Sunday, December 27, 2009

Extracting Image by Masking Layers

This tutorial shows you how to extract an image from a white background and place it on a new background using Photoshop Elements! It is a follow up to the 'Changing Backgrounds using Replace Color' tutorial, and shows you how to do cut-outs using masking (even with the lack of channel/layer masking tool in Photoshop Elements) and using dodge and burn tools and/or overlay brush modes as two options for creatings masks.

First of all, we start by using a picture shot on white background. If you have a gray background please take a look at the previous tutorial how to make it white. Once you get to the final image of step 3 there, fill the underlying layer with white (or create a new white layer just below our cutout layer) and continue with the following:

Start by opening the image shot on a clean white background.

Always make a new layer of the main image and never touch the original image. To create a good mask, we have to first convert the image into black and white in such a way that there is strong contrast between the model and the white background. If the background is a green screen or blue, then Channels are the way to go. But for a white background, the best way to do this is by creating an adjustment layer of gradient maps. Create an adjustment layer of  Gradient Map by going to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Gradient Map OR as shown in the image below.

The Gradient Map makes a B/W conversion with the best contrast. Make sure that the colors are set to Black and White gradient!
Now, make a copy into a new layer of this adjustment layer and set the mode to multiply.

Create a Levels ajustment layer on top and adjust the slider towards the right(as shown in the image below) to make the subject as dark as possible.

Link/Select all the layers (except for our main image) and merge them into one:

We need to make the subject solid black to make a mask out of it. There are two ways to do this, with a dodge and burn tool, and second is the airbrush in overlay mode. Lets start with the brush tool. Select the brush tool from the tools panel and set the mode to overlay as seen below.

Now select the foreground color to black and start painting the areas we want to cut out into black. This will affect only on gray or dark gray areas. For the white areas like teeth and buttons in this image, change the blend mode to normal and paint solid black inside.

To clean out some areas in the white background, with the brush set to overlay, simply change the foreground color to white.

Now lets see how to get this with the dodge and burn tool.

To make the dark areas darker, use the burn tool set on shadows. By doing this only the dark areas will be affected and the white area will be intact. Use the exposure slider to control the pressure/strength of the brush. Use the brush tool in normal mode with black foreground to make white areas black like teeth etc.

Simmilarly, use the dodge tool set on highkights mode to make the gray area white, without affecting the black areas.

What you get eventually is the image below:

Create a new Levels(or any other) adjustment layer above the mask we created, and click OK without changing any settings. The adjustment layer has a layer mask in it where we can paste our mask. Thats what we will do next. Select our mask layer and press Ctrl(Cmnd) A to make a selection of the entire layer. Press Ctrl(Cmnd) C to copy. Now select the adjustment layer and click on the empty 'mask panel' on the right to make it active. Now press Ctrl(Cmnd) V to paste our mask in it and the mask panel will look like the image below.

Now hide the mask layer we created by clicking on the visibility tool on that layer. You can also delete it if you want because its work is done...but i keep it hidden anyway.

Now select the adjustment layer with the mask, and paste in a new layer the image we want as our new background on top of the adjustment/masked layer.

The next step is to clip the background with the mask so that it shows our model in the layer below. With this new layer selected, on the top menu panel go to Layer>Group With Previous and's done! Alternatively, you can press and hold Alt(Opt) key and click on the dividing line between the two layers to group them.

To fine tune the image, use the blur tool and blend the edge by brushing on the background layer.

Click on the mask and clear out the white fringes in strands of the hair with the brush tool in overlay mode to give the image a perfect finish.

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