How To Cut Your Own Hair In Photoshop (By Using The Brush Tool)

As most experienced Photoshop users know, accurately cutting out an image can be difficult, especially when dealing with human hair. While a person’s body requires a pen tool most often times, their hair tends to be a little more difficult, and if not done correctly, will look downright terrible. Things can get especially difficult when dealing with a head of overly messy, curly, or spikey hair, due to the overall randomness of the mop, and the many different directions in which the hairs are pointing. However, by following the steps below and creating a custom brush, designed strictly for cutting out the hair of your image in an incredibly realistic way, these Photoshop woes will become a thing of the past. You will be able to easily cut out photos of messy haired humans and place them in any background of your choosing, while maintaining the original image’s overall quality. So, if you are looking to learn this neat Photoshop trick and have about 10 to 15 minutes of free time, then sit back, relax, and keep on scrolling!

Step 1: Create One Single Strand Of Hair To Use As A Brush

Since Photoshop’s default brush tool won’t flow well with the hair of your image, and the pen tool is only useful for cutting out hard edges, you will need to create and customize your own personal brush tool. This is done by first creating a new layer, then a brush stroke similar in size and shape to a single strand of your image’s hair.

So, for instance, if your image has straight hair, you will want to create a straight line, and if your image has curly hair, you will want to create a curly line. This is what will allow you to not only mimic the original photo, but to carry it’s realistic-ness along with you when dropping in a different background.

To do this, first zoom in and create a new layer.

Creating A New Layer

Next, select your brush tool.

This is done by either double clicking the brush icon, or by hitting B on your keyboard, which acts as a shortcut.

Selecting Brush Tool

After you have your brush tool selected, simply draw out a few lines, imitating the hair of your image.

At first, this may not look too similar to an actual strand of your image’s hair. However, by right clicking on the brush you’ve just created, you can adjust the brush tip, pixels, hardness, and overall size of your line. By using fewer pixels, your hair will thin out, and by decreasing the line’s hardness and overall size, it will appear more realistic.

Adjusting The Brush Tool Settings

While the pixel and hardness options allow you to type in a preferred number, the size of your line will need to be adjusted either by the wheel located toward the center of your brush tool menu, or by using Photoshop’s open/close brackets.

To make sure these settings are set well, you can create another new layer and test out your hairs. This will not only allow you to view the size of your lines, but to also see how they will match up next to the image’s current hair.

Make sure to delete this new layer after testing out your hairs

Now, you should have a new brush that looks like one single strand of your image’s hair.

Though your new brush consists of just one customized line, it can be easily duplicated, allowing you to quickly cut out the hair of your image. Moreover, by following step five and painting in the new hair of your image, you will be able to replicate your custom line many times over and draw in a full head of hair.

Step 2: Create A White Background And Place It Behind The Hair You’ve Created

After creating your custom brush, the next step is to place a solid white background behind it.

To create the new layer needed for this background, use your marquee tool and hold down the shift key to make it a perfect square.

Once the shape of your layer is set and perfectly square, you will need to fill it with white, which is done by selecting the fill dialog from your toolbar, or by pressing shift, delete, fill with white.

After doing this, you should end up with something that looks like the image below.

Creating A Perfectly Squared New Layer

Now, you should have a clear white background to place behind your isolated line. If you are happy and fully satisfied with the way your background and brush appear, then you can move on to the next step. However, if you would like to further benefit you and your images, it is suggested you center the line, both vertically and horizontally, which is of course done within Photoshop’s brush tool settings.

It is also recommended that you strategically name your new brush, as opposed to leaving the default name on it. This will not only make it easier for you to locate your brush on the layer board, but it will allow you to isolate it from any future brushes, created for different purposes or for different styles of hair. To strategically name your brush, go to edit, then down to define brush preset, and name it after the style of your current images hair.

Step 3: Turn Your Brush Into Many Pieces Of Hair

Now comes the fun part, which is duplicating your single line, and causing it to appear as an abundance of different hair strands. This is beneficial when cutting out the hair of your image, and will certainly play a big role in the amount of time you spend doing it.

