How to Mask Hair


Creating Your Reality with Composite Photography


Lesson Info

How to Mask Hair

I'm gonna put that on normal. What I'm going to do, is I'm going to duplicate my background layer. I'm going to bring this on top. I'm gonna throw this blending mode onto overlay so I can see what's going on. I'm going to turn off this layer. Now what I'm going to start doing is I'm gonna start masking things out. I'm gonna go here to my layer of her, I'm going to create a layer mask, and this is where stuff gets boring. (chuckles) I could do, to make things relatively quick for myself, I could see about doing a select by color range. This is something, actually, that was brought up in the audience earlier. What we can do, is if we want to do a select by color range, this is very popular for people who use green screens or blue screens, or whatever it is that works best for you. We go select, color range. So we click here, and we can see what is being allowed. I just hit the plus button. We see what is in the color range here. Here we can see we're impacting a lot of hair, of course, b...

ecause the hair on the color range on a grayscale is very similar to this gray that's going on behind her. It's not totally ideal. Try hitting the minus here, and see, it's just kind of bleeding us around a bit. But this might get us a good starting point. I'm of the opinion that there is no one technique to rule them all, you have to hit a few things to get one thing done. So this might be a great place to start. We're just gonna hit OK. I'm going to create a layer mask, and she's gonna go kinda semi-transparent. I'm gonna go Command + I. See how her hair is a total wreck and all this stuff up here is a mess? I'm gonna work on a black and white mask so I can see what's up. Gonna hit my brush. Invert it. Gonna make sure I'm 100% flow and opacity right now, because up to this stuff up here, it doesn't matter. I'm gonna increase the hardness of my brush when I get closer around the edge of the fabric because I don't want to mess with that. I just inverted to white. Painting all this in here. The select by color range did a not-too-bad job on her hair. This is why I was saying yesterday, if you were watching the class, if you have one of those little five-in-one reflectors that has a little green screen thing, and you're shooting somebody on location that you want to composite, and the sky is some horrible color or you're up against a building or something and you want to cut it out, it doesn't hurt to have one of those handy and you can just put it behind their head. It's totally up to you. Whatever makes you happy. If I turn this on, it's looking kind of like this right now. We're getting actually relatively close, pretty quickly. But we have a fair bit of work to do yet. This hair strands here, these kind of suck. I like to use, as I mentioned yesterday, textured brushes for textured surfaces. All the brushes I'm using today, none of them are special. They all are stock with Photoshop. They come with CS6 and I'm sure older versions. I'm using brush number 59. Anybody who's been in my workshops knows that this is a brush I use a lot because it has texture and it acts kind of like hair. I'm just kind of going around this here. I'm using a low flow, around 11% flow. I'm just kind of hacking this stuff out. Remember that I'm going to be replacing the sky behind her too, but I still want a great mask. That white sky stuff is gonna go the way of the dinosaur. And I'm still, even though I did a select by color range, I'm going to have to go in. If you can see here, see those little dots? I'm going to have to go in and fix that. We're gonna go around here and get this hair done. It's okay, in my mind, a little bit of this gray coming through, because I know stylistically, I'm going to be putting in a darker sky behind her. So a little bit of this gray peeking through is not gonna be the end of the world. Another reason why sometimes I like to shoot with gray. Sometimes it works out when a little bit sticks through. I can always go through, of course, invert my brush, and just lightly bring that back. But lots of masking sometimes takes me quite a while to get this to where I want it. I'm