This simple tutorial shows you an easy way to render hair in Photoshop within just a couple minutes. Easy enough for beginners and hopefully helpful enough for regular users.
Step 1. Create a new RGB transparent document
I’m using this size (3000×3000 pixels) so that my document has enough space to allow me to stretch out the stock photo even further so that details are enlarged.
Even if your image isn’t this large in size, I would suggest scaling it up before cropping.
Step 2. Import your main layer and duplicate it
The photo I’m using in this tutorial was provided by jlior stock, I picked it because it featured a flat colored background with some challenging shades. Right click the layer in the layers panel and select duplicate layer (so that you always have your original).
DeviantArt has other free stock images of hair that you can test with if you prefer something else.
Step 3. Pick colors and use the ‘Color Range’ selector tool to delete background sections
Select a color behind the hair (by clicking your color palette and using the eyedropper) and go to Select > Color Range. Note the settings in the picture on the left if you have never used this feature before, fuzziness will vary depending on the picture. Repeat step 3 until a majority of the background is gone. Be careful not to select important shades of color like hair highlights and then delete your background sections.
If your background is too busy and you need help with detailed scenes then click here for more cropping and rendering tutorials.
Step 4. Clean up loose fragments with the Wand Tool
Color Range selection will not catch everything so you will need to delete any leftover bits. Simply get your magic wand tool set with a weak tolerance level (5-20) and select the background area by pressing shift and click the areas until it’s all selected (as much as you can without selecting too much of the cropped picture you want to keep).
Step 5. Crop smooth edges with the shape path tool
Once you delete all the areas that were too delicate to crop you can zoom into your document and select the shape pen tool. Start filling in shape paths behind your image to touch up the deleted parts.
Once finished you press Control + Left Click the shape layer (in the layers menu) and this will make a selection around the shape. With the selection still made simply go to the original layer where the whole image is still sitting and click Control + C to copy that part. Paste the (new) layer in place by clicking Control + Shift + V. Repeat this process until you have all the details of your picture ready.
The Polygonal Lasso Tool is an even faster alternative but curves will not be as pleasant.
Step 6. Merge Layers and Finish Up Hair Rendering
Now that you’ve finished the major crops and you’ve added back any missing details you can now merge your cropped layers together. Select all of these layers (excluding the original) and press Control + E (or right click > merge layers). Finish up your design with effects, a background, color adjustments and of course some photoshop brushes.
Step 7. Export your crop/render as a PNG or PSD
If you’re new to cropping and transparency then one thing you need to know is that PNGs and PSDs are the most handy ways of saving your transparent images. PNGs won’t cause any file loss and can be uploaded to image sites without problem, they don’t save layers so you’ll need to use PSDs to have all your layers intact. One last time you might do before saving is trimming your canvas by going to Image > Trim and you can get rid of excess transparent document space. Lastly, make sure your original layer is hidden.
To save your image as a PNG go to File > Save for Web (choose preset: PNG-24)