Photo editing basics: working with layers

Learn how to use layers in your favourite image editor to improve your photos and add sophisticated effects.

Punch Out the Subject With Magic Extractor

Another common way to use layers is to "punch out" (that is, remove) the subject from one photo and insert it into another. The subject and the background, of course, will exist as separate layers. First, we'll use Photoshop Elements' Magic Extractor to do this the easy way. This feature lets you select the subject (the foreground) and the background; then it automatically punches out the subject for you.

Open a photo, and choose Image, Magic Extractor. The Foreground Brush tool is automatically selected; you'll use this to identify your subject. It's important to mark regions that change color so the Magic Extractor will recognize that they're still part of the main subject. When you're done highlighting the subject, click the icon for the Background Brush Tool and paint sections around the subject to indicate the parts of the photo you don't need. If you make a mistake, use the Point Eraser Tool to undo any unwanted marks. When you think you've adequately marked your photo, click Preview. You can continue painting with the Foreground and Background tools if necessary, and make corrections with the eraser. When you're done, click OK, and the subject will appear on its own. From here, you can copy it into another photo or add a custom background to it.

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