going to do this for you guys as quick as I can, because everyone knows Bob Ross is kind of boring. (chuckles) But we'll see what we can do. (vocalizing) So this little hair strand here, I just made my brush really small. I'm still running at a low flow, and I'm just tracing that hair strand. This is simply the way that I like to create and I like to mask hair. If it's not your thing, it's totally okay. I do not try to convince anybody that my way is the only way, and my way is the end-all, be-all. And I also don't pretend that I know everything. Because I know for a fact I don't. (chuckles) I have learned way too much to realize that I know very little, I just happen to know some things that other people don't, and that's all. Relatively quickly, we've got hair extraction here. That's looking not too shabby. I mean, I would probably spend a fair bit of time cleaning this up if I had the time. Oops. X. I also sometimes like to draw in hair as well. But I do know that this light background behind her is going to go away, so this blending here on this edge is gonna be a lot more convincing in a few minutes. But we also have to clean up all the signs of civilization behind there because that sucks. Have any questions while I'm sitting here doodling and noodling away? We talked a little bit about this yesterday, but folks would like to know with, as far as best practices are concerned, about how long do you like to give, what's the average, to a single compositing project? Personal project? Lots of time. (chuckles) I spend most of my time on masking more than anything else. Masking can be many, many, many hours quite easily. It depends, basically, if you're getting paid for a job, how much are they paying you? And what's the resolution that things are gonna be seen at? So if you are doing something that is going to be printed 60 by 90 on a wall that people are gonna walk by, it's not a bad idea to spend two or three hours making that mask, strand by strand, perfect. I've had some of my images be that, where they're literally, people can walk up to them and touch them. And as the world is with digital art, and people find out that it's a composite, they try to figure out where you screwed up. In those cases, I literally go through with a small brush, and I pixel by pixel by pixel trace out the hair, and then I draw in fresh hair, and so it takes me hours. But that's because I know it's gonna go up against the wall. If I'm doing something that's going on Facebook and I know is never gonna go further than social media, I tend to hack and slash a lot more because I know that that's what the audience is. If you're getting into compositing, try to remember that your time is valuable, and try to not let anybody rip you off on how much they think you're worth. Because compositing is not necessarily very easy, and it is a skill you should be paid for and be paid well for. I don't subscribe to the concept that artists should be paid poorly for high-level skill work. If you're getting into it, keep that in mind. (chuckles) No $50 composites. It's not worth your time and effort. Does that make sense? That's perfect, thank you. Cool. I also find what's a good idea, because when you do a lot of compositing like this, I sometimes will get, even when I'm using a big screen, my posture kind of sucks because I'm like, hunched over, looking at it really close, pixel by pixel. So it's a really good idea, from an ergonomics perspective, set an alarm for yourself every hour, two to three hours, whatever it is that makes you comfortable, get up and stretch. Work out a little bit. If your body starts to seize up, you are not going to be an artist for very long. Because your body, if it's not functioning, speaking from experience, you got nothing. It's actually kind of nice here with CreativeLive, because we take breaks every 90 minutes or so, which gives me a chance to stretch out my back. A lot of things will happen here in that you're gonna be ergonomically crunching over, you're gonna be rolling your shoulders, your hip is gonna roll over funny, and it's just gonna be kinda crappy. It's good to set healthy boundaries for yourself so that you can keep yourself in workable condition as well.

