My Solution to Cropping Short Hair in Photoshop

Rating: 5.00 based on 3 Ratings
  By Julian
My Solution to Cropping Short Hair in Photoshop

Hi, welcome, I think you’ll get a MASSIVE amount of value out of this tutorial and I believe this is the best solution to cropping hair on the net that I’ve seen.

This tutorial is going to be slightly different than most of the other tutorials that you may have seen on this subject, Out there right now there is endless tutorials on this subject but unless the hair is pretty standard a lot of them don’t really work that well, believe me, I’ve tried quite a few of these.

Most of these videos show you fancy ways using selections etc and using different channels which can be quite daunting to someone who has never used photoshop before or has just started.

My way is a little more practical and a little more hands-on and I guess a little more simple…

So what I do is I make good use of FREE resources.

Take a look at this image below.

His short hair is mid-range so I’m going to use that as an example.

Be aware that different types of short hair will take varying degrees of attention but the solution is always going to be the same, just some will be easier than others and some will be a lot harder, but if you put the time in and use your foresight this technique will work with all and any hair.

So first I’m going to duplicate this layer so the original is a backup.

Go to Layer – Duplicate Layer

Now zoom right in.

You can do this by using your keyboard, key in Ctrl + or –

Also by holding the space bar, you will be able to click and drag your image about freely.

Now for a sec just use the space bar and have a look at the image, you will notice that the edges of parts will be more blurred than the others.

So keep this in mind because when we go to crop this will be a factor that we will have to change as we go along.

Before we get to the hair we first must crop the person.

I always crop the person first, but before I do I want you to create a New Layer between your two layers.

So click on the bottom layer, then go to Layer-New – Layer

Then I’m going to select my Paint Bucket so we can fill that new layer in.

At the bottom left-hand side, you will see two boxes Black and White overlapping each other, double click on the top one to open up the color options and choose red.

Then click on your screen making sure you have selected your layer to fill it in read.

The reason behind this is because I want to have a strong background behind my image so when I start to remove the original background I will be able to see clearly how my cropped image is looking.

Now click on your top layer again.



The area that I’m going to start is the shoulders and work my way up.

For this, I’m going to grab my Polygonal Tool

Then at the top left, I’m going to change it’s Feather to 3

The feather can be tricky so you just have to use your best judgment, you can do a little tester first and the key in Ctrl + Alt + Z to step back.

For this 3 was good.

The more blurred I get I go round about 3 the sharper I’d go to 0.5 but never below unless it is a totally crisp edge.

Now you just click and follow just within the edge in little steps so the cropping doesn’t look all angled and unnatural.

I use the polygonal Tool for the Clothes, Neck, and Ears changing the Feather to suit, again using my best judgment with the Feather.

Then just hit Delete on your keyboard to remove the background.

Now for the Beard, for this, I tend to use the Lasso Tool and draw my selection directly on.

The edge of the beard is generally lumpy so I just follow along to give it that impression unless the beard is similar to the hair with strays out everywhere then we can get away with just doing this.

So far we have cleared the preparation and the only part left now is to remove the hair in terms of cropping.

But before we do that one thing that I do after every section I clear is to grab the Blur Tool, then I look at my edges up close.

I’m looking for any kind of pixelation or sharpness that looks unnatural.

Then I click and drag along the edges to give them a slight blur, a once over is generally enough to make it work.

If you want also just for a bit of background variety you can also just in the same way we created the red background you can create a white one or whatever main color your replacement background will be just to check how it looks and if anything unsightly sticks out.

Ok, now this is the real meat, what we have been waiting for!

The hair!

Right so what I do is as stated is I make use of freebies out there to replace the hair, there are unlimited resources out there on the web of hair that has already been cut out and added to a PNG, it is just a matter of use to take those blend than to make them look natural and to have them the same colour.

There is also already made free source Photoshop Hair Brushes out there too, but I’ve found them to be annoying to work with and generally find this was more appealing to me, but if you want to give the Brushes a try too the give it a shot, but for this we’re going with the replacement hair.

So go to whichever search engine you use and type the Keywords “Short Hair PNG” and go to images to see what there is…

Choose the largest size in the search options or one that matches the size of your image/just slightly below.

You also want to look for something similar to the hairstyle you are working with.

The ones that you want to target are the ones that are high quality, so in other words you want to see through strands etc.

Also, it doesn’t have to exactly match the hairstyle, just the way it looks zoomed in, so you could lift a small section from long hair that would match the short then you just remove the rest, which you will see shortly.

When you have done that it is time to crop the hair.

What I do here is I try to get as close to the hair as possible using my Lasso Tool, then I delete little bit by little bit.

Also, you may use several different files to achieve your final image.

When I make my selections I will also draw a sort of basic hairline which will in the long run help my to blend the replacement hair.

As you can see from below, once you have completed the hair line it should be looking very similar to the image that I have below.

Now I take my hair PNGs and I’ start trying to match up the hair as best I can, use your best judgement on this, it can be hard to see what it will finally look like in the end right at the start so you will have to adjust back and forth until you are happy with it.

I will do little bits at a time and if the original hair permits then I may be able to do larger portions, like perhaps a quiff.

Once you feel that the positioning is good to go to Layer-Layer Mask – Reveal All

Then select your Brush Tool, and click on the options below Edit that open up the Brush Tool, it’s the second in with the circle.

When you open this up choose the first Brush, which will be your soft brush.

Then make sure you have clicked on the little white box to the right-hand side of your image in the layers panel on the right also.

Then using Black on your Brush you will be able to erase the areas on your hair PNG you don’t need.

Keep adding new hair to where you think you need it, you don’t need to go crazy you just have to leave the impression that there are hair strands there, a few here and there will be quite enough.

My last bit of advice here is, that this takes practice, you may not get a good result right away so have faith, once you get it, you’ll have it for good!

Rating: 5.00 based on 3 Ratings
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Graduated from college in 2002 with a degree in Art & Design, I started exploring my way in Graphic Design and Professional Post Production. Full-time freelancer since 2011.

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