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Brunette Background Removal


Brunette Background Removal in PhotoshopHeres a quick tip to keep things moving before the next Photoshop Android installment; dealing with the pesky issue of hair removal in Photoshop. Ive found lots of new techniques to deal with hair in Photoshop over the past few months, but this approach is an old time-tested favourite. This little hack is for those situations when you have a clean white background, but can be tweaked for other scenarios. Read on for the skinny:


The Scenario

I was provided with a model stock image by my client to place into the flyer we were working on (Model: Charlotte Devaney, if you know who the photographer is give me a shout). The background was already put together, so the job ahead was to do a clean background removal. Here’s the image placed into the flyer file:

Brunette Background Removal Photoshop

Mask It

Apply a Layer Mask to your model layer (add layer mask icon, bottom of layers palette). Using the Pen Tool (P), create a path around the solid areas of the model, excluding the hair; right click on the path and select Fill with black. Right click the layer and select Apply Layer Mask. See below:

Brunette Background Removal 1

The Hair

Set the layer mode of your model to Multiply and name it ‘Hair’. Duplicate it (right click layer, select Duplicate Layer), set the layer mode of the copy to Normal and name it ‘Body’. The Hair layer (Multiply) should be below the Body layer (Normal):

Brunette Background Removal 2

With the Body layer selected, apply a layer mask. Select a soft-edged brush (B) set to black and paint away the white areas around the hair:

Brunette Background Removal 5

The result:

Brunette Background Removal 4

Bonus Tip

If there are nice shadows in the source image, you can use the same technique to integrate them into the overall piece. Create a duplicate of the original model layer, set the Layer Mode to Multiply, and place it below the other model layers in the stack. Apply a layer mask, and paint away any background details you don’t want using a black brush in the layer mask, leaving natural looking shadows:

Brunette Background Removal 6

Heres the final flyer with the title and details:

Brunette Background Removal 7


A trick well worth employing when you have nice stock photography, but the principles definitely can cross over to plenty of other uses.  Do you have your own nifty background removal tips? Feel free to share in the comments section below.

Conzz 8-)

Follow on Twitter >> @Conzpiracy

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14 Responses to “Brunette Background Removal”

  1. Kiren says:

    Damn, that is really clever! Have to keep that in mind next time I’m hand drawing hair strands :)

  2. I’ve used a similar method (using two layers, with one set to Multiply), but holy cow, I never thought to use the Layer Mask option. Brilliant. You’ve just saved me hours of work. Thanks so much!

  3. Akira Miyashi says:

    does this work for light-coloured hair too?

  4. Mark says:

    Another great tip Conzz! Keep em coming

  5. Owen says:

    Hey man, good tips, keep em coming. Would be interested to see what you recommend when the hair is light though!

    • conzpiracy says:

      Thanks mate! I’ll be doing another background removal piece focusing on light hair and situations where there are ‘busy’ backgrounds.. It uses the Refine Edge function in CS5 and works like a dream; jobs that have would previously taken an hour and with less than perfect results can now be achieved in minutes with outstanding results.

  6. Eddy says:

    Fuck You. You don’t realize what you’re doing.

  7. [...] • Brunette Background Removal (Level: Advanced) >> A simple technique for isolating hair with clinical precision. [...]

  8. Daz says:

    I can not get this to work as the does this only work on white areas or can use use it say on shots take outside with the hor blown in the wind?

    As the bit that u say brush , it does nothing, can you not make a video with this tut

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