Graphic Design / Interactive Design / Fine & Applied Arts / Parkland College

Graphic Design Exercises
Photoshop: Background Swap


To be introduced to Photoshop's silhouetting, masking and effects tools. To recreate the above composite image by example (also see Photoshop WOW Book pp 628-634).


Cut out an image, composite image with another image. Adjust color, lighting, grain.


practice cutting out the background

  1. download starter files
  2. open "girl.jpg" in Photoshop, save as "girl.psd"
  3. practice Adobe navigation keyboard shortcuts: space = hand; space + cmd = zoom in; space + cmd + opt = zoom out; cmd + zero = fit in window
  4. duplicate "background" layer 3x, rename "lasso, "magnetic lasso", "extract" (reveal only one layer at a time)
  5. CAP LOCK=precise cursor
  6. magnetic lasso tool: single-click a starting point; DELETE removes anchors; single-click adds an anchor; double-clicking will close the selection; use quickmask mode to retouch
  7. lasso tool: hold down OPT, single-click adds an anchor, release OPT to close selection; DELETE removes anchors; use quickmask mode to retouch
  8. select > save selection

extracting the background

  1. go to "extract" layer, hide others (OPT-click eye)
  2. filter > extract
  3. edge highlighter tool (use smart highlighting for sharp edges): highlight the edge of the image (hold OPT to erase highlighting)
  4. fill tool: fill the center of the image (this protects the image)
  5. smooth value=100
  6. choose preview, choose green matte
  7. use the cleanup tool to remove extra background (hold OPT to add image) (choose [ or ] to change brush size) (type a number to change pressure)
  8. load selection (cmd+click thumbnail)
  9. add layer mask (flyout menu)
  10. retouch mask (if needed)

compositing the images

  1. open "bg.jpg"
  2. move tool: drag extracted images onto "bg.jpg"
  3. save as "composite.psd"
  4. image > adjust > match color (source="bg.jpg", fade=75)
  5. filter > render > lighting effects
  6. load selection (cmd+click thumbnail)
  7. add "levels" adjustment layer (flyout menu): darken
  8. lighten right side of background: add adjustment layer, add layer mask, paint gradient on layer mask (round)

add noise

  1. new layer "noise", edit > fill: 50% gray
  2. move to above "background" layer
  3. layer mode=overlay (gray becomes invisible)
  4. filter > noise > add noise


  1. print a color proof with your name on it for grading
  2. file your graded proof in your 3-ring binder for individual review

Last updated: 3/2/17 ■ Webmaster: Paul Young