Photoshop Tutorials
The Design Center, DT&G / Photoshop Department / Improving photos using the EXTRACT FILTER  

Changing Color For The Better (continued from the previous page)

Using the Extract Filter in Photoshop

Extract came along with Photoshop 5.5, and then in version 7 they moved it to the Filters menu. Since then it's been a valuable tool -- although misunderstood. It works the same, which is quite easy, and straight forward. Think of it as an artificial intelligence masking and selection tool. It has changed location and function only subtly since the CS series

We use the Extract command to make some difficult selections that require a sophisticated way to isolate a foreground object from its background. It's actually best suited for objects with wispy, intricate, or undefinable edges that need to be clipped from their backgrounds with a minimum of manual work.

This one was a cakewalk, but first we need to duplicate the image to a new layer.
Drag layer and drop it on the New Layer button at the bottom of the layers palette.

Extract will delete the unwanted portions of the image.

Ordinarily, when making a montage, you would Extract the subject from its background in one file, then (Move Tool "V") drag it into the destination Montage file, creating its own, new, layer. Here, we're extracting from the SAME file, so we have to work on a duplicate. (This is the way Dave will handle his montage project.)

The Extract working window appears with the edge highlighter tool selected in the upper left area of the dialog box. Notice too, in version 7 you get a little "hint" window which prompts you for the next step. Sweet.

The Extract process is straight forward:

It's as simple as that. You can refine and touch up the selection to your liking, but most of the time the tool is accurate.

Outlining the Subject to be Extracted

Get started by setting the brush size for the edge highlighter tool to about 6 in the Brush Size box. The fatter the brush, the more touch-up you'll have to do, although the fatter brushes make for easy (and sloppy) selections. Start with a large brush to outline a general selection, and then switch to a finer brush for the touch-up work. The green part is colored Green. Note in some areas of the green you see a hairline thin yellow line. That's the selection zone.

Keep in mind these images are from a previous version of Photoshop, however, the process is still essentially the same. Open first "Extract" diagram)

Draw the outline highlight making it slightly overlap both the foreground and background areas around the edge you want to cut -- in fact that's the way the Extract command makes its selection! It looks for the difference in contrast between pixels in the selected zone.

Designate the "Lift" with the Fill Bucket

Once the outline is drawn, simply click the "Fill Bucket" and then click inside the object to fill within your selection. The default Fill color is bright blue, and the highlight color is green, but you can change those.
(This is demonstrated in the "FILL" diagram)

Set Preview to begin Touch-up

In a perfect world, your extraction will be perfect. But just in case it isn't, you'll need some touch-up
(Now open the "PREVIEW" diagram)

Click the Preview button and, presto, highlighted, extracted subject. At the bottom right of the work window you can select various preview options. Here we just see the checker-board background.
(Now open the "Touchup" diagram)

To refine your selection, or make corrections, use the other tools to paint-in or paint-out image as need be. I made the background "white" so I could see where the inaccurate selections were. Now I just used the eraser tool to get rid of the faults.

Once you've got it just right click OK to apply the extraction.

Finishing Up

Notice that all the background has now been trimmed away from the subject. Since I actually want to slightly blure the background of the image we need to activate our selection...

Watch as the background softens, simulating a narrow depth of field photo.

Now the subject pops forward, and becomes the prominent, more important, focal point of in the photo.

You can play lots of other tricks now that you have both the subject and the background selectable. But at this point we decided to flatten, save and run with it. (The best photo retouch results are the ones you don't notice!)

The Solution that Satisfies

The whole process took less time than it took you to read this page, and the client was pleased.

"Looks pretty good" he said upon seeing the web page.

We just smiled and said, "You took the picture, we just put it up there."

So, there you have it! Simple and direct.

... and thanks for reading!

Fred Showker
Fred Showker, Editor / Publisher of DTG Magazine

More ways to work with depth of field:

Add depth of field to perk up those dull photos The designer is often faced with customer-supplied photos. Many times there's little you can do to save them. One rule you can always count on is Isolation. Add drama and focus the readers' attention by isolating the subject of an image. While there are many ways to do this, here's my favorite way

Digital Photo Depth of Field - Focus Fall-Off In this free Photoshop tutorial we demonstrate the ease of gradient masks, layer masks and blurring to save a one-time-only photograph for a web page. We also utilize the cool photo filter to finish this shot with Depth of Field or Focus Fall-Off


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