Background Removal

Background removal is an activity that has confounded both digital and film photographers for years.

Occasionally its a simple task but most of the time its very complex and the level of difficulty increases directly proportional to how much you want to successfully separate an item from the background.

The folks at Adobe have recognized the propensity of Photoshop Elements users to do some background removal so they've included three methods in Elements to complete this specific task.

When you visit the Elements Help file for guidance with any one of the three techniques you will soon learn how easy, how fast and how stunningly effective these methods are.

However when you actually try them with one of your images it soon becomes apparent that theory (what it says in the Help File) is often quite different from practice (the technique with an image) - which can lead to an enormous amount of frustration.

That's where I come in - follow along with the three different techniques so you will know and understand their limitations, shortcomings and strengths.  

The Three Techniques

The three background removal techniques in Photoshop Elements are ...
  • Magic Eraser
  • Background Eraser
  • Magic Extractor
In truth, any of the selection methods that allows you to isolate items will work and that really covers all of the selection methods.  My personal favorite has always been the Selection Brush Tool that was covered in another tutorial however you may just find that one of these three will work perfectly for you.

The following three techniques require some input from you and then you hand it over to Photoshop Elements to do the rest.  Now I don't know about you but I always figure that I'll make better decisions than a computer program especially in this situation.

Magic Eraser

magic eraser linkThe Magic Eraser Tool changes all similar pixels when you drag within a photo.  If you're working in a layer with locked transparency, the pixels change to the background color; otherwise, the pixels are erased to transparency.  You can choose to erase contiguous pixels only, or all similar pixels on the current layer.

You can think of the Magic Eraser as the Magic Wand of erasers.  This tool works best with an image that has a lot of contrast between the background and the object you wish to isolate.

Click the airplane to learn more about the Magic Eraser.

Background Eraser

photoshop elements background eraserThe Background Eraser Tool turns color pixels to transparent pixels so that you can easily remove an object from its background.  With careful use, you can maintain the edges of the foreground object while eliminating background fringe pixels.

This technique also requires a reasonable amount of contrast between the parts being removed and the parts being kept. 

Click the Escalade to learn about the Background Eraser.

Magic Extractor

photoshop elements magic extractorThe Magic Extractor makes it easy to select people or objects so that you can superimpose them on other backgrounds.  For example, you can remove yourself from a photo of you on your bicycle at home, and superimpose it anyhwere you want it to be.  You can also save the extracted image as a file that you can use again and again.

Click the thumbnail for more information

Just So You Know

After evaluating the three different methods of background removal I've come to the conclusion that the best method to use, if there is any challenge whatsoever in your image, is not any one of them!

If you want to isolate something from its background then the best method with Photoshop Elements is the Selection Brush Tool!

But what the heck - check these three out and confirm what I've said for yourself.

Page Links

The Three Techniques
Just So You Know

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