How to Cut Out Hair with the Brush Tool in Photoshop

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How to Cut Out Hair with the Brush Tool
When cutting a person out of their background, hair is often the hardest area to master. Learn how to create custom brushes and use them to cut out hair in today’s episode!

Hair Vs. Body
It is helpful to think of cutting a person out in two different parts — the body and the hair. Cutting out a subject’s body is relatively easy, though it may take some time. For best results, we recommend using the Pen Tool.

Check Out the Pen Tool Tutorial

Because hair contains fine detail, it is best done with selection tools or the Brush Tool, as taught in this tutorial.

How to Create a Custom Brush
The first step in cutting out hair is to create a custom brush that looks like a single strand of hair. Everyone has different hair, so each brush is unique to the individual being cut-out.

In this example, we start by creating a single “hair” which is just a brush stroke with a very small diameter to simulate a hair.

Once a single brush stroke is created, it is time to turn it into a Custom Brush Shape. Select the Rectangular Marquee Tool and create a square selection around the hair by holding SHIFT+CLICK-DRAG. Fill the square selection with white and move it behind the layer with the hair on it. Center the hair in the white square by clicking on the Pen Tool, then the Alignment Controls on the top of the screen.

After the hair is centered, keep the selection of the white square active and go to “Edit – Define Brush Preset” and give the brush a name. This will create a brush with the shape of a hair, next it is time to define the custom brush characteristics in the Brush Menu.

Defining Custom Brush Characteristics
To open the Brush Menu, go to “Window – Brush.” In this advanced menu, you can control many characteristics of a brush, including shape dynamics, scattering, rotation and size. For best results, mix and match settings to simulate natural hair.

Try adding Size Jitter, Angle Jitter, Scattering, and Roundness Jitter.

Painting Hair on a Layer Mask
After creating the “Hair Brush,” it is time to paint on the layer mask to reveal the hair. In this example, we cut out the subject’s body with the Pen Tool first, then painted in the hair with the custom brush.

Keep in mind, hair changes size and direction on different areas of the head. The Custom Hair Brush can be rotated in the “Brush Tip Shape” dialog in the “Brush Menu.” Change brush size using the open and close brackets “[” “]”

Download the Custom Hair Brush

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48 COMMENTS

  1. Great video. I also liked the tip about the adjusting the mask density. That will be a big help on my other masking projects.

  2. This would be a lot more helpful if you let us practice on the same picture as you. It is hard to follow along when my hair looks totally different than yours. Is this possible?

  3. When you click and drag after creating the new brush it creates multiple lines like hairs, but if i click and drag it just creates a straight horizontal line. How so?

  4. Nice job. I like your no-nonsense approach. Thank you for the hard work put into making these tutorials. I like how you summarize at the end.
    You're an excellent teacher. Thanks again.

  5. Variation I heard that like "very asian" also matched the context with "hair everywhere" the manga kind of feel. Had me laughing a little 😀

  6. It should be noted that this only really works if you are working with a source image that has a background colour that is similar to the one you are going to end up with. If you were going to isolate this person and then try to put, say a red background behind him, you are going to be masking areas that don't actually have hair. So you will end up with a person that has blond and white hair on a red background.

  7. nice tutorial its me very difficult to cut the hair from the background but your tutorial gib some new ideas to create innovative

  8. ✠ Owww man, I´m a very very big fan of you. The way you explain resolution for issues and complicated points is really amazing. You have the gift of teaching, and always the most creative solutions. Best regards from Brazil.

  9. A really helpful tutorial, as always… but now I want to be able to rotate my brush with the keyboard. I've been trying to find a way to do this. I tried to assign a shortcut, but there isn't an option for brush rotation in CS5 (which is what I have) so I tried recording an action, but that didn't work. Any suggestions? Thanks.

  10. I can't tell what, but something went wrong here. I got it right up to the point where only the face without hair is showing. But I couldn't use the brush to make the hair show. For some reason I can only use the brush on the face, but then what I get is a hairy face, which is not ideal, at least not the pic I want to use the technique on. Can you tell me what could I have done wrong?

  11. Hi Aaron, what camera do you use for your videos? The clarity and sharpness is amazing on my screen. I've seen many of your videos, but this video seems to be one of the best in quality. Thank you!

  12. This is fantastic. I have been struggling with hair for quite a while and have clients who have images outdoors that are really hard to separate. I have gotten better with different techniques but this one is a game changer for me as it takes me from 90% to 99%.

  13. The hair initially has a white background though. This doesn't show anything. If your to change the background layer from white to black you'd see so much white around the hair

  14. What pad/drawing device are you using to do this exercise? I would like to buy one of those. Definitely beats using the mouse. Thanks.

  15. You are the owner of educational lessons using standard images, yet you spend great time and effort in them, you have become boring.

  16. Este tío me parece genial. Estoy aprendiendo con él más que con cualquier libro, tutoríal o clase que haya visto jamás. Enhorabuena por enseñarnos con tanta claridad y profundidad los secretos de Photoshop. Sigue asi!!!! Eres genial.

  17. dear speaker, you have great communication and have delivered your instructions well. I found this information easy to absorb and will refer back to this video again to retain more information. as a beginner, I noticed you have included lots of information in this short video.

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