Retouching hair: removing strands

by Scott Kelby

... continued from the previous page.

Step 10: I start with the Healing Brush tool (press Shift-J until you have it) to get rid of most of the stray hair extending over the skin. We’re basically doing a skin repair, and the Healing Brush works well for this, so sample (Option-click [PC: Alt-click]) an area of skin very near the stray hair and paint over it, stopping when you start to get near the hairline (as seen here).

removing strands over skin uses two tools

Step 11: Switch to the Clone Stamp tool again, and choose a very small, soft-edged brush at 100% opacity. Sample a clean area very near the last bit of hair you need to remove, and clone that final section away, so it’s completely gone (as seen here). While I was there, I cleaned up the other few stray hairs over the skin using the same two-tool combination.

Step 12: Now, you can see other hairs out of place that are over the main parts of her hair (meaning they’re not extending onto her skin, or onto the background. They’re just messy hairs). For example, take a look at the hair I have circled here in red. For these, I mostly use a technique for moving pieces of hair (which you’ll learn next), because when you start cloning hair, it usually looks kind of fake. It might look okay from a distance (and fine for low-res Web photos, or Facebook profile pages, and stuff like that), but if this is going to be a print or an image that really matters, you’ll need to move existing pieces of clean hair down over the stray hair to cover it.

use the lasso tool to make a tight selection

Step 13: Start by getting the Lasso tool (L) and draw a selection around the hair in question, leaving just a little space around it. While you still have the Lasso tool, click inside your selected area and drag that selection just a tiny bit above the hair, to a clean area of hair, as seen here (of course, if there isn’t a clean area above it, try just below it).

here's the clean results Now, to soften the edges, go under the Select menu, under Modify, and choose Feather. When the Feather Selection dialog appears, enter 4 pixels for just a tiny bit of edge softening, and click OK.

Step 14: Press Command-J (PC: Ctrl-J) to lift that selected area of clean hair and put it up on its own layer. Now, switch to the Move tool (V), and drag this layer down and position it right over the stray hair to cover it completely (as shown above, left). If you made your selection small enough, it should be a perfect fit and not overlap anything or cause any other problems. If, for some weird reason, it’s not a perfect fit, press Command-T (PC: Ctrl-T) to bring up Free Transform, then press-and-hold the Command (PC: Ctrl) key, click on one of the Free Transform corner points, and bend the hair so it fits the right way (holding that key lets you distort the shape the way you want it), then press Return (PC: Enter) to lock in your transformation. Again, you probably won’t need to do that last part, but hey—ya never know.

photo retouching - removing strands of hair

NEXT : Fixing Gaps in Hair

Retouching hair is one of the trickiest retouches, because the Clone Stamp tool and the Healing Brush tool usually give you pretty lame results. So, you usually have to move hair from one place to another to cover the problem, and this is one of the situations where you need to do just that—covering a gap in the hair caused by your subject’s position, or movement, or a fan, or one of the dozen things that cause a gap to appear temporarily and mess up your shot.


Excerpted from : Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques by Scott Kelby

Excerpted from Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques for Photographers Using Photoshop by Scott Kelby. Copyright ©2011. Used with permission of Pearson Education, Inc. and New Riders.

Peachpit / New Riders / Kelby Media
Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques / Amazon

Scott KelbyScott Kelby is Editor, Publisher, and co-founder of Photoshop User magazine, host of the top-rated weekly videocast Photoshop User TV, and co-host of D-Town TV (the weekly videocast for DSLR shooters). He is President of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP), the trade association for Adobe Photoshop users, and he¹s President of the training, education, and publishing firm, Kelby Media Group, Inc.

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