How to isolate a picture in 5 minutes! (Including hair)

posted on 4th of may, 2012

Hi everyone,

Ok I accept that I have a little exagerration in the title but believe me or not, I isolated the image on right in 2 minutes! so this is worth to read :)

Ok here we go...

We are going to use:

- BW dialog box or adjustment layer
- layers panel
- channels panel
- dodge-burn tools
- brush tool

Here we go...

- Open your image in Photoshop

- First we will create a channel image.

- (Assuming you are a PC user) press ctrl+J to duplicate the background layer.

- Now press ctrl+alt+B to open the BW dialog box. (or create a new BW adjustment layer.)

- Use the sliders to make the picture dark and light. (Wanted parts should be light and unwanted parts should be dark) but don't go too far. Press OK

- For example, skin tones go lighter when you use the orange, red, or yellow sliders. Use them wisely.

- Grab the Dodge tool from the panel on the left hand side.

- Shift+Right click on the picture. There should pop a menu with 3 choises (highlights, midtones, darks) (you can use the top menu for same selection, but shift right click is faster)

- Select "highlights"...selecting "highlights, we tell photoshop NOT to touch on the dark and midtoned areas, but work only with the light areas of the picture.

- Use a %50 opacity (at the menu, on top) and use the dodge tool on the white areas to make them perfectly white. Don't force it on corners, you may get jiggy lines...(what is jiggy? I just made it up LOL)

- Use white brush to fill the easy parts, use dodge tool on corners, to save time :)

- Now grab the Burn tool and shift+right click on the picture. This time, select "darks" (to make dark parts darker)

- Do the same thing on dark parts, until they are black.

- Now ctrl+A to select all the picture. Then ctrl+C to copy.

- Go to "channels" window (if not visible, find it on "Window" menu)

- On the bottom of channels panel, find "create new channel" and click it.

- Now we have a new channel, select it and press ctrl+V to paste your BW picture in it.

- Press ctrl+2 to select the RGB channel or simply click on the RGB to select it, in the channels window.

- Press ctrl+D to deselect everything.

- Go back to the layers panel and delete the bw layer. Re-duplicate your background. (always save your background layer untouched, in case you need to go back)

- Again on the channels panel; Ctrl + Left click on the new channel, you just created...you should have a perfect selection of your flame.

- Go to Menu>Select>Modify>Feather (%0,5 - %1) to make the jiggy lines smoother...

- Back to the Layers panel again :)) select new duplicated layer and click on the "Add Layer Mask" button at the bottom of the Layers panel (small circle in a small rectangle)(Never "delete" information from the layer, because you will probably need to improve the mask in some parts)

- Make the Background layer invisible...voila! :)

- Now add a white "solid color" adjustment layer, under the isolated layer. Because transparency checkboard makes seeing corner details impossible.

- Click on the layer mask you just created and make final improvements :)

Note 1: This technique works best if you take your picture on a single colored background.
Note 2: If the background is white, you can make your object black and at the end you can invert the channel :)

Finally, save your image as PNG and upload it as an additional format.

This is how I isolated all of my model images...human body have too much unpredictable curves and hair (both on head, arms, cheeks etc) which is almost impossible to isolate via pen tool. This technique can give you every single hair line, if you can use it properly.

I know that it looks a little tricky and it depends on your talent to get nice results. But go give it a try, you will love it :)

One more thing is, this is not useful on "white on white" situations...here is a simple example! I used pen tool for isolation on this picture.


Comments (50)

Posted by Parkinsonsniper on May 07, 2012
I have GIMP on my screen at the moment. It does have a BW window, but it's very different from PS. It only have brightness etc options.

At this point, my advice is; go to the channels tab and find the most contrasty channel (It's blue for human skin) choose it and desaturate that channel. Then use dodge-burn tool on it (using highlights and darks options) I think this can help you :)
Posted by Androniques on May 07, 2012
I will probably save your time looking for that BW adjustment tool (in vain), by quoting this:

"Hint: if GIMP had adjustment layers, like Photoshop, we'd just create one of those to experiment with further adjustments. Since GIMP does not have those..."

from the original GIMP-tutorials - btw, it is the first place to get tips on GIMP usage! :)
Posted by Parkinsonsniper on May 07, 2012
I'm on my way for GIMP :) BW toolbox is a very basic tool for years...I will take a look and inform you about it.
Posted by Androniques on May 06, 2012
Efecan, would be nice if you jump on-board with GIMP, you will find it very similar to PS, although things are called slightly different there (maybe, to avoid issues with "proprietary" terms).

If BW toolbox is a recent feature available only in PS-CS6, that can be actually the reason it is not yet found in GIMP. Don't know. Do you mean this BW-tool is that much superior over all the other methods? Asking this, because what I saw in many-many cases, it is those seemingly nicely curved contour lines that require most of work (in contrast to very few other cases where it is easy to isolate the object even with "magic stick").

