Photo Editing Tutorial : Zoom & Erase
The Story So Far….
Note – This is not the first post in this series relating to a photo editing tutorial. If you haven’t already done so, please read the earlier posts below:
In this first example, over the next couple of posts, we will be taking a photo of my arm holding and apple and changing the background to that of a beach. In my case, I will be using Photoshop, but if you don’t have photo editing software, there are lots of free options out there, pixlr.com is just one of many.
So far, we have covered a lot of the theory behind what we are about to do. Hopefully, you are aware of layers, transparency and the lasso tool. The easiest and best way to get comfortable with them is to use them and test them out to see what they can do.
Set up Layers
As I mentioned already, I usually use Photoshop for this type of project, but for this part of the tutorial I will demonstrate using pixlr.com – a free online photo editing option.
The two panes in the above image are very important.
The top pane is the navigator, there is a slider just below the image in this pane which allows you to zoom in and out. You can also move around your zoomed-in image by dragging the rectangle around the image in the navigator pane. There isn’t a default equivalent like this in Photoshop where you can zoom in and out and use the slider bars to move around the image.
The second pane is the Layers pane and is similar to the Photoshop layers pane, but with different options. This is the pane you will use to change the order of layers, etc.
Part of the process explained below is not necessary once you are used to editing images – but to start with, it might be good practice to use the layers options a bit more.
The first step is to duplicate the background image layer. This creates the layer “Background copy”. You can duplicate the layer by right-clicking on the Background layer in the Layers pane and selecting duplicate layer, or by going to the Layer option in the menu bar and selecting duplicate layer.
To ensure my hand is on a transparent layer, create a new layer with nothing on it – this appears as a white and grey checkered image. The checkered image means it is transparent. In my example above Layer 4 is a transparent layer. You can create a new layer by clicking the button in the Layers pane or going to Layers in the menu bar at the top and selecting new layer.
Set up your layers so that the Background copy is above the transparent layer. The transparent layer is then above the original Background layer.
Delete the background layer
Delete the original background layer – you may have to unlock it first (key lock symbol to the right of the layer name in the image above). Once you have this done, your Layers pane should look like this.
Lasso only what is needed
Using the lasso tool, highlight only what is needed in the final image. Personally, I like to leave room to spare when selecting my image for further editing – by this I mean that I do not like to lasso too close to the image I want to keep. The next part of the process will remove the remaining background.
This is what I selected with the Polygonal Lasso Tool.
Once selected, I pressed Ctrl+C to copy the selection and then Ctrl+V to paste it. It is pasted to a new layer that contains only what I selected with the lasso.
My Layers pane now looks like this
I can now delete Background copy, leaving my arm (with some extra background) on a transparent layer.
Delete Unwanted Background
Now we are only left with the background around my arm that I want to remove, instead of the whole background of the original layer.
There are several ways to do this, there are background erasers, magic erasers, contrast & erase and many other ways to remove the background. Some of them work brilliantly some times for me, but not all the time – my personal preference is to zoom and erase.
Zoom in very closely to your image. Bit by bit we will erase part of the unwanted background before zooming out a bit more and finishing the deletion. Depending on the image resolution, size, complexity, you may zoom in closer on one image than on another – experience and practice will tell you how much you need to zoom in.
Select the eraser tool and a small brush size. The plan here is to zoom in very close to the image, start deleting the unwanted background closes to my arm with a small eraser. I will work all the way around the arm doing this. Then I can zoom out and with a bigger eraser remove the rest of the background. Because I have already carefully removed the background closest to my arm, I can be a bit more wreckless and faster with the bigger eraser because I won’t be going as close to my arm.
I have created a video demonstration how to zoom, erase and navigate in pixlr.com. The video is available here on YouTube.
This gives a quick view of what you will be doing, as you can see it is a quick process when you get used to it. Starting out it can seem slow, but if you keep your eraser strokes relatively short and be patient it does get faster. After zooming and erasing, I would then zoom out and review the image, looking for parts that I have not erased properly or missed before moving to the next stage which will be to put my arm on the beach.