For any ecommerce retailer, photographer or marketing professional, knowing how to remove the background from your photos is a skill you’ll use countless times. This step-by-step tutorial will show you how to remove hair from a white background.

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One of the biggest frustrations when editing images of people is changing the background behind hair, which can waste time and ruin your images when done incorrectly. In this Photoshop tutorial, you’ll walk away knowing how to remove hair from a white background with the Background Eraser Tool. Once you have mastered how to cut hair in Photoshop CC18, you’ll be able to tackle any photo or image.

How to Remove Hair from White Background in Photoshop CC18

  1. Set up layers to edit hair on a white background
  2. Protect your original image file
  3. Create a high-contrast background
  4. Remove the background from around the hair
  5. Reduce Tolerance settings to remove low-contrast background areas
  6. Remove the rest of the background
  7. Replace the background

Step 1: Set up layers to edit hair on a white background

Make sure the layers panel is open. Your screen should look like this:

Set up layers to edit hair on a white background

Step 2: Protect your original image file

Duplicate your original layer and then turn it off so that you can easily start again if you make a mistake. Right-click on the background layer in the layers panel and click Duplicate Layer...

Duplicate Layer

Next, click on the eye icon next to the original layer to turn it off for now.

click eye photoshop

Step 3: Create a high-contrast background

Now you’ll need to add a vivid color to make it clear exactly what it is you’re editing. Instead of simply using a white background and erasing around the edges, you can use a bright color that will show exactly which areas you have begun to cut out. This works particularly well if the original background you’re working with is a light color.

Once you’ve cut out the image entirely and are ready to put it into a new background, you can get rid of this bold color. Create a new layer by clicking on the page icon at the bottom of the layers panel.

create high-contrast background

Use the Paint Bucket tool to fill the new layer with a vivid color by clicking anywhere on the canvas, while the new layer is selected.

paint can

Move the new color layer underneath your duplicated photo layer. It will disappear to the naked eye, but it will still be there when you start to edit the photo. Just drag and drop it with your mouse.

layer 1

Related: Photoshop Tutorial: A Beginner’s Guide to Using Layers

Step 4: Remove the background from around the hair

Select the Background Eraser Tool from the tools panel.

background eraser tool

As this background is a solid color, you’ll need to use the Background Swatch sampling method and make sure the background color is set to as close to the main background color as possible. In this case, we have a solid white.

background swatch

Make sure Discontiguous and Protect Foreground Color are selected. The Discontiguous setting prevents Photoshop from blending the color into the foreground, helping you to keep the two layers separate so that you can carry on editing.

However, this doesn’t always work on its own, so by selecting the Protect Foreground Color, Photoshop will keep the two layers entirely separate and make sure you don’t accidentally take out any of the original image while you’re cutting out the background.

discontiguous

The next settings will depend on your image. Start with the brush settings you see above and tweak them if they don’t quite work for your example.

brush settings

The most important setting here is Tolerance. This will tell the brush the contrast threshold of what to remove from your background versus your foreground. In this example, since the boy has light brown/blondish hair, we’ll settle on 50%. This should remove just enough white while leaving the hair intact. You may have to experiment with this setting to find the right balance.

tolerance balance

Using the brush, carefully erase where the hairline meets the background. Notice the red background showing through — this is the layer underneath that you created earlier. Also note the scarf in this example — the contrast is far lower here, so we’ll need to make some adjustments to the brush settings first.

erase hairline background

Step 5: Reduce Tolerance settings to remove low contrast background areas

As you can see, the light-colored scarf is far closer to the background color than the hair, so we need to reduce the Tolerance setting to compensate. In this case, 5% works well. We’ve also reduced the brush size down to 30 to give us more control over the area we’re editing.

larger photoshop brush

Zoom into the finer details and carefully erase around them using your new settings. The key is to find a balance between the brush size and Tolerance for different areas of your image.

zoom remove hair background

Step 6: Remove the rest of the background

Now that the finer work is finished, we can begin removing the rest of the white with 50% Tolerance and a larger brush again.

finish removing background

Step 7: Replace the background

With the hard work now complete, the file is ready for you to replace the red background with something more useful.

new background

How Do You Refine Edges in Photoshop CC18?

You can use the Refine Edges Tool to save time when dealing with background changes on images with lots of subtle edges, like hair or clouds in a sky.

Related: How to Change the Sky Color in Photoshop CC18

Rather than cutting out each individual section, Photoshop will assess the difference in colors and draw a rough outline based on what it considers to be background and foreground.

For the tutorial on how to remove hair from white background above, we used the Tolerance Setting and Background Eraser Tool because we wanted to manually set how much color we wanted to be able to edit, rather than letting Photoshop determine the difference in colors. The Refine Tool works particularly well for nature shots (leaves on a sky background, for example).

Where Is the Refine Edge Tool in Photoshop CC18?

To find the Refine Edge Tool in Photoshop CC18, hold CTRL+ALT+R (CMD+OPT+R on Mac). Alternatively, go to the Select menu and click Refine Edge to open the toolbox.

Want to save time? Outsource your background removal tasks with Clipping Path India’s Photoshop experts

Katie Thompson

Katie is a freelance writer and trained journalist with a keen eye for design. In addition to her work for Clipping Path India, she writes about journalism, digital marketing and ecommerce design trends.

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