If you haven’t selected your brush tool yet, hit control/command D to deselect from the tool you’re currently on, and then hit B for the brush. This should cause your custom brush to appear automatically, however, if it doesn’t or if you have multiple different brushes already and can’t seem to find your new tool, simply right click and scroll to the very bottom, which is where your new tool should be located.

Once you have selected your custom brush, simply click and drag it across the screen. This should create (what looks like) a sea of hairs, all in the same shape of your created line.

Creating A Sea Of Hairs

Step 4: Change/Customize The Shape Dynamics Of Your Brush

Since your image’s hair strands are likely pointing in all different directions, you will need to edit your lines accordingly, which is done by adjusting the shape dynamics of your new brush.

To implement these worthwhile settings, go to window, down to brush, and then turn on shape dynamics. This should allow you to adjust the direction of your lines’ angles, and increase the jitter/scatter levels as well.

Adjusting Shape Dynamics

By turning up the jitter levels, some of the hairs will be larger than others, and by turning up the scatter levels, each of the hairs will be randomized, causing your “sea of lines” to appear as real human hair. However, it is important not to adjust your angles’ direction or increase your settings too much, because as you will see, only slight increases are needed, and too many adjustments can cause your hairs to appear as X’s.

To test out your new adjustments, it is recommended that you create a new layer and try them out on alongside your original image.

Once these adjustments appear as you would like them to, make sure to save them by clicking on the top right icon (within the brush tool menu) and selecting the new brush preset option. This will allow you to save your adjustments, and change the name of your brush to something different, such as adjusted hair brush, or completed brush tool.

Step 5: Cut Out The Hair Of Your Image By “Painting” With Your Customized Brush Tool

At this point, you should be ready to cut out the body of your image, and add in some new hair. This is done by first transporting your image’s body on to a solid white background, and then painting over it’s original hair. As stated previously, the pen tool should be used for the body’s transportation (since it is likely hard edged) and your new custom tool should be used to paint on the new hair.

After cutting out your image’s body, you will need to create an adjustment layer, which is used to implement a solid, white background. To do this, simply click on the solid color bar, and select white. This should transport the body onto a new background, thus isolating it from the rest of your image.

Next, you will need to click on the layers bar (located toward the bottom right of your screen) and add a layer mask to what you cut out. This will allow you to zoom in on the isolated image and paint in your new hair. It is important that you paint this on in on white, that way, it looks like actual hair and is not too darkly colored.

After comparing it with the original image, they should appear to be almost identical, much like the example below.

Paint On Hair

When doing this, you are aiming to paint (on the layer mask) exactly where your image’s hair would sit. So, if you have already cut out most the hair with the pen tool when transporting the body, you shouldn’t have much work to do and judging this should be rather easy, but if you have only cut out a small portion of the hair, then you will need to paint a lot more and should consider comparing it to the original image.

If the hair you paint in doesn’t look exactly as you want it just yet – do not worry, the following instruction will show you how to further perfect the coloring, shading, and positioning of your newly drawn on hair.

Much like the suggestion made in step four, it is beneficial to test out the positioning of your new tool by comparing the lines you paint on, to the hair of your original image. And fortunately for those in need of some guidance, your image’s layer mask will allow you to “trace” over the original hair for the assurance of perfect accuracy. This will not only ensure that the hair lines up well, but it will allow you to make necessary adjustments if it doesn’t.

To do this, click on your layer mask, go down to window, and then down to properties. From here, you can control the density and settings of your layer mask to essentially trace over the old image.

Adjusting The Settings Of Your Layer Mask

If you choose to adjust the density, the original will appear in the background almost as a shadow, allowing you to trace over it until you are fully satisfied.

To avoid small mistakes and double layering, it is recommended that you bring your density level back up to 100 percent after tracing over the image.

After completing this step and adjusting your painted on hair accordingly, you should have a perfectly cut out head of hair, sitting on top of a brand new background. 

If for any reason, the hair looks unrealistic or different from that of the original image, you may need to re-adjust your shape dynamic settings, and better angle your lines. The more accurate these settings are with the original hair style, the better and more natural your finished product will look.

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