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Photoshop: Extraction question, white background

SkipperlangeSkipperlange Member
edited January 2016 in post-processing

Hi everyone (Trev):

I have another extraction question. I need to place this woman's headshot on a white background (it's bigger than this tight crop, it goes to her waist, it's the way they want it). I could not light my background so it's pretty gray. I have had trouble with your Feb. 16, 2015 tutorial since masking doesn't seem to work for me (I don't get masking). I found a tutorial on YouTube that was pretty simple (and maybe that's the problem). I can send you link. So, it works pretty well -- it uses the rectangular marquis and refine edge -- but it fails to grab all of the hair AND -- here's the other problem -- I have gray showing in her hair where there are wide gaps. 

So I was wondering how to get rid of the gray in the wide gaps. Is there a technique to, say, choose the proper color gray and instruct PS to remove that color from the photo or selected areas of the photo? If I try to just go around with a fine dodge or clone stamp brush and lighten the gray to near-white I end up making a mess. 

I thought Trev might be able to help since he's a PS pro but anyone of course feel free to jump in if you have any suggestions. 

Thank you!


  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    Sure, post the link here. 
  • Thanks Neil. Here is the link to the YouTube vid I found helpful for extracting people to change the background. I couldn't totally repeat everything he did here, a few steps I couldn't get.

  • TonyTTonyT Member
    edited January 2016

    Have you tried making a selection using colour range, from the menu goto: select - colour range then use the eye dropper and sample the grey background, use the fuzziness slider to alter the sensitivity. I'd make a layer mask from this selection then you can easily see if its selected areas within the subject and clean it up painting with black on the layer mask. Then with a new layer you can fill  the refined selection with white.
    Hope that makes sense.

    Another thing you could try is:
    Right click on you background (I think PS defaults to a very dark grey), click on custom and set it to pure white, then you'll see how far out your background is. Then make a 'levels' adjustment layer and move the highlights input triangle (one on the right below the histogram) towards the left until the grey of your image matches and blends into the white of image border. Then paint with black on the layer mask over your subject so they aren't affected by the levels adjustment.

    Sorry this is using masks again but its pretty much the crooks of PS.

  • Thanks Tony T. Every time I try to learn masks it doesn't work. Ever. Maybe I'll see if YouTube has a masks for dummies video. Those suggestions of yours sound good but there's no way I'd know how to do them. Ok, sounds like I'm dead in the water until I figure out masks.
  • TonyT., The color range trick was a good suggestion but unfortunately the gray is so mixed in with the hair that I think it's impossible to select the gray without also selecting hair and making a mess. I tried a few times with different sensitivities with the fuzziness scale and every time I selected either too much or too little. Thanks again.
  • TonyTTonyT Member
    edited January 2016

    Skip, that's where the layer mask comes in, after you've done the initial colour select, click on the layer mask button. The white  areas will be what the 'select-colour range' made, as you found, it selected areas of subject you didn't want, masking will allow you to get rid of these. If you alt-click on the layer mask it will show the mask in place of the image. So any white (or grey) areas on the mask that appear over the subject should be painted with black so they don't show through. Alt-clicking the mask makes it easy to clean it up, so no part of the subject is affected.

    Masking is definitely  worth learning.

     I hope that makes sense, if not I can do some screen captures later this evening.

  • Thank you Tony T. I'll give that a try. Don't do any screen captures, I'll have to figure it out. Where is the black paint by the way? Do you make the foreground color black and use a brush?

    Also, just for the record, I used to be able to extract subjects with some success using the extract tool that came with earlier PS versions but they discontinued that in 5 or 6. Although even with that if the hair was really wild I had these problems.
  • Hope it works for you skip.

    You may find my 2nd suggestion easier using a levels adjustment layer, the mask is automatically created all you need to do is paint with black over the subject (on the mask).

    If you press 'd' your fore/back ground colours will default to black and white. Paint on the mask with black to remove the effects of the adjustment layer and white to show it, to switch between fore/back ground colours press the 'x' key.

  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited January 2016

    Just saw this thread, that tutorial you had at top is pretty good, and TonyT also contributed very nicely to the post with helpful tips which I use sometimes, although it's a bit trickier to use the Color Range method if you don't understand masks.

    So, instead of me writing a plethora of information/pics, I have given you a great link HERE
    It's for CS5, but it works in all Photoshop where the 'Refine Edges' are, since CS4 or even earlier I believe.

    Now, this sample/instructions are for getting a new background totally behind original, but, all you need to do is put a new layer on top of background, fill it with white and you are good to go.

