Removing objects from a photo

Deep-etching is a graphic design term used to describe the process of removing a specific section of a photograph or image from its background so that it stands alone. This means that you can use just that part in a different way or on a different background.

Removing or cutting an object from one image and using it in another image is one of the more exciting things you can do when using an image editor, in this case Adobe Photoshop. I will explain the best ways to do this.

Lasso Tool

The Magnetic Lasso Tool maglasso or the Polygonal Lasso Tool pollasso are the two variations you would use for removing an image from its background.

I will use this image of a rubber ducky floating on water for this guide. If the image you want to cut out has clearly defined edges then you can simply trace along the outline of your image as it will detect and snap to the edges of it. If your image doesn’t trace that well then switch over to the Polygonal Lasso and manually trace around your image. Zoom in if there are tricky bits.

Magnetic Lasso traced around the ducky
Magnetic Lasso traced around the ducky

When you get all the way around your object, your cursor will change when you hold it over the first point. Clicking once will close the selection and you’ll see the selection marquee surrounding the image as shown below.

Selection around the ducky
Selection around the ducky

Now you just have to inverse the selection (Select > Inverse) and press delete to erase the background.

Pen Tool

The pen tool has 2 advantages that make it way better than the lasso tool: Accuracy and options. Using the pen tool enables you select partial pixels. This means that the edges of your selection will always be smooth (no jagged pixel edges). The pen tool literally puts transparency on the bit of the pixel that exists outside of the selection.

Select the Pen tool pen and make sure it is set on Paths paths and that the option Add to path area addtopath is selected. Now just work around your image like below and make sure to close the path.

Path around the ducky

Then CTRL + click on the image in the Layers palette to make a selection around your image.

CTRL + click on the small ducky image on the right
CTRL + click on the small ducky image on the right

There is now a selection around your image. Now do the same as in the Lasso tutorial, inverse the selection (Select > Inverse) and press delete to erase the background. You can now use your ducky as you please!

Mother duck and baby duckies
Mother duck and baby duckies

The great thing about Photoshop is that there is no one way to do something and that all these methods can be used together to remove elements! The Quick Mask is great for working with hair and the Extract (Filter > Extract) tool can also be used to isolate an element from its surroundings.

About Schalk Burger

Schalk Burger is a Cape Town web designer and WordPress developer.

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4 responses to “Removing objects from a photo

  1. Hi nikita, dankie vir die kommentaar! Jy kan dit maar gebruik met liefde. Ek het nie ‘n middelnaam nie, maar my kollega is ook ‘n Schalk en sy middelnaam is willem!

  2. Ek hou van die sites op jou Portfolio. Wil graag terugkom en screenshots daarvan maak en as voorbeeld gebruik met die kinders wat ek IT-teach. (website design) – as jy nie omgee nie!

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