Photoshop Compositing: Masking & Cutting Out Subjects

(Last Updated On: December 20, 2019)
Photoshop Compositing

Product photographers, web designers, portraitists and wedding photographers often need to remove the background from an image, but cutting out and masking subjects can be a real challenge.

Instructor Aaron Nace, founder of PHLEARN, is a Photoshop master who slowly and carefully teaches you to create beautiful photo composites. When you complete this tutorial, you’ll have the skills you need to do a professional job of cutting out any subject, no matter how complex.

Photoshop Compositing Tutorial

Throughout the course, Aaron shows you how to save time by using keyboard shortcuts and Photoshop hacks. The videos can be played at a variety of speeds, so you can learn at your own pace, and he completes each task in real time, so you can work along with him, practicing as you learn.

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Tools and Techniques

The course begins with an introduction to the selection tools and options. Aaron goes through the tools one by one, selecting a subject and then refining the selection so that all the edges are clean.

You’ll learn to use the magic wand tool, the lasso and magnetic lasso tools, the refine edge tool and the blur tool, and you’ll master the use of the pen tool, using it with paths to make super clean selections.

One section gives you a complete introduction to the brush tool’s multitude of options and shows you how to create custom brushes for specific tasks. You’ll learn to make quick selections using color range, channels and clipping masks.

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Combining Tools to Get the Job Done

Now that you have a good understanding of the tools, Aaron shows you how to use them in combination to cut-out a variety of subjects, from logos and graphics to a baby and a dog.

You’ll learn to use the pen tool for hard edges, the magic wand or color channels for quick selections and how to use the lock transparency option to deselect pixels, easily cleaning up edges to create realistic cut-outs.

Photoshop Compositing

It’s All in the Details

The difference between a rough cut-out and a professional composite is in the details — the soft fuzz around a cat’s ear, the shadows a product creates on a solid background, and most challenging of all, the strands of hair that may be blowing in the breeze from a model’s head.

These sections combine all the techniques and skills you’ve learned so far to create flawless composites.

Photoshop Compositing

Aaron devotes three sections to cutting out animals, showing you how to fill in fur with the clone stamp tool, the blur tool and custom brushes, and how to create whiskers with the pen tool.

Because cutting out human hair is so tricky, he devotes five full sections to the many ways of tackling the problem, using channels and a variety of tools, such as duplicate layers and layer blend modes, the brush and pen tools, clipping masks and the clone stamp.

This tutorial will teach you to master Photoshop’s powerful tools to create precision masks and composite photos that look as though they came straight from the camera. Head over to our Photoshop guide for more information on available courses and tutorials for all levels.

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