Make Perfect Selection for Human Object by Utilising Channel Mask Technique in Photoshop

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In this tutorial, I will show you a rather useful technique I use in Photoshop to make perfect human selection, which requires the combination of channel mask and the quick selection tool available in Photoshop CS3.

I have received a number of emails lately in regards to this topic and I have decided to post this short tutorial with a step-by-step guide for beginners. Once you master this skill, you can apply it to pretty much every human image you want to selection/extract.

Meanwhile, if you have any tips/tricks about making selections, you’re more than welcome to share your experience with us, just drop a comment below :)

Although this is not a formal photo effect tutorial but rather a tip/trick, I have created a final image here:


OK let’s get started!

To complete this tutorial, you will need to the following stock image:


Step 1

Load the Girl stock image into Photoshop. We know the ultimate goal is to seperate the girl from the rest of the image, but how do we start. Firstly let’s take a look at the image:

  1. The overall lighting is quite good and it doesn’t have a lot of colour variation.
  2. This is a human portrait so that means taking out the hairs and making selection around it will be difficult.
  3. You may think of using Pen Tool, but what happen if you’re just not that good at it??

After those thoughts above, it’s time to get down to business. To begin with, let’s take a look at the channels in the channel palatte and select the “Blue” channel as shown below:

1 select channel

The reason I chose the “Blue” channel here is because it provide the biggest contrast from the model to the background, comparing with the Red and Green channel.

1 blue

Step 2

Now we’re are on the blue channel. The second thing we’re going to do is to increase the contrast as much as we can, while preserving the hair bits. To  do this, we can make a duplication of the “Blue” Channel by right-click and choose “Duplicate channel”.

On the “Blue Copy” channel, go to Image > Adjustment > Brightness /Contrast  and apply the following settings:

2 bc

Then hit Ctrl + L and bring up the level adjustments tool, apply the following settings:

2 level

and you will have the following effect:

2 after level

Step 3

Now we will have to use the power of the Quick Selection tool to select the light colour part of the girl’s body. To do this, simply grab the Quick Selection tool (W) from the tool box, set the brush size to 2px and tick “Auto-Enhance” option, make a selection of the white part as shown below:

3 quick sel

Hint: make use the + and – quick selection tool available on the option bar for adjustments, don’t worry about the hair bits on the outside as they’re already in black colour.

When you finish the selection, simply fill it with black colour:

3 after quick

De-select the image when you’re done, if you see a white gap on the girl body, simply use a black brush to fill it.

Step 4

Now you will see around the girl’s body (which is in Black), there are some areas cover in dark grey colour. We must get rid of them in order to make our selection better. To do this, simply use the Quick Selection Tool to make a selection around the girl, then press Ctrl + Shift + I and inverse this selection. Grab the Eraser Tool to gently erase those dark grey bits off:

4 eraser

The reason we make the selection is that by doing so, we will not accidentally erase the parts on the girl’s body.

Here is the effect so far:

4 eraser 2

Now we have successfully completed a Channel Mask, which we

Step 5

Now we can go back to the layer palatte, go to select > load selection and choose the following:

5 load sel

and you will see now the model is selected:

5 after load

Press Ctrl + J and make a duplication of the selection, and create a new layer in between and fill it with white colour, you will see we have now successfully make a pretty good selection for the girl model:

5 effect

Step 6

Now we can of course fine tune the image a bit by using the Sharpen Filter. Go to Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen and apply the following settings:

6 sharpen

Also add a series of adjustment layers on top of it will help to bring out extra light and contrast: (Go to Layer > Adjustment Layer)

For all adjustment layers, make sure to tick the “Use previous layer as clipping mask” option.

Black and White:

6 bw


6 lv


6 curves

Hue and Saturation

6 hue

and here is the effect so far:

6 effect

Step 7

Now we have a perfect girl image, without any background and great to work on as a starting point. It’s time to use your imagination and creativity :) I simply use some custom brushsets from and add some patterns in the background, adjusted the colour balance a bit.


