Fight the frizz with these ideas on how to edit flyaway hair in Photoshop
One thing we don’t have a shortage of here in Wyoming is wind. We joke that our windsocks should be made out of tow chains so they’d last longer. We also have a pretty dry climate. So rowdy hair is something I have to contend with in many a photoshoot. Knowing how to edit flyaway hair in Photoshop is a must for me!
So how can you tame the frizzies? Our first course of action should always be to get it right in camera. But sometimes we need a little help from post-production. In this post, we’ll talk about some preventative measures and five different ways to fix those annoying little hairs and clean up the crazy hair!
Hair shouldn’t be perfect
Let me start by saying hair shouldn’t be perfect. Part of what makes a compelling portrait is authenticity. So if your client has naturally curly hair, hair with a lot of volume or a personality that is more casual and laid back, editing every single hair into perfection will feel forced. And no one should ever feel inferior because their hair isn’t perfect. Photoshoots should empower, not diminish.
Likewise, having hair flying every-which-way or a messy look is your artistic choice. Hair can help convey attitude and movement. That’s awesome too. Your client, your image, your decision!
But sometimes hair gets away from us and we need tools to fix it. Or we are working on a high-end, very refined image that demands clean, sleek lines. That’s where this post comes in…when wild hair is a result of the environment and not the choice of the client or the photographer.
What causes flyaway hair and hair static?
Wind, static and hair that pulled free of ties or barrettes can all cause flyaway hair. Hats, fleece headbands and pulling clothes over your head also causes static cling. When two unlike objects rub against each other (like hair and a fleece sweatshirt), the process transfers electrons from one object to the other. The swap causes a kind of electric charge to build up on your hair. If there’s no moisture in the hair or in the air, that charge causes hairs to repel one another. So hair stands up and looks wild. That’s your science lesson for the day!
Fixing flyaway hair and static hair on scene
As I said before, our goal should always be to get the scene right in-camera. It looks more natural and saves you time and effort in post-production. Here’s a few tips to fix static hair before you ever fire the shutter.
- Encourage clients to practice best hair management! Include tips like using hairspray, getting dressed before fixing hair and avoiding hats in your client prep guide.
- Give your subjects a once over before shooting. Make sure ponytails are snug, buns are secure and clips are fully fastened. Sometimes a quick fix is all you need!
- Watch the wind. Even a gentle breeze can blow hairs out of place. If you can’t get out of the wind, try facing your subject into the wind. The breeze will blow her hair behind her instead of up into her face.
- Shoot hat images last, if possible. Hats can create static (or cause hat head and a red mark on the forehead among other problems). Save the hat images for last if at all possible!
Stylist tricks to tame wild locks
If you can’t avoid frizz and flyaways, help get them back in place with these simple tips from a hairstylist!
- Keep a small bottle of smoothing hair oil in your photography kit. A small amount can give your client’s dry hair a bit of lustre and help smooth out the frizzy bits.
- Anti-flyaway sheets are another great tool for your bag! Look for something like the Redken Frizz Dismiss SPF 10 Fly-Away Fix Finishing Sheets.
- Try a dryer sheet! Some people report having great luck using plain-old dryer sheets. Have your client wipe down their hair with one. If she’s using a hat, rub the inside of the hat with a dryer sheet to help prevent the frizz.
- Instead of a spray or wipe, use a metal comb sprayed with hair spray. Have your client comb his hair from root to tip. The metal comb absorbs some of the static from the hair. The hair spray also helps tame the flyaways.
- In a pinch and need a fix fast? Try a small amount of hand or face lotion. Have your client rub a small amount between her palms and then smooth it out over her hair.
Edit flyaway hair in Photoshop
So you couldn’t or didn’t get the hair under control during your photoshoot. It happens. Sometimes we get in a hurry and don’t pay attention to details like the hair, sometimes a flyaway is so small we just can’t see it. And sometimes, there’s just no avoiding it. When you have to edit flyaway hair in Photoshop, here are a few different methods to try.
There’s no one best method…like with so many things in art, there are different ways to accomplish the same task. Use the method that works best for you, your skill level and the specific image you are editing.
I don’t give step-by-step instructions in the post below. This isn’t meant to be an in-depth tutorial. Rather, it’s a wild hair roundup. I’ll describe a few different methods I find helpful when I need to edit flyaway hairs in Photoshop and links to the videos demonstrating the process.
You will need to understand a few Photoshop basics to complete these techniques. This includes choosing a brush and changing the size and softness, making and inverting layer masks, and rendering your final image.
Method #1 : The Spot Healing brush
This is the most straight-forward method and involves a single Photoshop tool. It works best with single hairs flying away from the face or other hairs, but can also work for hairs falling across the face.
