Pulled Hair Technique Using a Wacom Tablet in Photoshop Elements
By Carole Harden
If you've ever tried doing an extraction on a pet, or a person with long, flowing hair, you'll know how frustrating it can be to get a natural look. Using a tablet pen to "pull" hairs, will take your extractions from lifeless to lovely in no time! For this tutorial, I've chosen a picture of a cat, with a dreary background that I'd like to replace.
I've extracted the cat, and placed it against a black background for contrast. As you can see, it looks flat and smooth, and is missing some whiskers!
Now, the first thing we're going to need to do is select the smudge tool. It's found in the tools pallet, and looks like a pointing finger.
Once you have your smudge tool selected, go to the brush menu and choose a small, round brush. For most projects I use a soft round brush, sized between 3 and 5px, with the strength slider set between 70% and 90%. Before you start on your extraction though, you're probably going to need to play around with the adjustments a bit, to get the desired effect. Here you can see the difference in the resulting strokes when you change the strength and the pressure that you use.
Once you've practiced a bit, and you're ready to begin on your image, start slightly inside the area that you want to pull color from, and with light, quick flicks of the pen, pull the color outwards, following the hair line. The faster, and lighter you pull, the more natural the results will be. Make sure you remember to pull in the direction that the hair is growing!
In this comparison photo, you can see what a huge difference pulling hairs makes!
With a little practice, you'll be amazed at the results, just be careful not to overdo it! A few well placed hairs can be more effective than a whole new "do!" Here's our finished kitty, looking good on her new background!
A few tips:
Once you have your brush, pen tip, and strength settings tweaked to your liking, make sure to SAVE your information somewhere, you'll thank yourself later for doing this!
It's easier for me to get more natural looking hairs, if I pull from left to right, so sometimes I rotate my layout to make it easier for me to work on!
While you are probably going to want to zoom in very close while you're working, don't forget to zoom out once in a while to check on your progress. Sometimes things that look amazing up close, look strange at normal size!
The tip you use in your tablet pen will make a difference as well, so you'll want to try out different ones, until you find one that gives you the look you're going for.
Hope you enjoy using this technique as much as I do!!! :)