Retouching hair: removing strands

by Scott Kelby

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Step Five: That’s basically the process—you sample near a strand of hair, and use the Clone Stamp tool to remove it, stopping right at the main body of her hair. Now, that being said, you notice how the hairs are starting to look kind of straight and lopped off in a straight line (retouchers call this “helmet head”)? I try to do two things to keep things looking a little more random: (1) I don’t remove all the stray hairs—I try to leave a few short ones here and there, so it looks somewhat natural, and (2) I try not to leave them looking cut off straight. Here’s a great tip for what to do for that: get the Smudge tool from the Toolbox (shown here, nested below the Blur tool) and, using its default settings and a brush size just a tiny bit bigger than the hair, paint a few strokes over the ends. It pulls the hair out, so it tapers at the end and looks natural (just paint your strokes in the direction of the hair). Now, let’s look at this really annoying strand here, because it’s going to pose its own problem. Start by switching back to the Clone Stamp tool and sampling right above it (as shown here).

switching back to the Clone Stamp tool

Step Seven: You’re going to Option-click (PC: Alt-click) inside the hair, just above the “broken off” end of the strand you just removed, and use that to cover the end a bit. Now, just move down over the broken off end, and simply click once (as shown here).

small details make a difference

Step Eight: This kind of moves the end back a little more inside the hair, and it doesn’t look as obvious. Yes, this is a very subtle thing, and you have to decide if it’s even worth doing for the intended final use (for example, if the final use is somebody’s Facebook profile photo, I’m not sure I’d even consider doing this), but again, as the photographer, you have to decide what level of retouching is necessary for the job. Now, just continue around the head, going from the left, up over the top, and ending on the right, removing as many stray hairs as you feel is practical. Just remember not to make it look like you did this with the Path tool or a pair of scissors.

Step Nine: Now, let’s look at stray hairs that extend over the skin, like you see here on her forehead, where one big one, and a few friends, are encroaching on our otherwise unfettered skin area (I know, I went all Masterpiece Theatre on you there for a moment). Since part of it is on skin, and part of it goes near the hair, I use a two-tool approach in cases like this.

NEXT: Now, let's fix problems where hair crosses the skin...

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