Photo #1 - Easy To Select Objects

Let's start with a black and white photo containing easy to select objects: a person walking a small dog. The high contrast between the objects and the background makes the selection task easy.

If you have not done so already, download the walking-dog-in-snow.jpg image and then continue with the steps below.

Make a Copy of the Original

Always make a copy of digital photo files before editing them so that the original is not lost.

  1. Start Photoshop Elements.
  2. Open the original image file.

    Commands:
    • File > Open
    • Locate the file to open on your computer (in this case walking-dog-in-snow.jpg) and select it by clicking on it once
    • Click the Open button

  3. Save a copy as a Photoshop (PSD) file.

    Commands:
    • File > Save As
    • Change the Format to Photoshop
    • Keep the suggested file name of walking-dog-in-snow.psd
    • Click Save

The above steps opened the original image file, saved a copy under a new name, and closed the original file. At this point the only open file on your screen should be the copy, named walking-dog-in-snow.psd.

Select the Objects

  1. Click the Magic Wand Tool Magic Wand Tool.
  2. On the top toolbar, configure the settings as follows:
    • Click the New selection mode button New selection
    • Set Tolerance to 100
    • Remove the checkmark from Anti-alias
    • Set the checkmark on Contiguous
    • v2 Remove the checkmark from Use All Layers
    • v3 & v4 Remove the checkmark from Sample All Layers

  3. The selection marquee is enclosing most of the person's outline after our first click with the Magic Wand Tool.

    The selection marquee is enclosing most of the person's outline after our first click with the Magic Wand Tool.

  4. Select the person by clicking in the middle of the back. I clicked on coordinates X:1,188 Y:805.

    Notice how the selection marquee is enclosing the majority of the pixels that are close in color to the pixel that was clicked. Also notice that groups of lightly colored pixels have not been selected.

  5. Add the lightly colored section on the left lower back to the selection.

    Commands:
    • Make sure that the Magic Wand Tool is still selected Magic Wand Tool
    • On the top toolbar, click the Add to selection mode button Add to selection
    • Click in the middle of the light spot on the person's back. I clicked on coordinates X:1,148 Y:905.

    The above steps should have removed the marquee around the light spot, indicating that it is now part of the larger selection.

  6. Face was added to the selection by clicking with the Magic Wand Tool.

    Face was added to the selection by clicking with the Magic Wand Tool.

  7. Add the face to the selection using the same technique and settings as above, this time clicking in the middle of the face. I clicked on coordinates X:1,147 Y:731.

    In small sections like the face, it is easy to click outside the range you intended and select the wrong portion of the image. If that happens, just click the Undo button to step back and try again.

    To make selection easier, hit the Ctrl = keys to zoom in and Ctrl - keys to zoom back out.

    Now the face is also part of the larger selection.

  8. Add the dog's darker colors using the same technique and settings as above, this time clicking on the dog's coat. I clicked on coordinates X:1,102 Y:1,036.
  9. On the top toolbar, change Tolerance to 50. This lower setting is necessary to select sections with less contrast. Leaving it at 100 would cause some of our next selections to bleed past the objects of interest.
  10. Add all of the following sections by clicking:
    Missing sections along the perimeter were added to the selection. Small, internal sections which are still not part of the selection are indicated by the round marquee regions.

    Missing sections along the perimeter were added to the selection. Small, internal sections which are still not part of the selection are indicated by the round marquee regions.

    • Dog's face, coordinates X:1,075 Y:1,035
    • Dog's right ear, coordinates X:1,103 Y:1,017
    • Dog's rear end, coordinates X:1,107 Y:1,086
    • Person's left hand, coordinates X:1,109 Y:920
    • Small, light section on person's right shoulder, coordinates X:1,211 Y:740

    We have now selected the complete outline of the person and dog. The only pieces missing from our selection are small, internal sections indicated by the numerous round marquees. We could continue using the Magic Wand Tool to select all of the remaining small pieces by clicking inside each, but this can get very tedious. Instead, we will use the Elliptical Marquee Tool to add the remaining sections.

  11. Click the Elliptical Marquee Tool Elliptical Marquee Tool.
    This tool may be hidden by the Rectangular Marquee Tool Rectangular Marquee Tool. Hold your mouse down on the visible tool to reveal the other tools.

  12. On the top toolbar, configure the settings as follows:
    • Click the Add to selection mode button Add to selection
    • Set Feather to 0 (we will feather the entire selection at the end)
    • Remove the checkmark from Anti-alias
    • v2 Set Style to Normal
    • v3 & v4 Set Mode to Normal

  13. Using the Elliptical Marquee Tool to select multiple internal sections in a single step.

    Using the Elliptical Marquee Tool to select multiple internal sections in a single step.

  14. Add all remaining sections by dragging the Elliptical Marquee Tool over them, while not going outside the person and dog outlines.

    A few tips:
    • Take care of the large, contiguous sections first, like the example to the right.
    • Zoom in close for detailed work near edges.
    • If a selection turns our wrong, click the Undo button to take a step back and try again.

  15. After you are satisfied with your selection, feather it so that it blends smoothly with the image into which it will be inserted. Feathering blends the edge pixels of the selection with the background.

    Commands:
    • Select > Feather
    • Enter 1 into Feather Radius. Generally 1 to 3 pixels are sufficient to blend two photos together. The better your selection, the less feathering will be required to blend it seamlessly.
    • Click OK

    You may not notice any changes on your screen after this command. If you enter a larger value for Feather Radius, you may notice the selection edges smooth out. Feathering will be noticeable when a selection is inserted into another image (covered on page 5).

  16. Save the selection so that you can bring it up later—required for the exercises on the last page.

    Commands:
    • Select > Save selection
    • In the Name box enter person
    • Click OK

    The selection is now saved with the image file. If you need to re-call this selection in the future, choose Select > Load Selection, choose the name of the selection, and OK.

  17. Save your work.

    Command: File > Save

You now have a complete selection of the person and dog. On the last page I will show you how to make use of this selection, but first, let us cover a few more techniques. Next page »