The Magic Eraser is a tool that can completely remove a
background, thereby isolating one part of the image that can be saved
and used over and over or simply have a new background added.
To work properly there needs to be good contrast
between the background and the part of the image you want to keep.
As long as this criteria is met then the background removal will quick
and effortless despite the fact that some clean up is often required.
When you use the Magic Eraser you set the limits and the parameters and
then let Photoshop Elements handle the brute details although you're
not going to get away scott free with this tool.
First we will look at the settings and options, then a couple of sample
images and finally we'll see how well this tool really works.
is the options bar when the Magic Eraser is selected (it lives with the
Eraser and the Background Eraser and its keyboard shortcut is E).
From left to right the options are ...
Tolerance - this
defines the range of colors that will be erased. A low number
will erase pixels with a color very similar to the color selected and a
higher number broadens the range of color erased.
Anti-alias - this
setting smooths the edges that have been erased, giving a more natural
Contiguous - when
this is checked only pixels adjacent to the one that is selected.
When its unchecked then all pixels in the picture that are similar to
the one that is selected will be erased - which means the Magic Eraser
will jump over barriers (like strands of hair and tree branches).
Sample All Layers -
the Magic Eraser will sample pixels from all layers.
Opacity - this
setting defines the strength of the eraser. A setting of 100%
erases to complete transparency and lower Opacity erases to less
than 100% transparency.
Optimum Image for the
All of the options are well and good but the question is - what kind of
image is best to modify with this tool?
Lets look at a few ...
This photo will react
well to the because there is good contrast between the
airplane and the sky.
is also a good candidate to be isolated with the Magic Eraser, however
there were a few challenges and problems that needed fixing..
Surprisingly my little
dog, Max, is not a prticularly good candidate.
While there is good contrast between Max and the grass the wide variety
of contrast within the grass means there is a lot of clicking ahead!
shot was just waiting for the Magic Eraser - in fact it took only six
samples with the tool to eliminate the sky and cloud background (which
really was quite boring in the original shot).
After the initial selection the Background Layer
is converted into a normal layer by Elements which means it can be
moved around in the layer stack. To get a better idea how the
procedure is going this is how I proceeded ...
First click to get started which converts the background
layer to Layer 0.
Create a new layer above Layer 0 and then drag it below
Fill the bottom layer with a color which will enable you to
see how the eraser is doing.
a couple of selections
The white areas in the photo are some
left over clouds that need a click or two. Interestingly, if
Contiguous is unchecked then the top of the airplane (which is a
similar color to the some of the clouds) will also be removed.
After a couple more clicks the background was totally gone so I did a
crop job (using the Golden Mean Overlay in Elements 10) and then ran Filter > Render > Clouds on
the bottom layer. The colors I chose were a darker blue and white
to give the appearance of a cloud filled sky.
Here it is ...
Another options is to save the isolated image (in this case just the
airplane with no added layers) as a .png file.
A .png file saves the picture and has a transparent background which
can be quite useful because you can add it to another image.
See - really useful ...
There were some challenges removing the incredibly boring background
but they were easy to resolve.
I had to lower the Tolerance to 25% and made sure that Contiguous was
checked because ...
The white in Bubba's hat started to disappear, and
The hair around his temples also disappeared.
Bubba, I added a nice green layer under Layer 0 which made it really
easy to spot the problems after using the Magic Eraser ...
no doubt that these little problems are easy to fix. Just grab
the normal eraser, zoom in and eliminate the left over ghost things
left by the Magic Eraser (no one said it was perfect). Also zoom
in realy close and go around the outside of the part of the image you
want to keep to fix any problems that may be hiding there.
few repairs a new background that's more in keeping with his unique
style can be added below Layer 0 or he can be saved as a .png file and
placed as a new layer in different images.
the following he got himself a full spectrum radial gradient and then
his name with some layer styles added - things like drop shadows and
glows and such ...
Well be danged if Bubba doesn't look a whole lot better with that
crummy background removed and all of this added.
One often learns more from failure and struggle than one learns from
instant success. It's that way in life and also in digital
Let's look at this shot of Max ...
While this looks like a relatively easy item to erase, the grass
presents its own unique problems.
There is just so much contrast between the different areas of the grass
that multiple taps of my Intuos pen couldn't get them all. Here's
the picture after about 40 pen taps ...
The grass finally succumbed to the combination of the Magic Eraser and
the Normal Eraser to arrive at this result ...