Clipping Path Method

As I mentioned earlier, this method is effective for hard-edged objects. Select the Pen Tool (P), and choose the Paths button in the options bar.

I ■ i - (jS^ | ® □ Q O O \ - s^pMte | i Selecting the Paths option for the Pen Tool

Create a path that tightly follows the outline of your object as shown at right. If you need to, zoom in and use the Direct Selection Tool (4) to adjust the handlebars for the path.

Creating an outline using the Pen Tool

Select your image layer from the Layers palette and select Layer > Vector Mask > Current Path. A vector mask, based on the path we just drew, will be created for the layer, as shown in the example at the top of the next page. Notice that my image has a slight color halo.

Creating an outline using the Pen Tool

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Creating a vector mask


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Creating a vector mask

With the Direct Selection Tool (4) I'm going to adjust the path of the vector mask to get rid of the halo. As you can see in the example shown at right, I've moved some of the anchor points inside the edges of the image. We can see what my final extraction looks like here—a nice, clean cut with no halo.

TIP Moving Around

If you've zoomed in and need to move around to view different portions of the image, hold down the spacebar. The cursor will temporarily change to the hand tool, and you can then click on the document window and drag the image around. Release the spacebar when you're done.

You can use this handy shortcut with almost any of Photoshop's filters or tools, unless, of course, you're in the middle of using the Text Tool—then, you'll need the spacebar for spaces!

Adjusting the vector mask

Adjusting the vector mask

The final extracted image

Extract Filter Method

This method works best for finely detailed objects, such as hair or branches, and images in which there's plenty of contrast between the background and the object that you're extracting.

Before we begin, select your photo layer from the Layers palette and duplicate it using Ctrl-] (Command-J on a Mac) for backup purposes.

Select the duplicated layer from the Layers palette, and select Filter > Extract. The Extract dialog box will appear. Select the Edge Highlighter Tool (B) from the left-hand side of the dialog box as shown below, and draw an outline around the edges of the object you're cutting out. Your outline should be thick enough to overlap some of the background as well as the edges of the object, because the Extract filter will be looking inside it for contrast between the object and the background. Use a larger brush to catch finer details, as I've done with the fuzzy stem.

Outlining the object

When you've made your outline, select the Fill Tool (G) from the dialog box, as shown in the figure at the top of the next page, and click inside your outline to fill the area you want to cut out.

Filling the object

Click OK to apply the filter and close the dialog box.

Next, open the History palette (Window > History). You'll see a list of the last 20 actions that you performed on your image. Click on the column on the left-hand side of the Duplicate Layer action, as shown at right.

Now we're going to paint with the History Brush Tool (V). By toggling the column on the left-hand side of the Duplicate Layer action, we've set up a "state" for the History Brush Tool—it's going to use that version of the image to paint.

Setting a state for the History Brush Tool

There'll probably be some areas where the Extract filter has erased too much. You can use the history brush to paint these areas back into the image. I'd recommend using a smaller brush size to paint back finer details, such as the fuzziness on the stalk. Don't worry if you paint some of the background back in as well—we'll fix that later.

Using the History Brush Tool

Using the History Brush Tool

TIP I Can See Clearly Now

You might find it helpful to create a new layer underneath your object layer, and fill it with a contrasting color. This will help you to see more clearly which parts of the image have been erased.

Painting with the History Brush Tool

Finally, we'll use the Eraser Tool (E) to clean up any stray pixels around the edges, and to remove any of the original background that we brought back when we were painting with the History Brush Tool. A comparison that shows the result of work with the Eraser Tool (E) is shown at right.

Below, we can see the final result.

Using the Eraser Tool
The image isolated using the Extract filter method

Layer Mask Method

The layer mask method is a bit more time-consuming than the solution we worked through above, but works well with most images—particularly those in which there is little contrast between the object and its background. Take a look at the example at right. I tried to extract the owl using the Extract filter, and found that most of the selection's edges were erased by the filter.

Extract filter results not satisfactory

Use a smaller brush to fill in the edges around the object: you'll need to zoom in to get a clean result, as the image at rights shows. Instead of zooming in all the way and using the Pencil Tool to modify one pixel at a time, I've chosen to zoom in partially and use the Brush Tool (B) with a small brush, to keep the edges of the object slightly transparent so that the masking effect doesn't look too stark.

Extract filter results not satisfactory

I'm going to use a layer mask instead. Select the image layer from the Layers palette and click on the Add layer mask button at the bottom of the palette. Set the foreground color to black, and use a large brush to hide most of the background by painting on the layer mask, as shown at left.

Zooming in for precise brushwork

Clean up the image by using white to paint back the areas you deleted accidentally, and using different shades of gray to get rid of color halos.

Here we can see the final extracted image.

TIP Easy Color Switching

The following keyboard shortcuts can be extremely handy when you're working with layer masks.

• Press "d" to change the foreground color to black and the background color to white.

• Press "x" to switch the foreground and background color swatches.

Isolated image extracted using the layer mask method

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