How to Accent Hair in Photoshop

Anyone can have a bad hair day, but did you know you can also have a bland hair day? Shine, color, dryness—there are plenty of aspects that can dull out your locks. To help overcome this common obstacle, photographer Aaron Nace demonstrates a few useful tips for Photoshop to make the hair in your images pop:

Whether you’re retouching skin, background colors, or hair, the key to a great enhancement is a subtle touch to what is already there. Remember you want it to pop, not flop; so it’s important to never go overboard. Otherwise, your image may appear artificial.

How to Enhance Hair in Photoshop

  1. After opening your image, begin by creating a Color Balance Adjustment Layer (Adjustment Layers > Color Balance) for the Midtones. This will be used to add a bit more color to what you already have.
  2. Adjust the sliders until you are satisfied with the new color results.
  3. Clicking on your Layer Mask, press Control (or Command) and ‘I’ to invert the Layer Mask.
  4. Using the Brush tool, paint over the Layer Mask with white. This will make the adjustment layer visible only within the area(s) selected.
retouching editing tips

Use the Blend If to customize the Layer Mask to affect only the image highlights.

  1. Next add a Solid Color Adjustment Layer and copy the color mask from the Color Balance Adjustment Layer.
  2. Change the blending mode to Vivid Light, and use Blend If to adjust the layer until it exclusively affects the highlights. The goal is to adjust the color to give a more natural highlight to the hair. (If needed, lower the Opacity level.)
  3. The last step to giving hair that extra kick is to add depth by applying the dodge and burn method. Start by creating a new layer and make sure it placed on top of all the other layers.
  4. Change the blend mode to soft light.
  5. Using a 10 percent brush flow, paint black over the areas you want shaded and white over the areas you want highlighted, taking special care to stay with the natural lines of the hair.
Photoshop retouching hair

Before and After Photos of Hair Technique

Have you used this method? Do you use any special techniques to give hair a little extra pizzazz? If so, comment below with your thoughts or favorite hair retouching tips.

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  1. Heather says:

    I have tried following your directions but I cannot for the life of me figure out how to:
    “Next add a Solid Color Adjustment Layer and copy the color mask from the Color Balance Adjustment Layer.”.
    I can find two ways of adding a Solid Color Adjustment Layer but cannot copy the color mask from the Color Balance Adjustment Layer to it in either circumstance.
    The tutorial is a little sketchy for novice Photoshoppers. More step-by-step images would have been helpful.

    • PictureCorrect Contributor says:

      “If you watch the video, around 4:02 into the video it shows in detail how to copy the layer mask. Step by Step would be to hold Alt (or Option) and click on the completed layer mask and drag it to your other layer mask. This will make a copy.” -Chelsea

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