Replacing a Background with Photoshop Elements
This Photoshop Elements 5.0 lesson will demonstrate how you can replace the background in any of your digital photos. Along the way you'll also learn how to use the Magic Selection Brush Tool to make selections, how to save and load selections, how to do some simple color correction/adjustments and how to get started with Layers.
|Replacing a Background with Photoshop Elements|
NOTE: This Photoshop Elements lesson was created using Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0, but you can achieve the same results using other versions.
To get started run Photoshop Elements and choose Edit/Enhance to bring up the Photoshop Elements Editor.
You'll also need a couple of photographs... a portrait and a background that you can use to place the portrait subject against. You can see from the figure above that I'll be using a "studio portrait" (this is really just a simple digital portrait taken against a blank wall) and a photograph of a sunset (taken on an afternoon walk... a good reason to have your camera handy :)).
What needs to be done is to isolate the portrait subject so that she can be copied and pasted over the sunset... fun stuff, so let's get started.
Using the Magic Selection Brush Tool
Photoshop Elements has a very powerful, yet easy-to-use selection tool called the "Magic Selection Brush Tool", that helps isolate portions of an image. Isolating one part of an image from the rest of it means that you can selectively modify portions of an image. This lesson will demonstrate several of the Magic Selection Brush Tool's options.
With both of your images open activate the portrait image by clicking its title bar.
Select the Magic Selection Brush Tool (see figure 1.1).
|figure 1.1 -- The Magic Selection Brush Tool|
When you do so you'll be presented with a dialog box offering some helpful tips on how to use the tool (see figure 1.2).
|figure 1.2 -- The Magic Selection Brush Tool tips dialog box|
After making note of the information the dialog box is so helpfully providing click OK to close it.
One significant piece of information offered is that modifications to the selection can be made in the Tool Options Bar. The Tool Options Bar (see figure 1.3) is located along the top of the Editor window just below the main menu. The options change for every tool and it's a good practice to take a look at it when using a new tool, or even when using a tool you're more familiar with. The options we're most concerned with are adding to and removing from a selection. These will make getting the best selection as painless a process as possible.
|figure 1.3 -- The Magic Selection Brush Tool Options|
We pretty much have the tools we need to select the background and the info we need to use them effectively...
The idea, with the Magic Selection Brush, is to paint areas that you want to be selected. In this case painting the background in the portrait will select the background making it possible to isolate the portrait subject.
You can really just go wild and paint wherever you want an area selected. I like to be a little more careful, though, to see what the tool does and how it operates.
You can see in figure 1.4 that I made a small squiggle in the upper-left corner of the background.
In figure 1.5 you can see that all of the background is selected... unfortunately so was some of the portrait subject :) Not to worry. Here's where the tool's options (refer back to figure 1.3 for a quick peek) come in.
In the Magic Selection Brush Tool Option bar select the icon with the minus sign (-) in it. Drawing over selected areas with that option on will remove areas from the selection. I drew a number of squiggly lines, each time removing some of the selected portrait. You can see the marks I made with the tool in figure 1.6.
After making the adjustments my selection seems pretty good as you can see in figure 1.7.
NOTE: If, while unselecting some areas you accidentally unselect too much, simply adjust the option to add to the selection instead of removing from it (click the icon in the Tool Options with the small plus sign (+)).
When you're satisfied with the selection you've created you can proceed...
The thing is, I really want to select the portrait subject, not the background... again, no problem. All that needs to be done is for the selection to be inverted. To do so choose Select, Inverse.
Saving the Selection
Before anything else is done with the selection, it would be nice to be able to somehow save it in case it's needed again. Photoshop Elements has just the thing, a storage place that will be saved along with the file (as long as it's saved as a .psd file).
To save the selection you've created choose Select, Save Selection... In the Save Selection dialog box leave the Selection set to New, the Operation set to New Selection, give the selection a name and click OK to save the selection. That's it...
