Mask Pro: Masking Hair

Mask Pro is a plugin for Photoshop which allows the user to remove undesirable backgrounds easier and much faster. The plugin is compatible with versions of Photoshop from CS2 onwards has been recommended by the magazine, "Advanced Photoshop." Users will be able to remove backgrounds of any size and complexity while maintaining details and transparency from complex objects such as hair, glass and smoke. Here are a few steps to mask hair using the plugin.

Step 1: Load the Work Files and Plugin

Load the Photoshop program by double clicking on the icon located at the desktop. Another way is through Start > All Programs > Adobe Photoshop. Look for the Photoshop CS program installed. Under the File menu, click Open. Browse for two files: one for the subject and another which will act as the replacement background. Make sure that the layer with the subject is placed on top of the background and that the topmost layer has been selected. Once the needed files have been loaded, click the OnOne tab located along the topmost list of menu. Look for the plugin listed. The plugin interface will fill the screen.

Step 2: Select the Colors for Removal

The plugin works by allowing the user to choose which colors to keep and which ones to drop. One of the distinguishable changes when the plugin is loaded is the right panel. These are the Keep and Drop windows. Select the Red Eyedropper tool located at the toolbar on the left. Click on the colors around the subject, taking care that none of the subject’s hair is selected. As the colors are being clicked, the Drop window will list the colors being selected. Add more colors as desired, depending on the complexity of the image.

Step 3: Choose Colors to Keep

Zoom into the image for a more detailed look on the hair by clicking Ctrl and the plus sign. Create a box around the region of the subject’s hair to zoom into that area. Another way is by clicking the Zoom tool located at the toolbox. Click on the subject’s head to get a closer look. Adjust the image accordingly to see as much of the area surrounding the hair as possible. Look for the Green Eyedropper located at the toolbox and click. Choose around three to five colors to keep. These colors should include highlights, mid tones and shadows of the hair.

Step 4: Erase the Background

Click on the Magic Brush also located at the toolbar. At the upper right hand corner are options for the brush. Adjust the brush size and threshold accordingly. Make sure that the option 'Use Color Decontamination' is selected. Start erasing the background around the hair by holding down the left mouse button and going through the area that needs to be removed.

Step 5: Check the Effect

Click on the Alpha Channel to check if the background has been removed clean. Once done checking with the Alpha Channel, click on the Composite button to get back to the original image. Repeat steps two to four as needed.