Masking out a subject can prove to be a difficult task, depending on the quality of your image and the complexity of the subject you wish to isolate. Fortunately, Photoshop has your back and provides a plethora of options when it comes to masking.
The first step is to select your subject. This can be done in many ways. The quick selection tool was for a long time my go-to method, but with the arrival of the new object selection tool, this might no longer be the case. It is very simple to use and makes a fairly accurate selection.
After you made your selection click on the “add layer mask” and voila, you have a rough mask.
Clicking on the mask layer, you can refine it. This layer works in shades of grey, black hides pixels, white reveals them. You can use the brush tool to make adjustments.
For complex shapes like hair, or fur you can use the refine edge brush tool. You run it along theedge of the subject and it will automatically separate your subject from the background. You can access this tool by double-clicking on the mask layer.
In this new workspace, I prefer to set the view mode to “On black” and set the opacity to around 85%. You will find the refine edge tool on the left side.
After you refined those edges hit OK, and the mask will be refined..
There are three ways I know of to deal with the dreaded halo. Each is different, and have their pros and cons.
After using the refine edge tool, most of the time there will be a halo left behind. There are multiple ways to get rid of this. First, you can select the brush tool, and in the blending mode select overlay. Click on the mask and select either black or white color, depending on what you need to do, add or remove pixels. With the overlay selected the brush tool now will affect only the pixels that are already present on the mask. Try brushing over and you’ll see what I mean.
Be careful though, while using the brush you may hide relevant pixels as well.
In some cases, if the original background has a strong color, it may show up after you finished masking. What you can try is using the hue saturation adjustment layer. Create a Hue adjustment layer, and just as I mentioned with the clone stamp tool above, alt-click between the edges of the layers so this new adjustment layer will only affect the layer directly below it. Now select the adjustment layer and chose the appropriate color range. In our example, we had the sky in the background, so we selected the cyan.
Set the hue and saturation slider to the max so you can clearly see which pixels are affected. Adjust this slider until only the pixels you wish to hide are selected. Now adjust the hue and saturation slider until you match the color of the hair of your subject. You can see how the blue disappears.
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