Start by creating a new layer. Choose the spot healing brush from the Tools bar. Make your brush just larger than the hair. Trace over the hair and let the spot healing brush work its magic. If the hair falls in front of the eye our mouth, try using the spot heal brush in sections. For example, use the spot heal first in the forehead, then the eyebrow, then the upper eyelid. The brush is less likely to grab colors/texture from the unrelated parts that way.
See this method in action at https://youtu.be/L2RBYuJB0iA
Method #2: The Healing Brush tool
This method is similar to Method #1 but uses the Healing Brush tool instead of the Spot Healing brush. I find it goes faster than
Start by creating a new layer. Choose an area to sample that is similar to the area where the hair is located. Then using the sample area, paint over the flyaway hairs. This can work better than the Spot Healing brush because you are choosing where to sample, not leaving it up to Photoshop. I find this method helps if the hair is on the face or clothing. I prefer the healing brush tool to the clone stamp tool because it blends more seamlessly for me.
If you don’t want to eliminate the hairs but simply make them less noticeable, you can adjust the opacity of your layer at the end.
See this method in use at https://youtu.be/1yB_w0SA5IQ
Method #3: Surface Blur
Our third method to edit flyaway hair in Photoshop uses a Surface Blur mask. With this technique, you harness the power of Photoshop to blend those small hairs into oblivion. This works best on soft backgrounds with very little texture. If you’re trying to fix a hair on the face or clothing, skip this method and use one of the previous two choices instead.
Start by creating a new layer. Then choose Filter – Blur – Surface Blur. You’ll need to adjust the Radius and Threshold to suit your image. The radius is the distance out from each pixel that you want affected by the filter (in this case, surface blur is the filter.) Threshold determines how different adjacent pixels must be before they are considered edge pixels and thus, affected by the filter. The higher the threshold value, the greater contrast there must be between pixels. Play around with the sliders until those pesky hairs fade away.
Next, you’ll turn the blurred layer into a layer mask. Choose Layer-Layer Mask – Hide All, or use select the layer mask from the Layers dialog box and invert it. Using a hard white brush, paint over the flyaway hairs. One of the benefits of this method is that it requires less patience and accuracy than the spot healing or healing brush tools.
To see this method in action, visit https://youtu.be/nPAvr5_CWl8
I’ve also seen this method using a Gaussian blur filter and mask. Try both if you’d like and see which suits your style better!
Method #4: 3-Step Workflow
This workflow uses 3 different processes to edit flyaway hair in Photoshop. You’ll start by using the clone stamp tool (on a new layer of course!). Then you’ll create a rough mask that eliminates most of the flyaways. And finally, you’ll refine the mask to keep the texture and outline of most of the hair but ditch those wonky hairs.
This process is much better watched than read. Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obCmWXhXwvg&fbclid=IwAR1cJ80Li0Vai6OQ7xilasWwkzXErona8Kf1Dkrk3ASLaTqL0dBOP8IuJ-0
This video, featuring Unmesh Dinda from Piximperfect, teaches you how to complete this process with a mouse or a tablet. He also introduces the concept of editing with the flow of the hair to keep it looking real and natural.
This process works great for solid color backgrounds or backgrounds with a slight gradient. This workflow is great if you have a number of unruly hairs and need something quickly.
Method #5: DSL – a 3-Step Process for busy backgrounds
So far, most of the techniques we’ve used work for solid color backgrounds. But what if you were shooting outside and have a multi-colored or more complicated background? Just remember DSL – dust and scratches, spot healing brush and liquefy. It’s another technique taught by Dinda from the video above.
You’ll start with adding a filter to blur out the single stray hairs using the dust and scratches filter. To keep the texture of the background, however, you’ll also add some noise back into the image. Then you’ll clean up the image with the spot healing brush and finish off with the liquefy tool.
I find this method helpful if you have a big wad of misbehaving hair. The liquefy technique Dinda describes is perfect for slowly easing those large chunks of messy hair back into place. This is the most involved method of the three and takes the longest because it has the most steps. But for tricky backgrounds or really crazy hair, I find it works great!
Check out what I was able to accomplish on an edit using this method.
To see the video tutorial, watch below or visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEUjUp7hCPc&fbclid=IwAR0BdySr_7HePVKupsiyooDGYj74Tt3gpIlUTTAFPVYWybXlqIfCWQ-iQE8
Crazy Hair Happens
Of course, we always want to make sure our clients look their best before we fire the shutter. But sometimes, crazy hair happens despite our best efforts. The next time you find an image having a bad hair day, use one of these methods to edit flyaway hair in Photoshop. Try each method a few times to get a real feel for them and to decide which one is the best for you. Soon you’ll know which method to use on which image depending on the level of craziness in the hair or background.
I also find learning new techniques to edit in Photoshop helps me up my skills in the software overall. I might never use Method #4 again, but going through the process two or three times makes me more comfortable with the software overall.
So the next time you’ve got an image with a hair nightmare, don’t despair. Try one of these methods and tame that ‘do!