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Use newest Photoshop features to easily cut out and select hair

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Adobe recently added a few little features into Photoshop that makes it a lot easier to cut out hair. They keep refining select and mask with each version of Photoshop. Masking and selecting can really take a lot of time, so any help is appreciated.  let me show you how it works. And yes, I know this is a simple background, this way we can focus on how to use the tools. If you want a more challenging selection, see this tutorial. 

Let’s jump in and cut out some hair. So we’re going to use this image from Adobe Stock. It’s got lots of curly hair, which can be quite tricky, but I’ll show you how to do it.

How to Select hair in Photoshop 2021and newer.

cutting out hair

Grab our object selection or quick selection tool.

selection brush

Click on Select subject. This isn’t a new feature, its been around since Photoshop 2019.

new photoshop feature

You will see the marching ants selection.

how to instantly cut out hair in photoshop

Choose the quick selection tool

selection brush

Paint over the areas that were missed. make sure that her shirt gets included in there. If you go too far, hold down Alt/Option and click to remove from selection.

us quick select brush

There are two parts in cutting out hair.

  • The first one is making the selection, which is sort of the easy part.
  • The hard part is getting those edges clean.

Removing edge fringes and halos from selected hair in Photoshop

Next step is to refine it. So we’re going to choose, select and mask. (If you don’t see Select and Mask, make sure the Quick Selection or Object selection tool is the current tool)

select and mask in Photoshop 2021

Change the view to preview against either Black or White, depending on the original background. You will use the opposite of the original so you can see the edges easily. preview in photoshop

OK, now we can see the problems. Notice the light halos. (If you are placing this image against a light background it won’t matter, but if you are using a darker background they will show.

edge halos in photoshop selections

First, new feature is refine Hair, (added late 2020) but there’s newer ones than that, but let’s choose, refine hair.

nice edges on selections

Notice that does a nice job of starting to clean up the edges.

You can manually fix this a little bit using this refine brush, if there’s some areas that have been missed, such as these areas of white.

select subject

perfect edges on hair

All right, here is where the magic happens. We’ve still got a little bit of white fringing (sometimes it can be colored)

In the right-side panel in Select and Mask, scroll all the way down to the bottom and you see an option called decontaminate colors.

Fix edge halos in photoshop

Now, when you turn this on, it gets rid of the fringes. But notice how it almost looks cartoony.

Select and Mask

A new feature added in 2021 is an amount slider. (game changing)

If we reduce the amount all the way to zero, notice it’s not doing anything

But then as we increase it just a little bit, we can dial in exactly how much we want.

decontaminate color slider in PS

fix edge fringing

Change output to new Layer with Mask,

Click, OK,

preview against a dark background

You’ll notice a new Layer Mask on the new Layer. .

Using the Brush tool, paint black or white on the Layer Mask to do further refinements and get it perfect.

how to mask in Photoshop

You can see we got most of the way there, just by simply clicking a couple of those buttons.

These new tools that Adobe’s making are amazing for saving time.

fixing hair in photoshop


So I’m curious, you guys knew about those options? Let me know in the comments underneath and also let me know what you’d like to see me do for next week’s tutorial.

And by the way, if you’re new, welcome to the CAFE. It’s great to have you with us.

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and until next time, I’ll see you at the CAFE.


PS: If you want to become a master of selections, I urge you to check out my course on Selection Secrets in Photoshop. You will be able to perfectly cut out anything including transparency and more after completing the downloadable course.


PS, you can grab free goodies here, including Photoshop brushes, actions, presets, sky images, ebooks and a whole bunch more.



19 responses to “Use newest Photoshop features to easily cut out and select hair”

  1. I love how Adobe keeps improving the Select and Mask tool. This makes masking hair soooooo much easier. I still tend to hand massage the result a bit, but as you say it quickly gets us 90-95% of the way there.

  2. At 1.30 you state “refine hair” (I think), but it’s a bit garbled and I can’t follow that action. Can you kindly clarify, please (everything else is clear)?
    Many thanks, Derek

  3. First discovered this tool on your initial tutorial on the 2021 additions to Photoshop. This video was a good review. I find that there are times when Refine Hair does not work entirely as expected. Overall it is a good tool and hopefully will be improved in future updates.

  4. That’s the basis of what I always use – but I’d not spotted the slider for decontaminate before. When I was searching for better ways to select hair I discovered that where the loose strands of hair are slightly out of focus and/or not a great contrast to the background, you can get a better result if you take a copy of the image layer and sharpen it using High Pass filter(I use Glyn Dewis’ action) before going into Select & Mask. The sharpened layer doesn’t look great, but once you have created your mask, drag it to the original image layer then discard the sharpened one.

  5. Thank you for this tutorial. I will find this helpful, not only with hair, but with other objects with irregular borders.

  6. I always learn from your tutorials, and this one was no exception. However, you used an image that had a simple white background and I think it would be helpful to show us this tool with a more complicated background.

  7. Hi, it’s easy to select hair from a white or plain bg such as the sky. But it’s totally different if you want to select it from a complicated bg. I shoot horses and often like to put them on black backgrounds, BUT, many horses are outside among trees, and it’s extremely difficult to do a good cutout. If you can post a video that does that well, you are a genius, because no one yet has been able to do that. Perhaps you can talk to Adobe and have them work on that. Thanks!

  8. As usual, in select hair tutorials, there’s a nice, solid, even, contrasting background. I look forward to the day when complex backgrounds are manageable for this task.

  9. I didn’t realize there was now a slider for Decontaminate Colors. I have used the check box for it in the past. Thanks for pointing it out!

  10. I wonder how much it would cost to sit down with Colin for 1 day and work on learning critical steps for real estate editing and blending??$$$ Thousands I assume. But well worth it I’m sure.

  11. Hi Colin,
    I love these turorials.
    The new select hair tutorial shows tools that I don’t see in my tool box in the latest version of
    PS. Can you tell me where to find them.

  12. Hi Colin,
    I love these turorials.
    The new select hair tutorial shows tools that I don’t see in my tool box in the latest version of
    PS. Can you tell me where to find them.

  13. Thanks Colin (spelled correctly) since my name is also Colin. This tutorial was a real time saver. I forgot about the decontaminate slider. I was having difficulty with a green screen and the image still had green tinges. Keep up the great work. Colin Stark

  14. Colin. Thanks so much for your tutorials. I have an issue with Photoshop that is new. When I try to cut and paste text onto a slide or type text, I keep on getting this error message. “Could not complete your request because of a program error.” This all started after I updated Adobe to the latest version as will as updating my OS operating system. Do you have a solution for this? Thanks for your assistance.

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