Tutorial: How to Cut An Image From Its Background in Photoshop

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If you search the web, you’ll find countless tutorials on this very task. So why would I decide to do a tutorial on this subject you ask? My answer &mdash because I’m going to take it one step further, without making it complex. I will not only show how to cut an image out of its background, but I will reveal a Photoshop Ninja secret &mdash how to clean up those edges!

    1. This is the most important, so pay attention! Open up the image you want to edit in Photoshop. If you forget this step, everything I say below will make no sense, obviously.


    1. Make sure the Layers window is open on the right of the screen (if not, hit the F7 key).


    1. On the horizontal menu at the top, click on Layer, New, then Layer from Background. When the “New Layer” window pops up, click OK. This makes the background under the image transparent, so when you remove sections, it’s not a solid color.
    1. There are a number of ways to remove the background from an image or an image from the background. Everyone has their own favorite. Find what works best for you. Here are some options:


      1. The Magic Wand Tool. This works best if the background is one solid color. It produces the quickest, yet worst results. Select the tool and click on the background or area you want to remove. Play with the Tolerance number to find the best results.


      1. The Lasso Tool. With this tool you can trace around what you want to cut out. The problem is, you have to have a very steady hand &mdash so lay off the coffee!


      1. The Polygonal Lasso Tool (right click on the lasso tool for this option). In my opinion, this is the most effective tool to use. While it doesn’t require a steady hand, it does help if you have a keen eye. The great thing about this little guy is that unlike the Lasso Tool, which ends up being one continuous line, the Polygonal Lasso draws or connects a line at each click. The key to using this tool is zooming in on your image and lots of clicks (which if you’re sitting next to someone, might drive them crazy)!


      1. The Magnetic Lasso Tool (right click on the Lasso Tool for this option). This tool is very effective, but lacks the control the Polygonal Lasso has. It’s what would happen if the Lasso and the Polygonal Lasso had a kid. Trace a continuous line around what you want cut, and it magically follows the contour of what you are tracing. You don’t need to get as detailed as you would with the other tools, because it does it for you, while automatically setting anchors. The reason why I don’t use this tool that often is because it sometimes has a mind of it’s own &mdash especially if there are a lot of similar colors next to each other.


    1. I’m going to use the Polygonal Lasso Tool. Before you begin cutting, make sure you zoom in (Control +) to the subject. Begin following the border of the image with the Polygonal Lasso (with a tolerance of 0) making clicks at every bend. Some like to trace the entire subject and then copy and paste it. I like to remove the background in segments. This way, if you screw up on the trace, you don’t have to start from the beginning. Hit delete each time you have a segment selected.


    1. After cutting out the entire background, we’ll cleanup some of those leftover background edges and soften the outer edge of our subject. This way it will blend in nicely when placed on another background. To do this, in the Layers Panel on the right of the screen, right click on the thumbnail of the layer image. Select the option Select Pixels. You’ll notice that your cutout image is magically selected.


    1. On the horizontal menu at the top of your screen click on Select, Modify and then Border. In the pop-up window enter in 1 or 2 pixels to modify. Click OK.


    1. Click on Select again, but this time choose Inverse ( or Shift+Contol+I).


    1. Do this one more time–Select and then Inverse. This selects only the 1 or 2 pixels on the outside of the image that you cut out, instead of the entire image.


    1. On the top menu bar click on Filter, Blur then Gaussian Blur.


    1. Enter in the radius of the Gaussian blur in the pop-up window. I find that somewhere between .2 and .6 works best for a subtle blur on the edge.


  1. Lastly, In the Layers Panel, right click on the thumbnail of the layer image. Select the option Select Pixels. Then Control+C to copy. Once you find the background you want and open it in Photoshop &mdash hit Control+V to paste it.

The great thing about Adobe Photoshop is that there are always 5 different ways to accomplish one task. This is just one of the many ways to cut an image from its background and paste it to another. I think this is a simple and effective method that will produce ninja-like results.


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