Knowing how to cut out people can be one of the most challenging photo editing techniques you can learn. In this tutorial we show you how to cut out people in just six easy steps using the Refine Edge tool.
One of the great things about digital imaging is the ability it gives you to combine several images. Master a few simple compositing skills and you can transport subjects to distant destinations or build a group photo from several people who’ve never met.
But to make a composite look convincing you need accurate cutouts. When cutting out people, the most problematic part is usually the hair, where the background often shows through the gaps. Luckily, there are a couple of Photoshop tools that can do much of the work for you.
Introduced in Elements 11, Refine Edge is the most powerful tool for making cutouts that Adobe has ever produced. It’s not a selection tool, but a command that enables you to improve an existing selection by, as the name suggests, refining its edge.
If you’re new to Refine Edge, the controls can seem complex, but master a few fundamentals and it quickly becomes the go-to tool when you need make a precise cutout.
How to cut out people using Refine Edge: steps 1-3
01 Select the background
Download our start files and follow along! Open cut_out_before.jpg. Grab the Magic Wand tool, make sure Contiguous is checked and set Tolerance to about 21 in the Tool Options. Click on the grey background to begin a selection. Hold Shift and click around the background to select it all. Include the gaps in the hair and hands.
02 Open Refine Edge
Go to Select>Inverse to select the model istead of the background, then go to Select>Refine Edge. Hit F to toggle different view options within Refine Edge until you find one that gives the best view of the selection edge. Check Smart Radius and increase Radius to 1px.
03 Adjust the radius
Check Show Radius, and experiment by dragging the Radius slider up and down, changing the size of the edge. The refinement occurs in this area; anywhere outside it is left untouched. Grab the Refine Radius tool and paint over the edge of the hair to increase the area of refinement.
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