The Magic Extractor is the third of the background removal techniques
that are part of Photoshop Elements (at least versions 9 and 10).
Its the most comprehensive of the three techniques and seems to produce
the best results, but is it really amazing - read on to find out!
The power of the technique is that it provides
tools to get started and it also provides tools to finish the
extraction. It may be almost as much work as the other two but it
somehow seems to be a whole lot easier and more accurate.
Now that's not to say its less work - it still is a lot of work but the
end results are worth the effort.
The Magic Extractor seem to be modelled after a Photoshop technique
that was in the full version of Photoshop for awhile. After
working with this techniqe its easy to see that Adobe upgraded the
Elements making it easier to use and it sure is better than the earlier
The Three Techniques
The three background removal techniques in Photoshop Elements are ...
so now its time to look at the Magic Extractor and how to use it with
this image ...
This is a good candidate because there are lots of little bits that
need removing and lots of little bits that need to remain.
Both of the other background removal techniques would be a nightmare
The first thing to do is
to duplicate the Background layer beause you will probably need it
later. I figured this out the really, really hard way!
In fact, I've made pretty much every mistake one can make with this
procedure and also made some dumb decisions. These observations
will save you lots of time and some frustration!
OK - now lets move on with the Magic Extractor.
When you select Image
> Magic Extractor ... this is the screen that comes up.
The tools are easy to understand and we'll spend some time going over
Top Tool - Foreground Brush Tool - this is used
to define the area that is to be kept in the extraction. (B)
Second from the top - Background
Brush Tool - this is used to exclude areas from the selection -
areas that will be eliminated. (P)
Third from the top - Point Eraser Tool
- used to eliminate the foreground and background selections. (E)
Fourth from the top - Add to selection
- little brush with a circle - to add to the current selection.
Fifth from the top - Remove from
selection - little eraser with a circle - to remove extra parts
from the selection. (D)
Fifth from the top - Smooth the edges
of the selection. (J)
Bottom two are the normal magnifying glass and the hand tool.
Right Side Tools (Tool
Brush Size: from 1 to 100
Foreground and Background Colors.
Display either the Selection Area or the Original Photo.
Background - with the Selection area selected in Display the background
can be changed to ...
Feather from 0 to 250 pixels
Fill Holes - fills holes in the Selection Area.
Defringe - remove fringe colors between foreground and background
colors, and the Defringe Width ranges from 1 to 50 pixels.
part (and the rest of the procedure) are best completed with a Wacom
pen (Bamboo or Intuos). You can use a mouse but it will be more
difficult than with the pen and tablet.
The Selection is completed with the top two brushes - the top one
defines what you want to keep and the second one defines what needs to
be removed. Each brush will paint their own color (the default
colors are red to keep and blue to eliiminate).
The Help File suggests that you place little dots all over the part of
the image you want to keep so that is what I did (during my preparation
I used lines rather than dots - they both work fine). Using
dots was enormously time consuming and quite annoying.
So here is the image with the motorcycle selected (with a bunch of
dots) as a keeper part ...
Now the blue part is added - that's the part of the picture to be
eliminated. Rather than using little dots I just painted away
with my paen making sure to get between the spokes of the wheels and
anywhere else the background could be seen.
That's pretty much got it covered so the next step is to click on the Preview button on the top right of
the screen and we will soon find out if the markup in this step was
To view the results from the previous steps click the "Preview"
button on the top right and wait for a few moments to let Photoshop
Elements do whatever its doing in the Magic Extractor screen.
a bit of assessing, measuring, evaluating, weighing and other technical
Elements will present its results in the same screen. I can be a
bit of a challenge to evaluate because all of the red and blue marks
are still visible which may be a bit of a distraction.
Zoom in and use the hand tool to travel around the periphery evaluating
the results - at this point be sure to refrain from using any
of the clean up tools no matter how tempting that may be!
Because you've only got one level of of undo
(that means you can only go back one step) and if you find an area that
needs more precise "Add to"
and/or "Remove from" then a
takes you back where you need to be (thats just before you hit the
Preview button). This means you can add more blue or red to
tighten up the selection.
This is just a little thing but if you
discover you need to go all the way back to the beginning a couple of
times this suggestion will make a lot of sense!
reached that happy state of being pleased with the initial preview you
can erase those useful but somewhat distracting blue and red dots
and lines. Use the Point Eraser
Tool to give yourself a nice neat and tidy screen.
results, so far, have been very impressive with the Magic Extractor and
that includes the motorcycle picture and some others I have done some
pre-planning and practise with.
the accuracy of the red and blue boundary marks, some areas will still
have unwanted background visible while other areas will lose
some of their foreground information.
One problem that will occur is that not all of the background will be
removed. This will be rectified by using the Remove From
Here is an axample from the front of the motorcycle before and after
using this eraser ...
The front of the
motorcycle immediately after clicking the Preview button.
Some areas were not removed - possibly because the eliminate background
color was not placed correctly.
While still in the
Magic Extractor screen the Remove from Selection eraser was used to get
rid of any background that wasn't removed when the Preview button was
This could also be done in full edit mode if the OK button is clicked.
One of the neat things about working in the Magic Extractor screen is
that you can replace visual information that was lost when the Preview
button was clicked.
Here is an example ...
The Magic Extractor
took a little extra bite out of the step on the motorcycle.
The Add To Selection
brush was used to paint back in the missing parts - and thats the
really cool part about this method of background removal.
And another example ...
The Magic Extractor
took a little extra bite out of the spare tire at the back of the
The Add To Selection
was used to paint back in the missing parts.
After clean is finished then you can click the OK button and return to
the normal Edit screen where you can do lots of interesting things with
your nicely extracted image.
To keep the extracted image with a transparent background save it as a
Of the three background removal techniques (Background Eraser, Magic
Eraser and Magic Extractor) this one may be the best, however its still
an amazing amount of fiddly work and can be somewhat unpredictable.
Just goes to show that any of the tools that have the word "Magic" as
part of their descriptor may not be hiding any particular
"Magic". That includes the Magic Wand (for selecting) and the two
tools in this series of backround removal tools (Magic Eraser and Magic
Hers's a different view of the same Motorcycle ...
This was selected with the Selection Brush Tool and my Intuos
tablet. It took about as long as any of the other techniques and
it was easier to work with because I was in the full Edit screen rather
than in a screen designed for Extracting only.
Once the selection was completed the motorcycle was promoted to its own
layer, the background was eliminated and the image was saved as a .png
Investigating these three methods of background removal has given me a
whole new appreciation of the Selection Brush.
If you've not used the Selection Brush
then this is where you will find a tutorial.