Class Description

With the right Photoshop know-how and studio shoot experience, you can merge fact and fiction into a reality that lives up to your imagination. Renee Robyn has made a career of turning everyday photos from her travels into eye-catching images. Robyn will teach you how to add people and other elements to your existing landscape photos using ethereal custom effects.

Join us for “Creating Your Reality with Composite Photography” and you’ll learn:

  • How to choose or set up a shoot for your background image
  • How to direct posing during a shoot, and work with directional light in studio to make your subject fit into the background image
  • How to composite your subject into your image using Photoshop

Photo compositing allows you to breathe interesting ideas into your photos. Open your hard drive, walk into your memory, and turn past experiences into fantastic new realities.


1Class Introduction 2Why You Should Sketch Your Composite 3What to Look for in Your Background 4Posing Your Model 5Communicate with Your Team 6Elements of Compositing 7Learning from Failure & Criticism 8On-Location Safety Tips 9How to Nail the Right Perspective for Your Composite Photo 10Gauging Light & Exposure On-Location 11On-Location Posing 12Cliff Shoot Location Final Thoughts 13Tips for Culling Images 14Culling Images Q&A 15Preparing Your Image for Composite 16Composite Image Cleanup 17Adding Background Image to Composite 18The Difference Between Flow & Opacity 19Composite Sky Elements 20Using Curves to Color Match 21Adding Atmospheric Depth to Image 22Using Color Efex Pro to Manipulate Color 23Using the Liquify Tool 24Color Theory & Monitor Calibration 25Adding Smoke Layer to Image 26Selective Sharpening 27Crop Your Image 28Goal Setting for Digital Artists 29Review of Location Composite 30Understand Angle & Height for Your Base Plate Image 31Base Plate Focus Point 32Base Plate Lighting Tips 33How to Use a Stand-In for Base Plate Image 34Capture On-Location Base Plate Image 35Student Positioning Demo 36Base Plate Sketching 37On-Location Sky Capture 38What to Look for in a Base Plate Model 39Building Composite Model Lighting 40Composite Model Test Shots for Angle Matching 41Composite Model Shoot: The Art of Fabric Throwing 42Composite Model Shoot: Working with Hair 43Composite Model Shoot: Posing Techniques 44Composite Test with Final Shot 45Lighting Setup Overview 46Culling Model Shoot Images 47Adjusting Skintone Colors 48Merging Background with Model 49How to Mask Hair 50Creating a Layer Mask with the Brush Tool 51Creating Shadow Layers 52Removing Visual Distractions with Stamp Tool 53Replacing Sky with Layer Mask 54Drawing Hair Strands and Atmospheric Depth 55Creating Contrast in Your Composite 56Adding Atmospheric Elements 57Using Particle Shop 58Selective Color Adjustments 59Cropping, Sharpening, & Final Touches 60Closing Thoughts


Dino Maez

i have to say, the class was AMAZING! in every way from the tricks and technique's of mastering this art form to the personalized attention given by Renee. through the class you are able to learn information that would normally take the average person years of trial and error. Renee gives you the gift of benefitting from her her experiences and what she has learned THE HARD WAY! Renee is an outstanding instructor full of passion for what she does, and with a strong desire to not only improve the art, but more importantly, pay it forward, by sharing her knowledge with others. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the event in person, truly a once in a lifetime experience for me, the staff at creative live were THE BEST! they are helpful in every way and really made this event something special, i can't say enough about the experience i had and would highly recommend that anyone who has the opportunity to go down for a class, it will be an experience that you will never forget. but the best part of creative live is that wether you are there in person or wether you are watching from the comfort of your own home, you are involved in the class in REAL TIME, you have the ear and attention of the skilled artist giving the instruction, being there myself i can tell you that Renee was regularly given questions and comments from the viewers via the creative live staff and she would respond to them as they came, in that way you are very much apart of the class you are never left without getting that personalized attention of an amazing artist or that specific question you have answered, and even better you have the option to purchase the class and have it as a constant resource in your tool kit that you can refer back to at any point that you need a refresher or want to recall that special technique that was demonstrated. thank you thank you to renee and all the staff at creative live you have a life long member in me. and i would recomend that everyone take advantage of this valuable resource dino maez

Sheldon Carvalho

Awesome class. I've been following Renee for a very long time. I love her work and to finally see her work and get an image done from start to finish was quite something.. I love the way she sees things and the way she treats her work and all fellow creative. I would recommend this to everyone interested in getting into composting. Looking forward to creating and making my own art work. But it now :) Have fun creating. :)

Tristan Wilhelm

Very good class. I enjoyed the very friendly, approachable and quirky style Renee teaches with. I did feel, as others have said that she could get off on bunny trails and tell stories and I was glad for Creative Live's option to speed up the video. But great tips and it was extremely helpful watching it how she would do it. Thank you much Renee, and also, I'm a PC user that unites with you.