How to Extract An Image Using Adobe Photoshop CS5

If you know your way around Photoshop, I have developed a short tutorial on photoshop image extraction. The tutorial relays a few tips to show you how to use Photoshop image extraction to improve images from a stock library or other resource.



Hi, this is Richard from Rich Media Design Productions. I have been asked many times on how to extract an image from its background using Photoshop.

Basically, this particular is the easiest procedure if all the parameters or the situations is set up so that you can do it.

If you are a beginner, this is the perfect tutorial for you.  If you are an expert, or you are pretty knowledgeable this is not the tutorial for you.  I am going to show you how to take out a background and replace it with a new one.  I have pre-chosen two photographs and I’ll bring them up right now.  This is the background and this is Diana, the statue. And if you’ll notice this has a black background.

I chose this specifically for this tutorial because it actually is the easiest way to do this extraction.


Here we have two contrasting situations here, Diana and a black background. And to be perfectly honest with you, I am pretty sure that this one was pre-designed by another Photoshop person who extracted the background, the black…did some touching up down here and made it look like it was part of the background.  All in all, this was actually a perfect example of something that I could use for this tutorial. And all there is to it…


You go up here to this third tool which is called the magic wand, and if you notice it was already preselected, and if not, you can go up here to this menu which will allow you to pick it.  There it is, the magic wand tool.  Select it.  Go up here and see if the tolerance is at 20.  If it’s any more than twenty, it’s too much.  If it’s less than twenty is too little, and it’ll pick up artifacts.  You’ll see

what I’m talking about.  So, I’ll put it at ten on the tolerance and you’ll see what I’m talking about when I say there are some artifacts.


If you’ll notice, if I zoom in here, the ten is not strong enough to take out every bit of black. So, here you see the artifact that I was talking about.  You see it over here, on the right side.  Plus, I noticed that the edge is not snug enough, it’s actually away from the  the figure. So, what I’m going to do , is I am going to deselect. So, I’ll go up here and deselect. I’ll go to the Cmd+d and the same thing. And, I ‘m going to set this at ten.


So, I’ll go select the magic wand again. I said 10 but I meant 20. So, selec 20 and then we’ll check it again. So, if you’ll notice it is actually coming alot better, with no artifacts. It’s actually snuggling up to the image alot better than the other amount did. So…I think we can live with that. But, I’ve noticed that down here, it’s actually not coming into the piece. It’s like do I want this background to be part of it…which is actually the flooring or some kind of pedestal for the statue. So, I’m deciding whether or not I want to keep that.  I would say that I can actually add another part to this tutorial.  And I’m taking you to this lasso tool, it’s called the lasso tool.  And we’ll pick that if it’s not already selected here.  It’s the third one down from your tool list here.  And by pressing the option key, you’ll notice that a little minus sign will show up.  This means that if you select it,,by holding down your option key, selecting…it will include it.


So, what you want to do, is decide if you want to exclude or include. In this case, I want to exclude. So, I undo the last tool that I just did up there. And then I press the shift key, and it becomes a plus. Now I can exclude the background by going down here and just cutting into this picture. I mean, I can actually go out of this picture and back around.  And notice that it is now including that part that I just selected. And, it’s going to include it actually into the background image. So, I’ll do the same here. I’ll kind of give it a floor. I’ll stop there because otherwise, I’ll give it a…go back, pick up the shadow, come in here…and pick up the shadow.  And there we have the background selected pretty snugly.  Now if I wanted to, I could actually do some checking to see if the edges are all cleared or snuggling up to the image.


And, I can see that it is pretty close except about right about here where the arm is.  So, what I’ll do is click my…and back. Using my shift key, I’ll just go over there and include that part there. Now it’s cutting in exactly where it needs to be. There’s a little bump here, I can actually shave that off.   There you can see that it got shaved off.  As you can see, that’s pretty close. For our purpose here, we’re doing a pretty good job.   Now, what do I want to do.  Do I want to keep the background, or do I want to keep the image.  Well, in this particular case, I want to keep the image because I want to take that image and put into that background that I want to show you here earlier.  Now, here is the interesting thing.  You can actually take the background and do some other tricks and take into this picture, but we don’t want to do that.  So, what I am going to do for simplicity, is to take this image and inverse it.  Meaning we are going to take these little ants that are traveling around this background and make it travel around the image.  That means that the image now is selected and not the background. Here we have the image being traveled by these little ants in the selection.


Now, by hitting cmd + c or on your file menu up here, say select, copy, edit, copy or cmd + c.  Copy it and go to our background, and press cmd +v or edit, paste. And, the image is now in there.  If you look over to your layer side, you still have the background.  And in the background layer, you have the image now as the top layer.  This is almost like a cake. You have a background layer which is a picture unto itself.  If I took this eye and closed it, you will see where my little finger indicator there is touching the eye and appears when closing it, and the Diana image disappears. Select it and she’s back again. Same thing happens if I should deselect the eye on this layer, it’s gone. So, they are two independent pictures—one sitting on top of the other. And the Diana now is removed from her background and she’s free to go anywhere she wants to go. I see little artifacts happening up here, and if wanted to, I can take the eraser tool and move my size down to another size and touch it up. Erase it.  I’m selecting the image that I want to affect.


Go in there and take out those black areas.  There’s more in there, we could actually spend a lot more time in that but we don’t really need to.  Here’s something we can do, if that’s where you wanted her, if that’s where you’d like her to stay, then that’s where you are going to leave her. Let’s say you wanted to place her in the foreground of this house as a statue.  We could actually go to edit , transform, scale and you’ll notice that these brackets have formed around that image.  Placing your finger and holding down the shift key, you grab the corner and actually reduce it down proportionally and now we have her down to a size we can handle. I’ll bring her up here so that we can see. I’ll continue to scale her down. Hold down the shift key and bring that corner in. Because when I grabbed it, it became a double headed arrow pointing up and down perpendicular to each other. Now, I am taking her down to a scale that might work and there we have it.  Set her down.  And now she is a part of the picture as a statue. And she is sitting in the foreground.


A little more realistic. I placed her on the left because I noticed that it kind of helps balance. There’s a lot of things that you can still do.  Like you could soften the edge of this statue and for this purpose, I think she really looks pretty good.  Two things that you might want to know, going back to the Diana here. Still selected, you can select her but, this image was actually a larger pixeled picture than the background that we chose to put her in.  So, I took her from that image and placed her into this background, it adapted to the actual pixel amount that this background is. So, there you have it.  I thank you for joining me and I hope you got something out of this. For those of you, who are a little more experienced in Photoshop, I would suggest that if you wanted some more in depth information about image extraction…I would suggest that you visit  I found it well executed and topics are very, very important. They deal with subject matter at the intermediate and expert level, so I would recommend that you go to them. Again thank you for visiting and hope to see you again.

About richmediadp

I'm a freelance graphic designer working out of Orange County, CA - USA. I work with small and mid sized companies to develop creative solutions for their design problems from print collateral to online graphics.

Posted on February 21, 2011, in Video Tutorials, Web Design and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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