Photoshop Wednesday

I got my hair cut last night for the first time in 5 months, since “The Bangs” made their return. I went to a different salon than I did last time, after being recommended to the stylist/owner by 3 different friends, all of whom have amazing hair. I was ready to try someone new, since I didn’t get exactly what I wanted last time. I asked for “blended bangs” and ended up with Amelie-style baby-bangs, which went too far across my forehead and then just stopped without blending to the rest of my hair. Needless to say the growing-out process was brutal, and I sort of had to wait 5 months just to get my hair to a length it could be re-shaped without losing more off the bottom than I wanted. I didn’t take an after picture, unless you count a Photobooth pic I posted on Twitter for Sam. You don’t know how long it took me just to take that picture of me in my sidebar, so I wouldn’t hold my breath or anything.

Continuing the streak of dedicated posts, this one goes out to Chi, who reached out to me yesterday with a Photoshop question. She asked, in all of my Friday Fives, how do I get all of the items to be suspended with an all-white background? I thought it was as simple as answering that I just copy and paste each item onto a new document where the background is white, and then arrange them til they fit. What she actually wanted to know was how to work with an image that doesn’t already have an all-white, background without making her head spin. She plopped a lot of pressure on me, so let’s see if I can deliver, yes?

First, open your image in Photoshop. For our purposes I’m using a West Elm stool with a light grayish background. I try to use products that already have white backgrounds just because it’s easier, but obviously not everything does. Anyway, step one: open the picture in photoshop.

From the top menu bar, select Image, then Adjustments, then all the way at the bottom select Replace Color.

You’ll see this window open. The mini-picture of the stool will be a black-and-white negative of the actual picture, so disregard that it looks just like the original image in the screenshot below. For some reason, when I press the Command key to grab a screenshot of my desktop, it inverted it so it looked normal. Yours will definitely be black-and-white and look sort of fuzzy. That’s what you want.

You will also see a small eye-dropper tool when you hover over your original image. For whatever awesome reason, that also disappeared when I took a screenshot. Ugh, it’s like working blind for you, sorry! What you want to do is take that invisible eye-dropper (yours won’t be invisible), and click on the background of your original image. Click on a gray portion of the background. This will isolate that specific color in the Replace Color window. Now, on the bottom bar that says Lightness, drag the slider all the way to the right, so it reads +100.

You’ll notice that the background got brighter, but it’s still not pure white. Repeat the process of opening the Replace Color window and selecting parts of the background that are still a little off-white or gray, and sliding the Lightness bar to +100 until you’re left with a bright white background. You can then use the Select tool from the left panel toolbar to grab the stool. Hit Copy (Command + C).

 Now to place it on a bigger document. On the top menu, select File, New. This window will pop up. You can name it whatever you’d like. I just used “Friday Five” for our purposes. I generally make my images 625px wide. Make sure under Background Contents you have White selected.

When the new document opens, hit Paste (Command + V). Your stool will now magically appear on that document, and you can resize and drag it around to where you want it. Little tip: if you hold down the Shift key while you resize the stool, it will keep the same proportions so it doesn’t end up skinny or squat.

There you have it! But not all images have solid backgrounds. Some are more complicated and have lots going on in the background. For that sort of image, you’ll want to use the Background Eraser tool. For this one, I’m using a picture of an oven mitt from West Elm, and as you can see there’s a lot happening on this image, but for our purposes I only want to use the oven mitt itself, and extract it from its background (though the little chocolate chips are cute).

On your left toolbar, select the Eraser tool, and from the drop down, select Background Eraser Tool. Make sure your settings in the top menu are set to Limits: Find Edges, Tolerance: 100%, and Protect Foreground Color is checked. That’s very important.

A circle with a crosshair in the middle will appear. Without touching the crosshair to the the oven mitt, erase the area around it, getting as close to it as you can. The background will disappear. You should be left with something that looks like the image below. When you’re satisfied, select the Lasso Tool from your left toolbar, and from the drop down menu, select Polygonal Lasso Tool.

The Polygonal Lasso tool is meant for you to create a bounding box of your own shape and size. Once you have it selected, click on the space above the top of the oven mitt, then drag it to the right and click again before you drag it down the side of the item. Keep clicking to create “anchors” around the oven mitt, until you have a polygon around it. When you get back to the point where you started, click the beginning point. The polygon should turn into little marching ants.

Now you’re ready to copy and paste it into our Friday Five document.

Et voila. But we’re still not done with it. On your left toolbar, select the magnifying glass at the bottom and zoom in. You’ll notice that while the Background Eraser did a pretty good job taking the background out, it isn’t perfect.

On your toolbar, select the eraser tool, but this time make sure you select the normal eraser. Working with a steady hand, remove what’s left of the background. Don’t make yourself crazy if you swipe a little bit off the oven mitt, you probably won’t be able to tell once you zoom back out.

