Hiding Hair Roots in Photoshop

This retouch, where you’re lightening your subject’s roots, is a pretty common retouch, and it’s pretty quick and easy in most cases. I’m going to show you my standard method, but I’m adding an additional step at the end that I now use in my retouching—a darkening step to add more dimension—that I picked up from retoucher Christy Schuler, and that makes such a difference.

Step One:
Here’s the image we’re going to be working on. The roots aren’t too bad here, but once we tweak ’em, you’ll see it makes a difference. Start by clicking on the Create a New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a new blank layer.

Step Two:
Get the Eyedropper tool (I), which we’re going to use to steal (okay, borrow) a color from a bright part of her hair. So, let’s do that: take the tool and click it once on the brightest area of her hair, as shown here. By the way, that big round ring that appears is there to help you see precisely which color you’re choosing as you click.

Step Three:
Get the Brush tool (B), choose a medium-sized, soft-edged brush, and paint over the dark areas at the base of her hair and in her part line (as shown here). Don’t worry if you don’t get every bit of it at this point—you’ll be able to easily add more in just a minute.

Step Four:
To get this painted layer to blend into your photo on the Background layer, go to the Layers panel and change the blend mode for this paint layer from Normal to Soft Light (as shown here). Now you can see the painted area blend with your image (compare what you see here with the image in Step One—look at how much lighter the base of her hair, where the roots would be, is now).

Step Five:
Now that you’ve changed to Soft Light mode, and your Foreground color is still the color sampled from the brightest area of her hair, to add more areas, you can just paint right on the photo, and it blends in as you paint (as seen here, where I’m painting another area of hair on the left side of the image).

Step Six:
Here’s the additional step I now add that makes a difference in the depth of the retouch: Take the Eyedropper tool and sample a darker area of her hair. Then, with the Brush tool, with the Opacity lowered to around 15%, so it’s very subtle, paint a few strokes over the darker areas within the areas you just lightened a moment ago (as shown here). Just paint a few strokes here and there to give it some dimension—this little step helps to make it look more natural and realistic.

Step Seven:
Lastly, since this was all done on its own separate layer, you have the option of toning down the entire retouch by simply lowering the Opacity of this paint layer in the Layers panel. Here, I lowered it to around 75%.

Learn how to do more in Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques for Photographers Using Photoshop here: