The Ultimate Photoshop Resource

How to Cut out Hair in Photoshop CC Tutorial

How to Use Select and Mask to extract something from its background in Photoshop CC 2015.5

Note: If you are using Photoshop CS6 or earlier use this tutorial

One of the most popular tasks in photoshop is removing something from its background, extracting, masking, floating, whatever you choose to call it. Up until now,  the quick select brush and refine edge have been the tools of choice for most of the work. If you are on CS6 or earlier versions, this is still your best choice. However, if you are on Photoshop CC, as of today, it’s a new day. The new Select and Mask space provides dramatically better results than refine edge. Watch this video and then read a bit more about it.

Adobe has been hard at work with the Select and Mask space. This tool allows you to quickly make selections based on similar colors and textures as well as detecting the edges of objects. You can begin with the Quick Select brush, like you always have, or, you can start in Select and Mask, by choosing a selection tool and clicking Select and Mask from the tool options bar.

You will notice, that it looks similar to refine edge, but it’s much better.

  1. Either start with a selection, or choose a selection tool and choose Select and Mask from the options bar
  2. Choose the Onionskin mode (all new) and begin to paint on your subject (O key).
  3. If you move the opacity slider, you can choose a balance between the original image and the current selection. Find the perfect balance, so you can see the areas that are yet to be selected.
  4. Check on the black and white mask (K key) to make sure you haven’t left any bits out.
  5. Use the Refine Edge Brush to go over any hair and edges. The more you refine the selection, the smarter it gets and the whole edge begins to look better.
  6. Choose a radius and see if it helps clean up the selection, Test it against Black (A key) and white (T key) and see if it looks good.
  7. If you are working with fine detail like hair, you will probably see that fringing around the edges, you know, when it’s too light or dark. This was a pain to fix. I say, was, because now, all you need to do it click on Decontaminate Colors (It’s actually works on more than just green screen spill now).
  8. Choose your output method, New Layer with Layer Mask is my favorite (because you can continue to work in the mask later, if you desire).

And bingo, a perfect selection!

Here are the commands on the Global Refinement tools and what they do:

global properties in select and mask

  1. Smooth: This reduces the ragged edges and smooths them out, just like rubbing sandpaper over rough wood to create a smooth finish. Only use it if there are visible jaggies because it reduces the accuracy of the selection
  2. Feather: Creates a soft edge. If your image has softer edges this will add a more realistic result. It will cause the selection to blend into the new background smoothly. Only use this if you need to and if you do, keep the amount low, or it will look very fake.
    Pro tip: Look at overlapping parts of the photo, such as when the model’s arm crosses her body to see the exact amount of feather that should be used. Blurring occurs with wide apertures in lenses and should be matched for a believable result. 
  3. Contrast: This will cause semi-transparent areas to be forced to a solid opaque or transparent. Good for solid edges, but also useful at times for water, glass, smoke and hair.
  4. Shift Edge: this will cause the entire edge to grow or shrink (exactly that same result as select>grow or select>contract). This is good for when there is a halo around the edge, you can choke (or shrink) the mask to bypass those edges.

Here are more resources on selections and masks and extracting


Photoshop CC Selection Secrets

New Course by Colin Smith

Stop struggling with selections. Learn how to select and cut out anything from people, hair, trees, complex shapes and even transparency.
Discover how to get perfect edges, without halos and jaggies. Colin shows you exactly how in 18 lessons.
All the images are included for you to follow along.
You will be able to select and cut out anything: faster and cleaner. 

selections and masks in Photoshop CC

More info here


In Depth Premium training

Check out the rest of the new features in Photoshop CC 2015.5 on the superguide here


Thanks for checking this out!

See you at the CAFE


PS Don’t forget to follow us on Social Media for more tips.. (I've been posting some fun Instagram and Facebook Stories lately)
You can get my free Layer Blending modes ebook along with dozens of exclusive Photoshop Goodies here photoshop goodies for free

Learn Photoshop, inside out!  Photoshop CC For Digital Photographers video.
Check it out.



19 responses to “How to Cut out Hair in Photoshop CC Tutorial”

  1. I am finding a lot of problems with this new feature. For some reason instead of editing on the mask it sometimes edits the layer image itself ! Trying to edit a mask can be impossible Also noticed Ctrl Z to go back a step stops working. As it is I would much rather have the refine edge function !

      • I am Colin, something strange is going on, just had to reboot to get the transparency slider to work, even quitting PS and reloading the image made no difference although the icon image of the view selector was working. Maybe I have display problems !

        • Very odd … I was editing 16 bit images from LR and the transparency slider wasn’t working, I changed image in PS to 8 bit and it worked.. went back to 16 bit and it was working there as well !

          • You might have got a glitchy install. If I were you, I would try resetting your prefs (Should always be done on an update). If that doesn’t fix everything, do a reinstall

            • Seems to be working fine for initial selections, but using it to refine a mask is hit and miss, often introducing a lot of bleed from the eliminated background. I had the same problem with refine mask in the previous version. I will try your suggestions Thanks !!

  2. Hi Colin, once again a very usefull tutorial. Thanks. BTW, I’m very interested in learning how to make the skin effect like the one from the model of this tutorial. Do you have something already? Thank you.

  3. Brilliant tutorial on hair ,Ive spent hours on the quick selection tools trying to get a nice edge, and still looks terrible when I’ve finished, haven’t tried your tutorial yet ,but will do so very soon .Thank you once again

  4. This is a nice tutorial and a very good no-nonsense tutor. However one thing confused me – at first the refine brush is used to exclude parts of the image from the selection, and then in the next step, without changing anything, it is used to include parts of the image (fly-away hair) into the selection. This doesn’t sound right – something must have been done in between to make this switchover…

  5. Great tutorial! Mastering the art of cutting out hair in Photoshop CC is essential for professional-grade photo editing. This tutorial provides clear step-by-step instructions, making the daunting task seem achievable. With precise techniques and patience, you can seamlessly blend subjects into new backgrounds for stunning compositions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Access The Photoshop Vault

Unlock dozens of valuable Photoshop resources for FREE

The Ultimate

Photoshop Resource