    (Hint: If wanting a white background, I would work with a yellow/light colour first so you can 'see' the hair better than having white on white, once done and happy, just merely change background colour back to white again.

    Other than what I have said/linked to, there is not much else I can say since I use different methods/ideas as outlined by TonyT and that link, and if you read that link it's pretty straight forward.

    Much easier than trying to follow a video as you can do a Copy of entire Page, paste it into a Word doc and save, that way you have a permanent thing, especially if you have 2 monitors to work with, PS on one, this opened on other, of course saving the bookmark works well, but on rare occasions the post may have been deleted. :)

    Hope this was of some help.

    oh, HERE is another link, it has a video embedded, have not watched it, but may be of use.

    and HERE is another outline very similar to first link I gave.

    I really cannot help anymore apart from flying first class to you and doing it for you. Hah! :)

  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited January 2016
    As an aside, if anyone has Microsoft's Office installed from 2007 (I think) on, there is a part in there called OneNote, it is brilliant, you put anything you like in there with tutorials, videos, PDF's etc. etc.

    Over the years I have put in a heap of stuff, I copy paste into it, and it's all contained within the one Program instead of having to look for a whole lot of files you may save.

    That top link I gave from PhotoshopEssentials has an absolute abundance of tutorials to look through, I've been going to it for years to teach myself different things, etc. and having it all at my fingertips is just awesome when I copy/paste into OneNote.

    I very rarely have to do hair extraction, and maybe only once/twice a year I am called upon to do it.

    When I find a tutorial on the web I like, I merely highlight all the content I need, open OneNote, click 'New Page' type in a 'Header' the just paste it all into the page and I have it neatly sorted in the one area. Note the different 'Tabs' I created so all things are kept tidy.

    See sample image.


  • TrevTrev Moderator
    One more method I thought of and had it in OneNote:

    PDF file.
  • Trev,

    Thanks  for posting the links, some great articles to go at there, they will certainly be of help.

    As the saying goes there's more than one way to skin a cat, some methods are better than others though, that's certainly true of PS.

    Skip the above links should get you sorted.

  • Thank you Trev! About that first class flight ..... 

    Thanks for all the links and suggestions. I think I need to master mask basics and then all your info will make more sense. For example, the whole paint thing is super confusing. When I have tried that in the past the paint stays on, it does not disappear. 

    That tutorial with the woman and the beach looks great. Her hair is perfect for demonstrating/learning this. Wow there are a lot of steps. I am going to try to reproduce this because her hair is perfect in the end. Thank you so much. 

    The guy in the tutorial video I posted used the pen to select the subject. The pen isn't working for me because it only lays down straight lines and I need the lines to bend to conform to a body's shape. How he's getting the lines to bend don't ask me. He's not using the freeform pen because his pen clings. The other thing that happens when I retrace this guy's steps is when I wash the marquis refine edge tool over the edges to bring out the wispy hairs for a natural look wherever the tool hits on the subject's head suddenly lightens up noticeably, so it appears much lighter, as though the person had thinning or gray hair. It also doesn't "grab" all the peripheral curls, as you can see near this headshot subject's left ear. 

    So there are a lot of unanswered questions but until I build a foundation by learning masking then I can't build the upper floors, which are your suggestions.I feel like I'm trying to learn Italian III without taking Italian I. OK enough metaphors. Thanks again Trev! And Tony T.  

  • For those that dont have Office 2007 or later Evernote is a great alternative OneNote. If you have Web Clipper installed in your browser you dont even need to have Evernote open. Just highlight what you want and right click to grab a screen shot, selection or whole page. 
  • Creativelive.com has great courses by many photoshop masters but Ben Willmore has numerous ones about photoshop and masking specifically. worth every dollar.
  • Hi Trev, This is a great tutorial you linked above and I'm linking again here. http://www.photoshopessentials.com/photo-editing/selecting-hair/

    I've been working with it and trying to get it right. I'm not getting the same results yet as the tutorial's author but better than I was getting before. I'm still getting some leftover background transferring to new background and I'm still not grabbing all the hair, some is faded, and the author discusses this. Some background can still be seen too much between gaps in the hair. So I must be doing something wrong. But wanted to let you know it's a big help and I'm hoping in time it will work for me as well as it does in the example exercise (the girl on the beach). 

    Thanks again everyone.  

  • Here is an example of where the original background color (buttercream yellow in this case) bleed through to the new background like a halo. I think it has to do with the 'refine edge' settings. 
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