Using Masks to Erase Backgrounds From Photos

Title image made using My Life of Happiness TDD member exclusive kit

Extraction is one of those digi tricks that I love the look of, but I rarely do because it can be time consuming. Jacki did a great post about extracting a photo using the magic eraser tool. This gives you a true extraction — the subject is fully separated from its background.

Today I’m going to show you a quick way to do a “faux” extraction that is very forgiving if you accidentally erase too much. By working with a layer mask, you can hide the background, or bring it back, by simply painting on the mask.

Here is the image I started with (converted to black and white):

Sample Photo

I added a mask by going to the layers palette and selecting button that looks like a square with a circle in the middle. By doing that it, a mask appears beside the photo. like this:

Layer Mask Screen Shot

First, it is important to make sure that the mask is active and not the photo by clicking on the mask once in the layers palette.

Next, I used a brush to “paint out” the portions of the image that should disappear. The mask itself is white, so it is easy to remember that “white reveals and black conceals”. I used a soft black brush to paint out the the background.

Sometimes I accidentally hid too much, so I switched my brush to white and painted those portions back in. In this way, the mask is very easy to work with because none of the edits to the mask are permanent. You can also switch to a small, hard brush to refine the edges even more, if you want a very precise extraction.

This faux-extraction worked for my page and I didn’t have to spend very long on the process, which is always a good thing for me!

. You Make My Heart Sing

Do you already use masks for extractions? If not, is this something you might try out?