That’s for this tutorial! Hope you enjoy it and find it useful, drop me a comment if you have any question, I will try my best to help you out.

Cheers and have a nice day!

Categories: Photo Effect

Tags: ,,,,,

  • ricardofx

    thankx a lot @james; really thanx dude.

  • psaddict

    Awesome tutorial

    Added to

  • Thu Hoai

    woa! wonderful! thanks very much

  • Nym

    thanx james. best channel mask tutorial on the web :)

  • James

    Thanks everyone, glad you all enjoy it!

  • nice tutorial. Learning this actually saves me from having to buy some stock photography for a project.

  • Flex developer

    Hmm.. very interesting lesson. Thanks for job!

  • todo sobre el mundo de la actualidad informatica

    good input

    todo sobre el mundo de la actualidad informatica

  • Robin

    Very nice tutorial – great detail!

  • cynthai

    This is a great tutorial. I was looking for something like this for some pictures I had.

  • Interesting techniques! ;)

  • Emlak AVM

    Thx for detailed explanation.

  • worioh

    thanks very much
    lots of details


    Realy very nice

  • Nathalie

    can i ask why is it black and white when i finished your step 6?! huhu

  • Kristin

    I try to fill the person black, but it does not work. I can just fill the outside.

  • Boss the image which you are using for selection it had blurred background and the stock image are you giving us it has solid background which creates problem while following the step again on same image, so please replace the first image from stock

    BTW trick is really coooooool
    Thanks for that…. :)

  • Darren

    I was wondering if you had a way to do this for someone who doesn’t have CS3/CS4 quick selection is not in CS2 which is what I’m using. Thanks

  • Madz

    I like the tutorial but I also had a little problem. Like Nathalie’s, my picture turned black and white when I finished step 6. Did I do something wrong or forgot a step?

  • bids

    awesome!!!!!!!! this is, for me the best extraction technique i’ve tried so far! thanks man!!!!

  • emlak

    paylaşım içim teşekkürler


    o i like

  • Hey James……..this is surely one of the best channel mask tutorials I’ve come across. I believe this will be helpful for both layman and professional designers. Keep posting.

  • image clipping

    Informative tutorial. Thanks!!

  • Henriko

    Very handy tutorial! Thanks for sharing ;-)

  • Amanda

    I’m having problems, and it’s really kind of frustrating haha. I got the quick selection tool step done, except I can’t, for some reason, select the triangle of background that her arm makes when she put her hand on her head? How can I select that section as well so it isn’t included with her in the next step?

  • Adan

    Im all good until step 6, my picture is black and white. not colorful. its colorful if i take the black and white off but its black and white. u need to explain urself better. Everyting is exactly as u said, ive done it over and over and still black and white.

  • kopping

    it is kinda similar as what i do with this kind of images, but much better in details than mine…

    really satisfy the outcome with this tutorial ….

    many thanks

  • jen

    ok so I got to step 6 and like others i too have the black and white issue have i done someting wrong?

  • BeBoschBoys

    Thanks James. Nice Post. :D

  • stew K

    I am having trouble with step 5, it will not load :S

  • Oh yes!! I like it

  • Ray

    This Sucks way to much stuff around the cut, and very pixilated. Not a good way to cut.

  • shuhan059

    this is so helpful……………… thanks……….

  • Ravidev

    These r Very Useful & Informative Techniques, u r Peoples r rocking..keep going….

  • Guest

    You missed some around the pinky.

  • Sivaji5207


  • This is a great tutorial, but I got extremely frustrated because I have Photoshop Elements; I tried to do the same thing, but I had to get other instructions for how to mimic it, and I didn’t do any better with it than I would with Magic Extracter, a tutorial version of this for Elements would be great!

  • Nyedzi

    I ended up with a black and white pic myself, can’t figure which step i got wrong….

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  • Robert

    Great tutorial except Step 6 result is a black and white image.
    Is there a missing instruction?

  • Robert

    I found a solution to the black and white end result,. For the Black and White adjustment layer
    change the layer mode to Luminosity. I am not sure if this is what the author intended but at least
    it results in a color image.