Pen & Quick Selection Tools: Removing the background from an image in Photoshop

Today’s essential question: How can I combine images to build a unique setting for my story?

Today we will remove backgrounds from images we will use in our digital collage. If you have taken your green screen photos, you may wish to use them. Otherwise, you will download pieces of your scene and remove the backgrounds from the various pieces that will comprise your setting.

Creating a setting

You must photoshop at least 3 different images together for your background or setting.  (So, for example, you cannot just put the images you photographed in front of the green screen into an existing photograph – you must add at least 2, preferably more, other items to customize your scene.) The emptier the scene you start with, the better. For example, the image below is terrible for the purposes of the project, because it is already full of cars and people, so we have no room to add our own:


The next image is much better, because it has space to add whatever cars or people we would like, giving us complete control over the mood we establish:


Here is another example. These wooded scenes are all a great place to start because they have ample space in the foreground to add other imagery:

Here are some extra images that might make the scene more interesting:


Removing the background from an image

Quick selection tool

If the background is solid, and contrasts with the subject, you may wish to use the quick selection tool. It is quicker than the pen tool, but will not give you as much control. Here is a tutorial on how to use the quick selection tool.

The pen tool

If you would like more control than the quick selection tool provides, use the pen tool to path around your objects. Today we will learn how to use the pen tool to path out part of a photo and copy and paste it on a new layer. You can then drag the layer with the isolated object into the Photoshop file where you are building your scene.

How to create a composite image:

  1. Go to the “paths” window on the lower right side of the screen. It is likely tabbed next to the layers palette.
    Click the “new path” button. new_path_icon
  2. Go to the toolbar on the left side of the screen. Select the pen tool. pen_tool
    Outline the part of the photograph you want to modify.
  3. Once you have closed your shape by clicking on the first point, go back to the paths window.
    Right click on the path you have created, and click “make selection.”
    Feather the selection by 1pixel (this will soften the edges of your selection).
    It should look like ants are marching around the part of the photo you have selected.
    Screen Shot 2017-02-15 at 7.43.06 PM.png
  4. Control + C to copy your selection. Control + V to paste your selection. Hide the original image by clicking on the eye icon.
  5. Save your file as both a Photoshop file and a PNG. (You will be able to post the PNG to your blog and maintain the transparent background.)
  6. Drag the isolated layers into the Photoshop file where you are building your scene.

Today we will:

  • Finish shooting any needed photos in front of the green screen
  • Remove backgrounds from images we will use in our digital collage
  • Create a new blog post with the following:
    • any photos taken today
    • before and after photos of any images where you removed the background
    • a few sentences describing any challenges you faced today, as well as how you worked through those challenges

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