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.
The Magnetic Lasso Tool or the Polygonal Lasso Tool 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.
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.
Now you just have to inverse the selection (Select > Inverse) and press delete to erase the background.
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 and make sure it is set on Paths and that the option Add to path area is selected. Now just work around your image like below and make sure to close the path.
Then CTRL + click on the image in the Layers palette to make a selection around your image.
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!
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.