A lot of times, new scrappers think that extractions are complicated and difficult. I know that I used to think that. But they aren’t really, as long as you have an editing program with a good zoom and a relatively steady hand. You might think that you need a really steady hand, but I get some bad tremors in my hands from Lyme and I can still get a pretty decent extraction.
One disclaimer: I do use a pen and tablet rather than a mouse. I have been using a Wacom for years. I had a Graphire, and my mother in law upgraded me to a Bamboo Craft for Christmas last year. If you do a lot of extractions, detailed work and/or doodling, a tablet is the way to go.
Ok- lets go! Open your photo in Photo Editor. I am using this one:
There are a few different tools you can use to cut away the background here: Lasso, Polygon Lasso, Smart Lasso, and occasionally, the Magic Wand. I personally think that the regular polygon lasso is the easiest use and to control. Select the Polygon Lasso, which is found under “Select.” Place your pen/mouse in one spot on the photo and click around your photo. At this point, I keep my photo where I can see the entire file on my screen. You don’t need to get too close yet, we’ll zoom in afterward. Close of your selection by clicking back on your starting point. Your Lasso now converts to a selection, which is seen by the infamous “marching ants.”
Invert the selection Object | Selection | Invert or Ctrl-Shift-I. Delete the selection. This will leave you with the main image and a bit of the background surrounding it. Save your file as an apd. Next, grab your “block eraser.” This is found the default Saved Brushes Palette. Depending on how much background is left, you will most likely want to zoom in. In Photo Editor, just hit your plus key to zoom. To zoom out, use the minus key. To move your photo around the screen, pressing the Space Bar changes the Eraser temporarily to the Hand Tool. Use that to move the photo so you can eraser all around it. If you have tight areas or ones that are curving, I find that it is better to use short, small eraser strokes picking the pen/mouse up to end the stroke often. If you make a mistake and “cut in” to your photo to close, you only have to undo small portions this way.
This is where I am at after this step:
Now it is time for a different eraser. We want something with a soft edge so we don’t get a jagged, pixelated look.I picked saved eraser “13.” Then I changed its default settings to 1 pixel spacing. If you keep the spacing at its 25 pixel setting, you will have much less control over the eraser. Zoom back in and using your eraser and space bar, slowly erase around the edges of your photo. It is always better to go a bit slower and go back over a spot then have to start over if you “over-erase.” If you need to change the size of your eraser tip, just go up to the Tool Bar and change the brush size. This is especially helpful with getting into tight spaces. remember to use short strokes and Ctrl-Z if you make a mistake.
Odd Tip: Sometimes it is easier to work stroking to the right or to the left, depending on the photo and your handedness. Here’s an odd tip for you to help: Flip your photo so you can continue working in the direction you are most comfortable. On this photo used Object| Rotate/Flip/Resize and Flip Horizontal so I could work on the right side of the photo. You could even rotate your photo by 90* angles if that helps.
Using your left hand on the space bar/hand tool and your right hand/eraser, go all around the edges of the photo, making sure you have all soft edges.
We are almost done, but before we say “fini” we need to do a quality control check. The easiest way I do this is to add a layer of white or back under your photo. This helps provide contrast so you can quickly see if there are any stray pixels, harsh edges or shadows.
Click on the Rectangle tool and drag that over your photo. Drag that layer under your photo.
Check over your photo to see if you have any spots that need to be cleaned up. I find that a black background is good for finding loose pixels, and white is easier to soften any harsh shadows/edges.
Odd Tip#2: To switch from black to white in one click: Click on bottom layer, Image| Selection | Invert. Your layer becomes white!
You can see in this shot how the stray pixels became very easy to see on the white background here.
When you are satisfied with your results, delete that bottom layer and your extraction is complete. Save your file as a png and go and use it in a fabulous layout!