Amy chose a “fuzzy” vest as part of her outfit. I should have realized that by giving it a backlight it would make selecting all those very fine hairs more of challenge than I planned. Extracting very fine details such as hair has always been one of the most difficult tasks to do well in Photoshop.
There have been a lot of approaches and plug-ins developed to make the process easier. It is all about making sure that enough of the desired background shows through in the semi-transparent regions, and that none of the old background remains. There are lots of ways to make it look really, really bad.
Luckily, this has been an area where Adobe themselves have done a lot of work to make it “easier”. As with most masking projects, the “Quick Selection” tool is a pretty good place to start. In this image it didn’t matter if I selected her, or the background as a place to start. Once you have gotten a selection to 95% accuracy, click on the “Refine Edge” panel.
It will open add an overlay showing your current selection with the masked areas in red. Select the brush and go over the edges of your image and it basically increases the computation power to separate out the contrast between what you want and what should be the background.
The darker parts show the areas where the tool worked especially hard. You can keep going over the parts that give you problems until you are satisfied.
Here is my final mask result.
You can see the areas around her shoulder with the fringe, and the hair on the top of her head now has the right level of transparency. Next time, we will make the background and bring the whole project to its conclusion.