Selection calibrated to a hair in Photoshop CS5

It is the most difficult selection task in a photo editing software to select around hair. Luckily, the new version of Photoshop offers a solution for that too, and so we can literally cut out a portrait along the hairlines.

Load the photo in Photoshop

An experienced Photoshop user would think, it’s a piece of cake to cut out a model with thick hair in front of such a homogenous background and then place her in front of a new one.

The meat-and-potatoes solution

The usual photo editor will resort to the Magic Wand Tool and clicks on the white background. Thus the whole of the white background has been selected.

Select with a right click Select Inverse menu point within the resulting selection which will reverse the selection, which now involves the model.

There’s just a Ctrl+C to be pressed, with which to copy the selected model…


Then you search for another image for background and paste the cut out figure there using Ctrl+V.

The sting is in the end. The selection was not perfect despite the homogenous white background. Chunky bits show up around the hair. This way the replacement is revealed at first blink.

What’s the solution?

Something’s been left out

The start was not bad, but do not use Ctrl+C after selecting the background and inverting the selection. There’s an additional step to be taken here, namely refining the selection, a new feature in Photoshop CS5. You can reach it at the top with Refine Edge button.

More accurate edges

First of all, select in the View menu of the appearing window a comfortable view mode that will show a distinctive the selection line. We opted for the classic black-and-white mask.

Then in the upper options row set the appropriate brush size, and paint over the contours of the selection.

As soon as you release the mouse button, Photoshop will calculate the new, refined edges.

You can further refine the edge line using Edge Detection and Adjust Edge in the working pane, but this is not necessary here. We might cover this in a later article though.

Venus from among the waves

Once the new edge line is ready, click OK to return to the original picture view. Now you can copy the selected picture part and paste it in front of the new background.

The result is way better than the previous one, although there was only one additional step.