And you’re done! You can move and arrange everything on the document by making sure you have the layer selected on the Layers panel on the left-hand side of your screen. If you don’t have one already open, it’s under Window on your top menu.

Okay, Chi! I hope that answered your question without confusing you even further! Let me know if you (or anyone else) has any questions, I’m happy to answer them. I was working in Photoshop CS4 on my work laptop, but the process is the same in CS2 and CS5, and more than likely the same in Elements. All the basic stuff is consistent through each release of Photoshop.

PS. The first Photoshop tutorial I made.

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March 28, 2012 / Photoshop Tutorials / LEAVE A COMMENT / 15


  • I’m going to try this as the way they taught us in Blogshop was rubbish. It’s basically about bleaching the colour until the background dissapears, and then painting the image back in with the black paintbrush. It’s looked dodgy every time i’ve done and you can only do it with with things wtih a paleish grey background.

    However I have to say, it’s a million times easier to choose a picture with a white background! I just don’t think it’s worth the hassle to do all this.

    The genius thing I learned on blogshop, which will no doubt also help the lovely Chi, is that if you are using a few images with white backgrounds and you want to put them close to each other but the white corners are obscuring the image undernearth, to just set the top image to Multiply and the background goes transparent. That’s so easy peasy and properly brillant!

    Great tutorial, xxx

    • Thanks for your input, Annie-bee! xxx What a shame about Blogshop’s method!!! I hope you got your money’s worth otherwise.

      Great tip! :D
      I use Photoshop Elements 7 – what do I click on to get the Multiply setting? :/

      • select the layer in the layers palette and at the top left of the layers palette there’s a drop drown. select multiply in there (I think it’s set to normal by default?). Tweet/email me if you can’t find it and i’ll send you a screenshot x

        • Aww, thanks for taking the time to respond, sweetie and for your offer of a screenshot – so generous of you! x
          I’ll give it a bash at the weekend and let you know. :D

  • That is incredibly helpful. I just got photoshop and have no idea how to work anything but this helps a lot!

  • So helpful! I love it (and your hair BTW!). I never spend enough time in Photoshop (elements), since I manage to do everything in Lightroom, but you always make me want to go play around. So, let me ask this: do you call it LassO or Lassooooo (ew). My photoshop teacher called it Lassew and it DROVE ME CRAZY. I’m not sure I could stand it if you did that too.


    • Eh? Lasso doesn’t rhyme with loo? Seriously? Lasso to rhyme with ‘so’ just sounds weird!

  • Okay. I might be the only blogger out here who still hasn’t bitten the bullet and purchased Photoshop. I was using Picnik and have now switched over to Pixlr for my photo editing/collages. Maybe this will be the year!

  • I so appreciate that you take the time to put these PS tutorials together for us! I’m thinking you can even add a “PS Tutorials” category to your column…That way people (especially new visitors) can find them right away. I mean, there is a wealth of knowledge in these things. (I can’t tell you how many times I have referenced the one you did for me. Love that little trick.)

    In due time, I would love to know how to make really long layouts (the kind you have to scroll down to see)…Like your WitW: Paris post. I have some convoluted way that I’m doing it now, but I know there is an easier way. Would also love to know how to do handwriting on a layout. One doesn’t need a Bamboo tablet/pen to do this, right?

    Thank you, thank you again!

    • I agree, I was also wondering why you’d filed this under ‘random’!

    • I’ll address all of that stuff for you next week! It’s actually really simple, you might not think you got your money’s worth once you see how it’s all done, haha. :) You definitely don’t need a tablet or pen mouse to get handwriting on your pictures!

  • Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, darling – your tutorial worked like an absolute dream! Sorry my comment is a little late. I didn’t want to say anything until I had enough time to read it thoroughly and make an attempt (which I did late last night).

    You must have thought that my brains were in a puddle on the floor from trying to work it out when you didn’t hear from me! :D
    I shall have to restrain myself from compulsively making collages from now on – it’s just so much more ………… well, …… fun – having used the Lisbeth method!!! :)

    P.S. I edited the post earlier today to give you a little shout-out (just as you left your comment, I think).

  • Can’t believe you posted this lengthy PS tutorial. Wow! bet Annie is kicking herself:)

    Haven’t looked through it yet to see whether I do it the same way or differently. Incrediby generous of you!

  • I’m now the proud owner of a trial version of Photoshop, so I shall be trying out your tutorials. Now I think I’m going to be pretty crap at this because I did learn a bit of Photoshop a few years back as an employee for the odd magazine layout project but I never seemed to manage to retain the knowledge during the in-between times.

    So, if I can follow easily and achieve success then you are a bloody brilliant tutor… and lady :-)

    I will let you know how I get on :-)

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