Photo editing basics: working with layers

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

Pluck Out the Subject With Basic Selection Tools

If you have an older version of Photoshop Elements (one that lacks the Magic Extractor) or another program altogether, you'll need to isolate the subject by hand. As long as your image editor has some sort of selection tool, though, you can get similar results. Just follow these steps.

In older versions of Photoshop Elements, activate the Magnetic Lasso Tool, and then choose a small feather value (the higher the photo's resolution, the more feathering you'll want). Next, click on an edge of your subject and slowly move the tool along the edge. The "magnetic" property of the tool will snap the selection to the edge as you go. At certain points, you may need to click to lock in a key point, especially around sharp curves or areas of low contrast. If you make a mistake, press the Delete key. When you get all the way around, double-click to close the selection. Choose Edit, Copy, and then choose Layer, New, Layer via Copy. You'll have a new, blank layer containing your selected subject.

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