BTS: Hair? Don't Care!

 My first attempt in compositing a subject with hair (March 2017).

My first attempt in compositing a subject with hair (March 2017).

Two things that I absolutely love in this world are: Star Wars and Basketball. I had the pleasure of mashing those two worlds together when I launched my basketball series last year (see the hashtag #PlasticBallerz on Instagram), where I photographed my 1/6 scale Chewbacca by Hot Toys with my 1/6 scale basketball hoop by Storm Collectibles and combined that photo with a shot I took at Staples Center during a Lakers game that same year. It was the first time doing a composite like this, where I had to blend a subject who possessed a full body of fur.

You can see that it’s nowhere close to perfect (I honestly think it sucks ass), as there are obvious sections surrounding the fur that do not blend well with the background. Not to mention I spent countless hours pulling my own hair out while trying to make it look decent. Overall, it’s a poor attempt at compositing and blending a subject with hair.

When PHLEARN launched their tutorial: “How To Cut Out Hair In Photoshop” a few weeks ago, my first thought was “Where the heck were you a year ago!” I’ve always been a fan of PHLEARN tutorials so I couldn’t wait to dive into this one, especially because I needed a lot of help in this arena and I planned on doing more shots of Chewy gettin’ fancy on the hardwood.

How I Got the Shot

Since the background image I am using in the composite is relatively dark, I used a black background to shoot Chewy but made sure to give him sufficient backlighting so that there is contrast between his fur and the black backdrop, otherwise the two would blend in and it would be difficult to distinguish fur from background.

 Background Image

Background Image

As you can see in the photos below, Chewy has somewhat of a glow around his fur. That perimeter “glow” is key in making this a successful and clean cut out. In addition to backlighting, I used two LED light panels positioned overhead for key lighting.

Believe it or not, Chewy is hanging free on the basketball rim with no wires. The only wire that I used was to hold the basketball in place. To show motion in his fur, I used a comb and a blow dryer. The camera that was used to capture this was Fujifilm XT-1, with a 60mm f/1.4 macro, set at f/22, ISO 200, and a 0.8sec shutter.

This PHLEARN tutorial alone has close to 5 hours of content and broken into 3 chapters with a total of 18 videos! I’ll repeat what I just said: This PHLEARN tutorial alone has close to 5 hours of content and broken into 3 chapters with a total of 18 videos! DAMN!!!!

 PHLEARN Pro Tutorial: How to Cut Out Hair in Photoshop, Chapter 2-07

PHLEARN Pro Tutorial: How to Cut Out Hair in Photoshop, Chapter 2-07

What’s awesome is that each video has different methods and techniques so that you can apply them based on what you’re working with. For my shot, I tried two methods “Select Color Range” and the “Advanced Selections with Channels.” Although both methods came out with very similar results, the latter was much cleaner, and I was able to accomplish the cutout much faster. I can’t say one is better than the other, it’s just the Channels method worked better with what I had. Perhaps if the fur had more of a color contrast with the background, the “Select Color Range” might have proven to be the better method. Either way, both methods in addition with the other techniques in this tutorial are freaking amazing and I know that I could apply those same techniques to other things I want to accomplish in Photoshop. I know some of this is not making sense, but trust me, get your hands on this tutorial because it’s well worth the purchase.

 Final composite image using techniques from PHLEARN’s “How to Cut Out Hair in Photoshop” Pro Tutorial

Final composite image using techniques from PHLEARN’s “How to Cut Out Hair in Photoshop” Pro Tutorial

Overall, the process of selecting the fur for cutout was really simple and as usual, Aaron Nace did an outstanding job in not just providing the steps, but explaining the “what’s” and the “why’s.” There’s so many tutorials that only step you through the process, without explanation so you’re really not learning. Aaron provides great direction AND is an amazing teacher.

For more amazing tutorials (some are even free!), check out PHLEARN on phlearn.com and follow them on their social media channels (linked below):

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And for additional behind the scenes content by me, check out #plasticactionBTS on Instagram.

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