Many times I have been asked how I do my extractions, and yet I have still hesitated to do this tutorial for several reasons.
1. I've already done it 2 times before in different locations...
2. There's so much to extracting that some things need seperate tutorials all their own, such as semi-transparent objects, or hair...
3. My favored tool (the pen tool) is not available in elements and several other programs and I hate to leave people out due to their program availability.
BUT, having said that, I will in fact go ahead and do this tutorial anyway. I will cover the basics of extracting nothing too fancy, as I said those require seperate tutorials in themselves, I will show several ways to do it so other program users still can participate. So bring on the tutorial!!!
Lets just get a bit of vocab straight. extracting is known by many names, but the end result is generally the same. These are definitions by me, not the dictionary. Just so ya know.
Extracting: cutting out the subject of a photo.
Masking: using a masking tool to "hide" everything but the subject.
Chopping: taking the subject of a photo and placing it in another place.
Ex: taking your wedding photo, extracting it, then placing you on the beach.
Out of Bounds: a partial extraction coming out of the edge of a picture.
A good extraction takes time!!! no matter what method you use!
There are A LOT of ways to extract. I'm going to go over a few.
I'm going to start out with this full body shot of Jaden. The look on his face is priceless and it has endless scrapping potential once I cut it out.
The most basic way, that every program I hope can do, is simply to take your eraser and erase the background. You want to zoom in real close. Set your erase to 100% hardness and carefully erase all around the subject. Changing brush size as needed. Make sure you have a transparent layer behind your subject to do this.
You also may have noticed in photoshop you actually have an extraction filter. I find this usually to be more work, but have used it for things like frizzy hair.
Grr. I was going to show you how to use it but I can't find it in my new CS4. Normally it would be under filter-extraction Ooo I just looked it up and I just need to add the plug in, Oh well in the meantime here's a link to a tutorial on how to use the extraction filter. Not a great one, but it should help.
Okay moving on: If you have masking options you can mask out the background. this is similar to just erasing it, BUT you can always bring it back at any time with a mask. I often use masking for semi-transparent objects, or if I'm not sure what I want to get rid of.
To mask, while on your photo layer is active click the the mask tool at the bottom of the layers pallet.
While on the mask layer you can use your paint brush to paint with black or white black erases, white makes appear. Think of it like your looking at an actual mask. The holes that you would see through would look black where the rest of the mask that would hide your face looks white.
Use a hard black brush to paint around your image.
You can also try things like the magnetic lasso tool if your background isn't too busy, or the background erase tool, but I find these less reliable.
There are other great ways to mask using channels and blanding styles and other things, but these are going to be your basic ways and all I'm going to get into for now.
The Best Way
I'm sure everyone has there preferences, but when I extract I almost ALWAYS use the pen tool, at least for most of it. Even if you don't have the pen tool, please follow along, as I will have more tips for you later on.
Select your pen tool and have it set to the following:
Now while zoomed in nice and close click around the edge of your subject just like you were using scissors. Keep your points close together. Remember to use your history to go back if you make a mistake. Also while zoomed in you can hold down the space bar then use the mouse to drag you around your subject (saves time)
Go all the way around your subject, take your time and do it well. (I did mine kinda quick here for the tutorial so it's not as good) when you click back on your starting point you will then have a solid line all the way around your subject.
Now while still on the pen tool, right click on your subject. Choose Make selection feather 0. We will soften it ourselves in a minute.
Now you should have those running ants around your subject showing it's a selection. Let's get it out of there! I usually put it on a new canvas to tweek before moving onto my scrap page. To do this go Edit-Copy, File-New, Edit-Paste OR Ctrl c, Ctrl n, Ctrl v. Now your extraction is all by itself. Yay!
I see a lot of people stop there, but there is one more step I always do. You may have noticed when clicking your pen tool around your subject that the edges of your subject were slightly blurry. I always go slightly inside the blur line so as not to have any color bleeding from the original background. This causes the edges of our extraction to look too sharp, or fake. 3 dimensional objects curve around, this causes that slight blur on the edges. We want our extraction to look 3D, so lets replace that blur.
To see better I'm going to add a background layer to my extraction and give it a solid color.
Now we can see how very sharp those edges are. Click back on your extracted layer. Ctrl click on it to select your extraction (you should have running ants going around it. While this is selected click on the add layer mask button on the bottom of the layers pallet.
Your mask should now have your extraction in white and the background in black. Your canvas won't show any change. Now zoom in on an edge of your extaction and while still on your mask go to filter-blur-gaussian blur.
I had you zoom in so you could see the edges softening. I usually choose a radias of 2 or 3 pixels. You only want the very edge blurred a bit.
And there you have it! You can now copy and paste your extraction into your scrappage, or whatever you want. Here's some fun extraction examples of things I have done.
And then if you REALLY want to have some fun:
Whew That was fun going through my old stuff. I just want you to know that once you get down photo editing techniques your possabilities are endless! Many of these used techniques I have shared in the past such as cloning it out or color changing, you can surely see the benefit of knowing how to do a good extaction as well.
If you ever want to go back and review any of my old tutorials you can find them HERE
I also have a post for any ideas of what YOU would like to learn Here