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Photoshop Lesson - How To Extract An Object From The Background

Updated on January 19, 2011

Adobe Photoshop is the most popular tool used to edit graphics, images and photos. Many graphic designers and professional photographers use Photoshop using such tools as: layers with masks, color spaces, ICC profiles, transparency, text, alpha channels and spot colors, clipping paths, and duotone settings. If you don't have any idea what any of those things are, don't worry. I am going to give you some basic and easy instructions in order to help you complete simple tasks using Photoshop. It is normally quite simple to use Photoshop, the hard part is knowing what tools to use, and how to use them. I had to learn this through trial and error, I am going to give you a head start.


Project 1 : Extract An Object From The Background
In this lesson I will show you how to extract an item from the background. This is a useful trick to know in case you want to later overlap the image or superimpose it on another image. For this lesson, we are going to use a picture of a Brazil soccer jersey as an example. We will start with a photo of the shirt laying flat on the floor, it will be important to have a color contrast from the background and the image you want to extract. For example, you would not want to take a photo of a white shirt on a white floor, because that will make this task more difficult.

Step By Step:

Step 1:
With Photoshop open on your computer, go to "file" in the top right corner, then scroll down and click "open", then browse through your computer and select the image you intend to extract

Step 2:
Go to the top menu (near the middle), click "filter", then scroll down and click "extract". This should open a new box with the image .

Step 3: The next step is to use the pen tool (top left of the menu in the new box), to trace an outline around the entire outer border of the image, the idea is to cover the entire outer edge of the image in the green highlighted by the pen tool.

Step 4: Once you have completely traced the entire outer image, you will then select the fill tool on the left menu (it looks like a bucket spilling over). Simply place the fill tool anywhere inside the image and click, the entire image should be highlighted inside the green traced area. Once highlighted, click "OK" on the top right of the menu.

Step 5: Now you should see your image, with a grey checkered background, this means your background is gone, now we just need to do some touch up work. First use the magnifying glass tool on the bottom left menu to enlarge the image to 4-5 x actual size. This will make it easier to see the imperfections.

Step 6: Use the tool that looks like a hand (bottom left), to scroll around the edges of the image to look for overlaps. You can use the eraser tool to take away any excess background. If there are any areas of the image that are missing or blemished, use the history brush (it looks like a paint brush with a swirling arrow). The history brush will restore the area of the image that is blemished, then you can remove the excess background with the eraser.

Step 7:
You are finished! Save the image to your computer.

*Interesting Fact* What does Photoshop CS3 stand for?
The original Adobe program was named "Creative Suite"
So CS3 stands for "Creative Suite 3"


Video Tutorial


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    • profile image

      Selbearis 6 years ago

      Hi Ryan!

      Is it possible to remove the item and keep the backround?

      It sounds a bit weird what I ask, but this summer I had the christening of my child and we had a big party by the beach. The photographer did not manage to get ONE single picture of the baby looking normal. In most pictures the eyes of the baby are closed, or crying, the hair messy from the wind, the clothes messy and in general we all look like a mess.

      I was wondering if I could take other photos and put them on that backround with photoshop. is that possible?


    • dsmythe profile image

      dsmythe 6 years ago

      The magic wand tool works good if the bg isn't too busy.

    • profile image
      Author 7 years ago from Vancouver / Bangkok


      I think your method is perhaps better depending on what kind of image your are extracting, and which version of Photoshop your are using. Like I say, I have tried this method but found the touch up work later to be too time consuming. I do apreciate the tip and the comment is probaly useful for readers.

      Thank you

    • RyanAustin profile image

      RyanAustin 7 years ago from South Carolina,

      There are a few ways on how to do it. I just found this one method to be a little easier for me.

    • TravelinAsia profile image

      TravelinAsia 7 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia


      "much more easier" This is a double comparative and is not correct use of the English language. In order to be grammatically correct you should never use consecutive comparative adjectives in a sentence.

    • profile image
      Author 7 years ago from Vancouver / Bangkok

      Hey Ryan,

      Thank you for that, I am not using the newest version of Photoshop, I am using CS3. I have tried this process that you described using a similar method with CS3, however I find that this method is less efficient. I find that the edges have more imperfections and there is more touch up work. While the first step is faster.. the touch up work seems to be the most time consuming. So for me.. your method is not ideal.

      Thanks Anyway!

    • RyanAustin profile image

      RyanAustin 7 years ago from South Carolina

      There is an easier way of doing this. In Photoshop CS5 there is a tool called "QUICK SELECTION TOOL" making sure to have it on the positive button, click and drag on the area on the picture that you want to be removed from the background. If it selects part of the background, you can easily switch it to the negative and it automatically fixes.

      Once you have your selection, right click and choose refine edge. Now you can use the smooth tool to smooth the edges for a cleaner look. Now in that same window, click on decontaminate colors. What that does, is it automatically creates a new layer with your selection. Click ok and you have your image. Its much more easier than how you explained.