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Extractions with a Layer Mask

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Hi Everyone!   This month we are going to learn one of the ways to do extractions in Photoshop Elements.   As always, there are lots of ways to do this, but I love this one, because it lets me recover from my mistakes.  When I first started doing extractions, I just used the eraser and hoped I didn’t screw up and have to start all over again.  Of course I DID screw up and started over more times than I can say.

We are going to do our extraction with a layer mask, so if you mess up and erase too much, you can easily get it back even after you have saved the document and shut down!  YEAH!!!!

Start by pulling up the photo that you would like to use for your extraction.   I have my Grand-daughter,  MJ’s birthday cake that a friend made and I want to extract it and all of its sprinkles and of course, the candle and flame.

extraction 01

Start off by grabbing the Selection tool.   Specifically, we want the one with the dotted circle and the brush in the middle…the Quick Selection tool.   You may need to select that specific tool from the tool options down below.

extraction 02

Now, using that tool select what it is you want to extract.   After your initial selection, change the select option to ADD and continue adding to your selection with a smaller brush as you get closer to the edges.   If  you select too much, hold down the alt key and the brush becomes a SUBTRACT instead of an ADD.  Release the alt and it goes back to ADD.   Don’t worry about getting tiny details (like each sprinkle in my case), we will grab those later.  I prefer to select less rather than more and this tutorial is geared toward that.

If you have PSE12, 13 or 14 skip around this next section…look for the section  PSE12 and Higher (only).



PSE11 and lower (only) follow these instuctions:

When the “marching ants” are showing your selection to be close,  hit Select from the main menu and Save Selection.   I called my selection, but you can call it anything you like!

pse 9 1a

Press OK to save your selection.   Hit CNTL/D to deselect and the CNTL/J to copy your layer to a second layer.   Add a mask to this new layer by clicking on the Add Mask icon in the layers palette.

pse 9 2a

Now, reload the selection you saved by clicking on the Select Menu, the Load Selection.   Hit the drop down arrow to find the name you created and hit OK.

pse 9 3a

This brings your marching ants back up.  With the Layer Mask highlighted with the Blue Outline.  Press Edit on the Main Menu (across the top), then Fill Selection, then Choose BLACK as your selection fill.

pse 9 4a

Press OK.  This will give you a mask that is exactly inverted from the one we want.

pse 9 5a

Make sure the mask is highlighted with the blue box.  Press CNTL/D to remove the selection (marching ants) and CNTL/I (that’s an “i” not an “l”).  Finally, turn off  the bottom layer by clicking on the little eye to the left.  Now, your mask is reversed (introverted) and you are now ready to join the regular tutorial already in progress.   Jump down to the Everyone Rejoin Here.


PSE12 and Higher (only)


extraction 03

When you have a selection that is close to what you want,  hit Select from the main menu (across the top) then Refine Edge from the drop down box.   Fill out the box as follows and click OK.

Smooth: 1

Feather 0.2

Shift edge -5

Check the Decontaminate Colors

Output to:   New Layer with Layer Mask

extraction 04

Before you click ok, you may notice the all white background.   As soon as you click OK, PSE automatically turns off the background layer (the original photo), so you will see a transparent BG.



Everyone Rejoin Here

Look over in your layers palette.  You will see that BOTH layers have the whole photo, we haven’t clipped anything.   But, the top layer has a mask.   Remember the mask phrase “White Reveals, Black Conceals”.   You can see that that is indeed the case…we can only see the portion of the photo that the mask reveals.

extraction 05

Now all we need to do is paint on the mask (NOT THE PHOTO)…white to add more photo (like the sprinkles I missed), black to conceal something that we might have accidentally included in the extraction.  I like to keep the brush soft and small since this is the detail work that will make your extraction shine.  If your items that you are painting in, are really small, you may want to use a hard brush rather than a soft one.   Make sure that the blue selection box is around the MASK, not the photo…we don’t want to paint anything on the photo.

extraction 06

You can finish up your extraction from here by simply painting on the mask in black or white, but I have a little trick that helps me get that done a little easier.

Holding down the CNTL Key, click inside the white portion of the mask.   You will see marching ants on your photo that show you exactly what is masked to show in your extraction.   We need to actually make that selection a tiny bit smaller, so choose Select from the upper menu.  Then Modify and Contract.   Enter Contract by:  5 and click OK.

extraction 05.5

Now we need to invert the selection so we can start painting in the areas that we missed in the selection.   You can do this by selecting Select on the main menu (across the top) and then Inverse from the drop down menu.   You can verify that you have this done correctly by looking at your whole photo…the marching ants should be marching around your selection AND around the outside edges of your photo.  You are probably wondering why we need to go thru all this and truly you don’t need to.   But the selection lines really help you to see the edges of your selection and that will make painting easier.

Now, turn on the bottom layer by clicking the little “eye” on the left side of the layer, so you can see the whole photo.  Use the magnifier to zoom in for your close up edge correction…you will work your way around the edges of the whole extraction.

extraction 07

Look at the photo below.   With the BG layer turned on, you can clearly see that the marching ants are well inside some of the sprinkles on the edge…THAT is where we need to paint in white.  And, THAT is why we did the selection…really shows  you what you have and what you missed.

extraction 05.75

At this point I like to save my selection, it case something happens.  This is optional, but it may save you time if PSE flakes out or a power outage occurs.   Choose Select from the Main Menu (across the top), then Save Selection, then type in a name (I used corrections) and click OK.

extraction 08

Using a soft, small brush with White as the foreground color, paint (ON THE MASK, NOT THE PHOTO), any place the extraction is and the marching ants aren’t!  Are you all sick of me saying (on the mask, not on the photo?)   I accidentally do this at least once on every extraction!!!!

extraction 06.5

To see if you are doing it correctly, keep toggling the bottom layer (photo without the mask) off and on. Below is the bottom layer turned on and then turned off.  You can see that I have correctly painted in the sections pointed to with the two lower arrows, but still need to paint the area pointed to by the top arrow.  This may not make sense till you get here.  The reason for turning the bottom layout off and on will be clear when you get to this point and try it!

extraction 10

extraction 09

Work your way around the whole extraction.   If you accidentally paint in too much white, switch the foreground to black and paint over.   Don’t forget to go back to white!!!

extraction 11

Ok got that done, but now I’m not happy with the ragged edge of the bottom of the cake.  Use this technique for any area of the extraction you want to “erase”.   Again make sure you are on the mask, not the photo (I know, I know!!))).

Undo the selection by hitting CNTL/D or Select from the main menu, then Deselect to remove the marching ants.  Switch your brush color to black and paint any areas you want to remove.

extraction 12

I used a soft brush and ran it along the ragged bottom to create a better edge.  Remember, black conceals…

extraction 13

And now, my extraction is complete!!!.   You can drag that single layer (you don’t need the bottom layer) on to your scrapbook page and embellish to your heart’s content.

Here’s my completed layout using Kristmess’ beautiful Birthday Collection.   Because it’s an extraction, the photo was placed on top of the frame so that the sprinkes and frosting spill out over the frame and the candle really stands out.   I also extracted a photo of MJ and her buddy staring at the cake and wondering what to do!

extraction 15b

Hope you enjoyed this tutorial!   Happy Scrapping!!!


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