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This is our cat:

enter image description here

I am attempting to isolate her whiskers from the background:

enter image description here

The Object Selection Tool does an excellent job of identifying the cat and selecting it but it struggles with the whiskers.

What would be the most effective method to include the whiskers in the mask selection?

Any advice on the best way to approach this would be much appreciated!

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    Photoshop CC's Select and Mask functionality would be good for this. You can create an almost perfect mask with the tools provided. A tutorial here would be too long, perhaps have a look at tutorial vids on youtube. – Billy Kerr Jan 16 at 1:05
  • I mentioned Select and Mask in my question actually. Which settings did you use to get the whiskers to show up so nicely? – Mr Ethernet Jan 16 at 1:40
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    It's not so much about settings but how you use the tools. Make a manual selection using the Quick Select tool making sure to include all the whiskers, then refine the mask by painting over the whiskers and the fluffy furry areas with the Refine Edge Brush Tool. Decontaminate Colours will bring back some darkness to the whiskers. Make adjustments with the Shift Edge slider. Zoom in and you can remove any left over parts of the background between the whiskers using the Quick Select tool set to a very small size. Use the Black and White view frequently to check the mask as you work. – Billy Kerr Jan 16 at 9:04
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    You don't need a detailed selection. That's the whole point of select and mask. You could select them in one big blob, and work from there, or just select the cat without whiskers, and work from there. Scott Kelby doesn't even select the hairs at all in his tutorial. Did you try following it? – Billy Kerr Jan 17 at 18:36
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    Does this answer your question? Techniques for cutting out hair accurately – Luciano Jan 20 at 12:24
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I was able to create the following image using Billy Kerr's brilliant advice:

enter image description here

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make black and white make black and white

increase contrast

increase contrast

cleanup and use as mask

cleanup and use as mask

The trick is to photograph against a very light background then this is easiest to mask.

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Single hairs and whiskers are often badly mixed with the background because they are so narrow. A great part of the width has pixels which are a mixture of the background and the right hair or whisker color. Low resolution and JPG compression artefacts make the situation even more difficult.

Pro photographers use very high resolution and they especially prepare the light and background so that the masking of hairs and whiskers is possible.

Your image is a lucky case and you have already got a method which can save a substantial part of the whiskers. If there were more complex or darker background the masking by increasing the contrast would have been less successful.

enter image description here

Your original idea (which has been lately removed from the question) to draw the lost whiskers with the pen was just about to be a success. The only missing thing was the lack of flexible enough brush, but that exists in Illustrator. You can make an art brush. Draw a narrow long grey horizontal triangle, drag it to the brushes collection and draw with it the needed curves. Use the pen tool and apply the brush after the curves are right. Use your original photo as a reference (lock it!)

enter image description here

Copy the drawn whiskers to the clipboard and paste them in Photoshop as a new pixel layer to a image where the background and the whiskers along it has been erased. Adjust the brightness, contrast and layer transparency for good appearance.

Unfortunately single grey isn't the best possible color for the whiskers. Acceptable result needs more complexity. Here's one adjustment version:

enter image description here

There's a colored test background for proper adjustments. The whisker and it's color adjustment layers are grouped to a layer group which has reduced opacity like the real whiskers in a normal photo do have.

There's 2 curves adjustment layers. The lower curves layer changes the base grey to something which fits the fur (=quite dark). The upper curves layer has a layer mask which makes the whiskers only somehow brighter in the middle to simulate how they shine

This is the color which is matched with the fur:

enter image description here

And this is the effect of the upper curves layer:

enter image description here

A high zoom view shows that the whiskers are as badly mixed with the background as in your original image, but so it should be to look plausible. The difference is that now you have the control:

enter image description here

NOT ASKED: The edge of the cat was too clean when a simple BG removal with the quick selection tool was applied. That happens often when one tries to be fast. The edge is re-roughened with the smudge tool. The used brush was one of the default multiparticle brushes.

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