How to Cut Out the Subject From the Background in Photoshop

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This video by Chris from Spoon Graphics does a good job of going over many of the options available inside Photoshop for cutting things out. The most common use is to cut out the subject from the background, to place it on a different image or background – as in when making composite images.

Watch as he goes over the options for cutting things out:

Quick and dirty selection tools and methods:

  • Eraser tool (not the best choice, this is shown in the video)
  • The Magic Wand tool
  • Quick Selection tool

Pro techniques tools include:

  • Manually drawing the selection
  • Lasso tool (can be frustrating and tricky to use)
  • Pen tool (also using Paths)
  • Tonal selection
  • Channels (plus Curves or Levels)
  • Color range (quick selections based on tones in an image)
  • Layer masks
  • Refine edge tool
  • Defringe to remove halos and outlines
  • Paint hair back in manually
  • Buy a Photoshop plugin like Topaz Remask

Here’s a second video from Glyn Dewis that puts some of those techniques to use to cut out a tree from the background.

Do you know any other methods for doing cut outs? What’s your favorite? Please share in the comments below.

Read more from our Post Production category

Darlene Hildebrandt is the Managing Editor of dPS. She is also an educator who teaches aspiring amateurs and hobbyists how to improve their skills through articles, online photography classes, and travel tours. Get her free ebook 10 Photography Challenges to help you take better pictures or check out her online photography courses.

  • mysweetiepiepie

    Very helpful videos and info, some new techniques that I’m going to have to try. Thanks!

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  • Darryl Lora

    I found this an interesting video to watch, however I only watched it for 7 minutes. As a “How to” video it was a bit disappointing (to me) as it mostly flew over my head. If I was very proficient at Photoshop I probably would have understood a lot more……but if I was that proficient at Photoshop I don’t think I would have needed a “how to” video in the first place. I’m not trying to knock the video ~ just the title.

  • Darryl Lora

    Ok, I have just watched the 2nd video with the tree. Thank you, that was a good “how to” video which even a dummy like me could follow. I have usually shied away from cutting anything out in Photoshop due to my lack of knowledge but this video was great and taught me a lot.

  • Blue Julz

    thanks… learned new today… i’m only into quick selection or magic wand.

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    thanks to Digital Photography school i got many knowledge form this video

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  • MindStorm

    I knew about the Color Range, but didn’t know the trick cleaning up the brush in Overlay Mode. That would have made a lot of my masks a heck of a lot easier. Thanks!

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  • Carol

    My thoughts exactly.

  • Esther Beaton

    How does one create that “glow” that has been applied to the face of the model illustrating this article and video? I presume it’s a plugin like Topaz or something.

  • Tom Stout

    If you have Photoshop CC, try the Select & Mask Tool, it’s awesome. Here’s a video tutorial: https://youtu.be/K0QDp6umxy0

  • Christopher

    Thank ou for this tutorial. I learned a lot on how to pull out something from a photo and paste it into something else. Great technique for cleaning up the mask!

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