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Masking difficult, flyaway Hair.
Posted by: Flora on 12-31-1969.

"Quick and very easy "shortcuts" for changing the colour of a flat coloured or white background behind difficult, flyaway hair. This Tutorial is written using Photoshop CS4, but any version of Photoshop can be used as long as it offers the "Apply Image" option."


this tutorial is about "quick and very easy shortcuts" for changing the colour of the background behind difficult, flyaway hair which could turn any attempt to selection into a nightmare...

These techniques work only on images with strong contrast against flat coloured or white backgrounds .... (still working on a satisfying "shortcut" for a black background..)


  • Well, let me start with a white background: (Image 1)

Image 1


  • After opening your working image in Photoshop follow the steps described in (Image 2)

Image 2

  • Fill the new blank Layer which I named "Color" with the colour/s of your choice. What you see now is the 'Multiply' image over the Color Layer. (Image 3)

Image 3

  • Activate the "Normal" Layer by clicking on it and add a white Layer Mask to it by clicking on the  'Add Layer Mask' button at the bottom of your Layers' Palette. (Image 4)

Image 4

  • Alt+click on the Layer Mask just created (Image 5) to show only the Mask .... (your image has now turned into a pure white rectangle).

 (Image 5)

  • Now, let Photoshop do your work for you by creating a great mask or the base for one! ... Go to Image>Apply Image (Image 6)

(Image 6)


  • In the Apply Image dialog box you have several options you can experiment with ...
    In the 'Source' part, (top of the box)  the most interesting field to 'play' with is the 'Channel' change this Option until you get the strongest contrast ...
    In the 'Target' part, (bottom of box) 'play with Blending and Opacity until you are satisfied with the result. For this image I selected:


    (Image 7) ....

(Image 7)


  • Once your Mask is created, (Image 8) you can still increase/decrease its contrast by running Levels on it but I didn't think it was necessary here, so, the only change I made was 'filling' its center (part I wanted left unchanged in my 'Normal' Layer) using a big very soft white brush. (Image 9)

(Image 8)

(Image 9)

  • My result after this procedure and not even 5 minutes work. A very satisfying result already! (Image 10)

(Image 10)


  • If you want to add consistency to the flyaway hair just duplicate the "Multiply" Layer (Image 11) and, if this procedure adds a strong cast of the original colour, just desaturate (or partially desaturate) the duplicate. (Image 12)

                             (Image 11)                                                            (Image 12)


  • Possible end result (Image 13)

(Image 13)


The following procedure is definitely one of the easiest and fastest way to deal with this kind of retouch. In most of the cases I have worked on it consisted of a single Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and no previously prepared Selection whatsoever!!!

The image I worked on: (Image 1a)

(Image 1a)


  • Open your Image in Photoshop and go to Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation. (Image 2a)

(Image 2a)


  • In the Hue/Saturation dialog box select the the background colour you want to change from the cascading Menu, in this case, obviously the 'Blues'.
    After doing this, you will notice that the 3 Color Pickers at the bottom of the box have become available; select the "
    + Picker" and sample as much as possible of your background colour with special attention to the spots between the flyaway hair.  (Image 3a)

(Image 3a)


  • Now just move the Hue slider either way until you get to the colour you like and watch as Photoshop performs its magic .... amazing isn't it? (Image 4a)

(Image 4a)

  • ... and that's all ... If you'd like to add just a hint of the new background colour to the flyaway hair you could create a blank layer on top, set the new Layer's Mode to "Color" and, using a very soft brush, (Opacity 10 - 15%) sample the new colour from your background  and very gently paint over the  'edge flyaway hair'. .... I didn't do that here.

  • My worflow (Image 5a)

(Image 5a)

  • My end Result ... not one single strand of darn flyaway hair lost!!! (Image 6a)

(Image 6a)

TIP: For better results and a nice, smooth transition from old to new background try to not lose sight of the luminosity of the original image/background .... If the original is light and bright  choose a different 'light and bright' colour and vice versa if the original image/background is on the 'darkish' side.

Hope this helps.

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