Time traveling me: “Pursuit of the perfect extraction will lead you to the Dark side. ”
When first starting out with Photoshop we see artists with lots of experience create astonishing creations with what appears to be flawless extractions of models placed in new environments.
The dirty little secret is that there is no single magic method to produce perfect extractions in all situations.
Garbage in, garbage out…
ANY method you choose to use will only be as good as your starting image and your skill level.
If your model is a platinum blonde photographed against a white background, you just aren’t going to get an extraction with perfect flyaway hair strands.
If your model is a dog with dark fur posing on a walk in the woods with lots of browns in the background, it’s not going to be easy to get your extraction.
And even if you have a great starting point with perfect focus and stark contrast, you will still have to take some time to get it right.
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It’s OK to fudge!
Always consider what you are trying to accomplish with your piece. This will help you decide how good your extraction needs to be.
For example, if you’re creating a dark and moody piece, showcasing a model with dark hair, and using a bunch of textures in your top layers, then you probably don’t need a flawless hair extraction with individual strands of hair showing.
If parts of the model are not essential focal points in your artwork, then you’ve got some wiggle room in your extraction.
Rather than fighting with an extraction, ask yourself if there are other options. Could you use a brush to emulate new hair? Could you blend multiple images to create the look you want? Could you give your model a haircut?
Learn to relax and remember how much fun it is to create art!
So, what’s the best way to start with extractions?
1. Start with easy extractions. Use images with high contrast between subject and background. Learn how to do angular and curvy outlines before you tackle complex hair and fur extractions.
2. Pick one tool and master it! Learn its limitations, its strengths and weaknesses. I suggest you practice with Photoshop’s Select and Mask. It has become very powerful in the latest versions of CC. Master this tool and you’ll be ready for most extractions you’ll need to perform in the future.
You could also choose to master a extraction plugin like Topaz Labs ReMask.
3. Branch out. Once you are very confident using your tool of choice with simple extractions, then branch out and attempt low contrast and hair!
Be patient and allow yourself time to learn!
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