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.