As for PS-CS6, would love to try it, but my computer set-up is very much limited to Linux. I used to have Windows before, but then every new computer/laptop should be bought with another version of MSW. If something goes wrong, you pay for any tiny case of support etc. I have a broken W-7 distribution on another...(More)
Posted by Parkinsonsniper on May 06, 2012
Andrey, I have never seen GIMP, but I think it deserves more attention. I will install it monday and take a look at the opportunities. many people says GIMP needs some training support, so taht more and more people can use it. BW dialog box isn't something with space technology :))) I'm sure there is a substitute for it...at least I "hope" so :)

By the way, photoshop cs6 have a full version free for 2 months. Give it a try...2 months isn't a short time.
Posted by Androniques on May 05, 2012
You know what? I could not yet find the BW adjustment dialog box in GIMP :( Seems I am missing something rather obvious, coz I don't believe GIMP does not provide such a tool...

What I am used to do is to create a grayscale layer mask (or simply convert the image into grayscale level/channel) over the picture, but that does not allow me to work on only highlights, mid-tones or darks. Anyways I usually have no problem with getting the background lightened up by merely boosting the contrast using levels and such. However, I found it much easier not to use dodge tool, which is still pen-like and requires you to brush around with trial-error results. But instead, when most of the work on separating the main silhouette has been done already, I brush over the tricky edges (like hairs) in the mask mode and again use levels to boost the highlights until the needed white background appears behind the slightly overexposed (thereby) "corona". It is not that difficult to achieve very good results...(More)
Posted by Parkinsonsniper on May 05, 2012
Hey thanks for many and nice comments :) I appreciate them all...and thamks to the friend who added the pen tool technique on this page. Pen tool will always be a good friend :))

Andrey, your blond child model can be so easiliy isolated using this method. First make the kid darker via black and white window, then use lvels window to make the background lighter (because bw won't work on neutral gray) and proceed with the dodge and burn tool :) will take really 5 minutes :))
Posted by Scottysally2 on May 04, 2012
This is a very useful blog, thank you for sharing this. :)
Posted by Egomezta on May 04, 2012
Thanks fr sharing...
Posted by Sunguy on May 04, 2012
Hi Everyone
Isolating subject matter on to white (or black) is a mainstay of stock photography. Below is another method in Photoshop that will allow you to isolate any subject no matter what the background, and to cut out the inside parts that have the background showing through.

Isolating on white

1) Zoom the image to 200%
2) Select the pen tool, and create an accurate clipping path outline on the outside of the object.
3) Activate the clipping path (in the paths workbox click on the third circle from the left at the bottom. Then click on the gray area in the box. The Clipping path will now start to look like a moving dashed line.)
4) Select Feather under the Select drop-down box (or Alt + Ctrl + D) and set the value to 1.2
5) Duplicate the selected area (Ctrl + J) (or do “copy” and then “paste”. Sets it down on top of itself)
6) Delete the background layer (in the layers box, highlight the background layer and click on the “eye” of the background layer....(More)
Posted by Mark6138 on May 04, 2012
Excellent stuff. I can see some experimentation occurring at the weekend with images I have not been able to isolate correctly before.
Posted by Androniques on May 04, 2012
Hi Efecan :) Useful blog indeed, although it is slightly different from what I heard the first time ;) Certainly will print it and try to follow your method. I still have some model-on-white (or should I say "grey") pictures which need final retouching before uploading. Hope this time it will take just some minutes per pic and I will start finally competing with you! ;) well, maybe not quite, but at least in a similar genre... clicking USEFUL :)
Posted by Laurasinelle on May 04, 2012
Thanks for sharing, I going to try!!
Posted by Miketea on May 04, 2012
Very good
Posted by Heywoody on May 04, 2012
I must see if I can replicate those steps with Corel :) Not needed for 3D stuff but could be useful for personal photo stuff.
Posted by Clearvista on May 04, 2012
thank you parkinsonsniper :)
Posted by BCritchley on May 04, 2012
Thanks for sharing, this is something I once tried and now have totally forgotten about, need to practice it again so this blog will be a good come to place to check on the process involved, need to learn it and remember it this time :-)
Posted by Parkinsonsniper on May 04, 2012
Dear Clearvista, follow the instructions step by step and play with opacity - hardness and brush size if you need. Please do not hesitate to contact me about any problems :)
Posted by Clearvista on May 04, 2012
Thank you for this useful blog. If i can use this method to isolate like your model pics I would be very pleased. :)
Posted by Parkinsonsniper on May 04, 2012
This is my very first blog article...don't be so cruel, if I made any mistakes :)

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Comments (50)

This article has been read 7705 times. 41 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Parkinsonsniper.

About me

I\'ve always been obsessed about the pixel level perfection of my pictures. That\'s why I prefer stock photography, perfection is valuable here and this is what I like to create. I have photographs used on many websites including MSN.com Turkey mainpage.

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