The selection can be reloaded at a later time if needed. To reload your selection simply choose Select, Load Selection... It couldn't be simpler, and it's really nice to be able to keep a copy of the selection rather than having to re-create it each time.
Combining (Compositing) the Two Images
Now it's time to copy & paste the selection containing the portrait subject from the portrait photo to the new background (in this case the sunset) photo. To do so:
Voila! You should now have a new image (known as a composite image) containing the stunning background and the portrait subject. At this point you may want to move or resize the newly pasted portrait. To do so select the Move tool (it's the tool at the very top of the Toolbar) and move the subject into place. To resize the subject to help if fit better into the new background, grab one of the corners of the bounding box and click-and-drag it to resize the pasted portrait. Don't drag the sides, top or bottom, though, as doing so will resize the image in only one direction. Figure 1.8 shows the result of my efforts.
- Choose Edit, Copy
- Activate the image you want to use as the new background
- Choose Edit, Paste
The newly pasted image may still need a little work. It's quite likely that there will be some of the previous background hanging around the edges of the portrait. You'll probably find some areas of the previous background around the subject's hair, for example. To fix those problem areas you can zoom-in and (carefully) use the Eraser Tool to remove them. Work slowly and zoom-in and out as needed to make sure that you get all of the unwanted areas, without removing any part of the portrait that really needs to be there. It's not nice to remove a subject's ear, for example, even if the subject is your little brother :)
TIP: Take a look at the Options for the Eraser tool to see if anything there might be helpful in removing the remnants of the portrait's background. The Size and the Opacity options would be good bets, for example. Lowering the opacity means having to make several passes over an area to remove it, but will ultimately yield better results than one swipe with a totally opaque eraser tool.
The fact that you can erase the area around the portrait without affecting the sunset image is because the pasted portrait resides in what's known as a layer. That means that the image I'm currently working on (the sunset with the pasted portrait) has two layers (see figure 1.9): The bottommost layer contains the sunset and the newly pasted layer contains the portrait.
In figure 1.9, to the right, you can see the layers palette. In that palette you can see the two layers. You can also see that the portrait layer is above the sunset layer. There are a number of buttons and options worth exploring in the Layers palette and I'll explain these in more depth in an upcoming tutorial. For now consider the layers as being sheets of see-through acetate where some of the acetates have stuff painted on them. In this case the bottommost layer is completely filled with the sunset photograph and the uppermost layer has the portrait (without it's former background) photo.
A Little Color Correction
There's only one last thing to take care of in order for this composite image to be believable... Because the "studio" shot was taken with a flash and the portrait will now be displayed against a warm-red sunset background, it makes sense that the portrait should appear a little redder than it does.
The best way to adjust the color with this image is to add an adjustment layer that affects the color. The best choice for that is a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer.
The adjustment layer should only affect the portrait, though, and not the sunset layer. To make that happen, hold down the ALT-key and then click the small round icon above the portrait layer in the Layers palette. It's a circular icon that's half black and half white...
In the menu that appears choose Hue/Saturation...
In the dialog box (see figure 1.10) make sure you check the "Group with Previous Layer" option. Doing so will avoid having the sunset background affected by the color change that's about to be made. Click OK to continue.
You can play around with the Hue, Saturation and Lightness sliders to get the portrait in your image to more closely match up with its new background. You can see in figure 1.11 that I've adjusted the Hue by -6 and the Lightness by +16 to help the portrait blend in to its new surroundings.
If you take a look at the Layers palette when you're done, you'll see that a new layer has been added. This is the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. If you double-click the new layer's thumbnail in the Layers palette you'll bring up the Hue/Saturation dialog box complete with the settings you chose. This will still be true even if you save the file (it must be as a .psd "Photoshop" file, though) and re-open it. Very powerful stuff :)
I invite you to play with the various settings I've mentioned in this lesson until you have exactly the results you want and don't hesitate to e-mail us questions about this tutorial.
That's it for now... Be sure to check out some of our other Photoshop Elements tutorials.