to find on pages like Adobe Stock . Or better yet, if we have time and we are far-sighted before starting to take photos of our models, it would always be good to take some preliminary shots of their hair to create a good archive. Let’s start:
- We select with the Rectangular Frame tool only that area where the hair is visible. In this case there is no choice but to include a part of the face.
- It can be done in another way but this time we go to the Channels window and click on each one until we find the one with the most contrast, the one that separates the hair from the background better. In the photograph I have chosen the Blue channel .
- With the copy of the channel selected, go to the Image menu > Adjustments> Invert ( Ctrl + I ) to convert the image into negative. The hair in white (selected) and the background in black (not selected).
- In Image> Adjustments> Levels ( Ctrl + L ) we adjust the sliders to get a completely black background and the hair area as white as possible without losing any detail of the hair. It is one of the most important points of this technique.
- If there is any area of the hair that is not totally white or the background that is not totally black, we can fill them in with their respective color so that the final selection is perfect.
- When everything is correct we Ctrl + click on the thumbnail of the channel that we have transformed to activate the selection.
- Now we click on the RGB channel to activate it.
- We go to the Layers window and deactivate the visibility of the layer by clicking on the eye icon. The selection will remain active.
- We create a new layer in Layer> New> Layer and fill it with black in Edit> Fill> Content> Black .
- We remove the selection in Selection> Deselect ( Ctrl + D )
- We create another new layer that we will place between the original layer and the one that we created two steps ago. If we need to move it, we just have to click on it in the Layers window and drag it with the mouse.
- We fill this layer with white in Edit> Fill> Content> White .
- And it only remains to create the Brush . You have to go to the menu Edit> Define Brush Value and give it a name. In my case I have called it Curly Hair . And we have it ready.
Getting the hair area to look good in a photo montage can be very difficult. In the end, you must spend too much time to achieve a professional result. But if you dedicate yourself to this, time is money, so if we find methods that allow us to go faster it will always be better. Be careful, it is one more technique. Everyone is free to use it or not.
The key to making the brushes perfect is that, when creating them, we only have to keep the edge of it. The hair brush must be, by nature, narrow because we are only going to use it at the ends of the hair. It is important that you keep this in mind when looking for candidates.
Here we are going to see how to use them once we have them ready. The process is very simple but it is convenient to write down all the steps well to end such a nightmare if you have ever entered this world.
How to use hair brushes
To use hair brushes correctly, you have to dedicate time and love to them. It is not something immediate or that it comes out the first time. But of course it is one of the most effective solutions to improve any more or less complex selection.
The first thing is to choose a photograph in which we want to cut the model. So I search my archive and I find this image of the meander of the Melero river, from those days when you could travel. And I’ll take the model to one of the Donostia pools by the sea.
- We open the two images in the same file from Adobe Lightroom . I just have to select the two files and go to the Photo menu > Edit in> Open as layers in Photoshop .
- Once in Photoshop we have to ensure that the photograph of the model is in the upper part of the Layers window . If it doesn’t happen, we just have to click on the thumbnail and drag.
- Next we select the model. We can use any technique that we know. Of course, when we finish making the selection with the chosen tool, we should always go through Selection> Select and apply mask .
- Within this window we will adjust the Smart Radius and work with the Brush tool to refine edges . The hair does not have to be perfect because we are going to use the brushes …
- And as Output we will always choose Send to> New layer with layer mask .
- Back in Adobe Photoshop we will have, in the Layers window , and from bottom to top, the background image and the photograph of the model with the layer mask. In between the two we create a new layer in Layer> New> Layer .
- And in this new layer is where we have to paint with the hair brush that we have chosen.
We have everything ready to start improving our selection in the hair area. We are going to know the last steps:
- To achieve the same color, we click with the left mouse key and with the Alt / Opt key we mark the closest hair color to achieve the most natural effect possible.
- Some may soon find themselves with the problem of adjusting the angle of the brush … But with the latest versions of Photoshop it is as simple as using the arrow keys on the keyboard to vary the angle.
- Or if you want to paint the left side and brush our look to the right just we have to go to the window brush settings and mark Flip X .
- It can also be interesting, as we have done in this photograph, to give a little Gaussian blur in this hair layer to make the effect a bit more realistic.
The secret is to do it calmly, choose the different hair tones according to the light it receives. And above all, having the right hair brush … So surely these days of vacation that are approaching we can all take photos of hair just to create new brushes. You will tell us ..
Dowload some brushes free here