Extracting An Image from a Photo


My next PSE tutorial is about extracting an object from a photo. I’m first going to mention right off the bat that there is NO real simple way to extract an object. Depending on  how good you want it to look, it does take a bit of time. But, with practice, you can extract like a pro! And, it does take patience! You see all those scrap layouts where there is a little child dancing on top of flowers or sitting in an imaginary garden. Those children had to be extracted from the original photograph. When extracted in PSE using the “Magic Extractor” under “Image” tool, it can be a great and quick extraction. But, it’s MESSY.  Really messy. You can lose “white” or “bright” parts of your image, part of the background is still there and the edges are a disaster. Then you have to go back with the eraser tool to clean it all up. This will actually show up when you add that type of extracted object in your layout and print it out. It doesn’t look good. This is where I come in :).

My method does take practice, but once you get the hang of it, it looks amazing and clean.The downside to this type of extraction is extracting things like hair. It’s nearly impossible and unless you have Photoshop, you won’t be able to do it easily. But, for PSE users, this is a great method.

  1.  First you will chose your image.  Here I chose a photo of my youngest son. I like him sitting down like this because you can place him almost any where on your layout.

  1.  Next, you will zoom your image to 100%. In the image below, you will see the magnifying tool on the left. Click that to zoom or reduce the size of your image. At the top left, you will see % on how much to zoom. You can highlight that number with your mouse and type in 100 for 100%, and hit enter. For a shortcut to zoom, you can just type in ‘Z’. It’s all the same :).

  1.  Next, you are going to have to unlock your layer. This is necessary to give you that transparent background. Simply go to your layers on the right, make sure your image is highlighted, and double click on the little lock image on the far right of your layer. It will open a box called “New Layer”. Just click “OK”. This will unlock the flattened image.

  1.  Now we have to add a stroke. What is a stroke you ask? It’s a colored line that will surround the object you are extracting. What is the purpose of the stroke? It is used as a great tool to make sure you are extracting exactly what you need to extract and leave what you need to leave in the object. It shows you if an angle is too sharp, object isn’t rounded enough and if there are any stray bits from the background left so you can easily see them to remove them. First, you will have to right click on your image. This will open a little box. Click on “Edit Layer Style”.

This will open another box called “Style Settings”. You will see options such as, drop shadow, bevel, etc. At the bottom of your options is “Stroke”. Click the check box to open the stroke options. Here I make sure my level for “Size” is 3 px and “Opacity” is 100%. But, I want to change the color of my stroke. I don’t want black as it doesn’t stand out very well. I click on the little black colored box next to the “Size” level.

Once you click on the colored box, you can change your colors. It will open another box called “Select Stroke Color”. It automatically is set on reds. I just move my mouse over to the top right corner for the brightest red. I like red because it really stands out. Then click OK and click OK for the “Style Settings”. Of course, you can change the color to anything you wish. For example, if you are extracting a red object, I would chose something like a light green.

  1.  After selecting your stroke, you will now need to select your extraction tool. What I use to extract is the “Polygonal Lasso Tool”. On the left hand side of your PSE are all your tools. If your extraction tool isn’t already set up to Polygonal Lasso Tool, then you right click whatever lasso tool is set up and it will bring you a little window with three options to choose from. Click on “Polygonal Lasso Tool”.

  1.  Here is where things get tricky. Pick a spot on the edge of your object you wish to extract, click your mouse and the polygonal tool is activated. You are going to click around your object with your mouse. You will see the line starting to appear around your object. I suggest you use the tool around your object to remove the background sections at a time.

NOTE: The Polygonal Lasso Tool can be tricky in that if you click your mouse too fast, the lasso line will connect before you are ready. If you wait too long between clicks, the lasso line will connect together too. So, you need to chose a speed of mouse clicks right for you. If it does connect itself before you are ready, you will have to start over that section The more clicks you do, the shorter the line around the object, and the more rounded you can get your corners. Longer clicks of the mouse between each line are good for more straight lines. Does that make sense?

In the image above, you can see where I have started to extract the background. I click my mouse around his little hat, then I start mouse clicking in the background until I have come back to my starting point. Once you get back to your starting point, you will double click your mouse and you will see that section you lassoed has been selected. In other words, you will see ‘marching ants’ around that section.

Once you have connected the lines and that is what you want removed, then hit your delete button on your keyboard. You should now see a gray and white checker board. That means that part of the background has been removed and the background will now be transparent. So, keep working section by section until you have removed all your background and are only left with your extracted object.

In the image below, you see that little yellow circle on his hat? That is to show you some sharp edges that I want to smooth out. Now, if you don’t care about such things, then I don’t do it, but I’m very picky lol. So, I go back in with my polygonal lasso tool and do tiny little extractions to remove those sharp corners. Without my red stroke, I wouldn’t have been able to notice any of these. Again, all this takes practice.

  1. Now I am all done and you will see below a fully extracted child. I zoom back out until I can see the full object.

  1.  Right click on the image, click on “Clear Layer Style”. This will remove your red stroke.

  1.  As you can see now he has no red stroke around him and he’s ready for a layout! But, before you do anything else, you need to save this extraction for future use. You don’t want all that hard work lost, do you?! Click at the top left of your screen “File”, click “Save as” on your drop down menu, choose your destination where you want to save your image.

BEFORE clicking save in your file folder, you must chose what type of format you are saving it as. At the bottom of the file window, you will see PSE is already trying to format your image as a PSD, PDD. You can certainly keep it as that, but you can also change that format. Click on “Format” drop down and click on PNG. This will ensure your object retains a transparent background. But, it takes up more file space than saving it as a PSD. The downside to a PSD is you can’t tell what image is what without opening it in PSE unless you very specifically name your object.

  1. Now my little guy is ready for a layout and I have quickly done just that to give you an idea of what it looks like.  It’s a very clean object with no lose pixels and pieces of background, so when I print this, it will look as clean as it does on the computer.

Now that you are done and have fully extracted an object, so give yourself a pat on the back for your patience and persistence!! Again, practice makes perfect. The more you do it, the quicker it goes and not only that, eventually you will be able to extract the whole object without removing section by section. I hope you found this extracting tip useful!

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