Image Extraction Using Channels in Photoshop

One of the most sought-after tutorial a Photoshop user needs to know is how to extract images, ranging from simple to the more complex one, like strands of blown hair, trees, and other images that has intricate edges. Dealing with backgrounds can be a headache also if it happens to be in different colors and hues. Flat, solid colors are the easy ones to work with, which is why most tutorials posted across the web uses this simple photos as their subject.

In this tutorial though, we will tackle the extraction work in a more detailed approach, and the use of the not-so-common Channels tool in Photoshop. Although I believe that the more advanced users of the program are very much familiar with this, especially with layer masking, and use this tool for their extraction work.






Step 1

First, it’s important to note that our image is in RGB mode, and that we will be sticking in this mode throughout the course of this tutorial. If you read Part 1 of this series (or if you are already familiar with channel basics), you will recall that every RGB image contains a Red, Green and Blue channel. Let’s start by analyzing the 3 channels to determine which one will provide the best starting point for extracting the model from the photograph. Here are the greyscale representations of each channel.

Red Channel

Red Channel

Green Channel

Green Channel

Blue Channel

Blue Channel

Since the hair is going to be the most challenging part of the extraction, what we are really looking for is the channel where we have the best contrast between the hair and the background. The red channel would probably work, but it’s a bit lighter than is really ideal, so we’ll scratch that one.
The blue and the green channels are pretty similar in terms of the contrast between the hair and the background, so either of those would probably work. However, I think that the blue channel is probably the better option, so let’s go ahead and duplicate it. You can do this by either right-clicking and selecting Duplicate Channel from the menu, or by dragging the blue channel down to the new icon in the channels palette.

Blue Channel Copy

Blue Channel Copy

Step 2

Now, with our duplicate blue channel selected, we are going to adjust the brightness and contrast. Select Image>Adjustments>Levels from the menu. For this image, I used the values below for the settings.
These numbers will vary drastically from photograph to photograph, but the basic idea is to adjust these values to the point where the background is white and most of the hair is black. The thin strands, however, should retain a certain amount of grey, as you can see in the screenshot above. Also, try to increase the contrast to the necessary minimum, since too much contrast can cause some of the finer details to vanish, and for some of the softer edges to become jagged and rasterized.


levels result

Now, the result is going pretty well. Let us enhance more the contrast by making the hair strands stand out and the background totally white. Afterwards, we’ll paint the image totally black. We will be using the Burn Tool and Paintbrush to do the blackening.


Step 3

In this step, we will make a selection of what we just made. To do so, press Ctrl + click on the blue copy channel. Marching ants will be seen as a result, signifying the selection is executed. Click the RGB channel to make it active, then turn off your blue channel for now.


Step 4

Next, switch back to your layers palette. Note that we have to inverse first our image before going to the next step, so go to Select>Inverse… This will result to white foreground (visible) and black background (not visible) as seen in the layer mask thumbnail that we will do next. Hence, with layer 0 (our original image) active, make a layer mask by clicking the mask icon below the layers palette. Here’s how it looks:

Layer Mask

Layer Mask

Selected image pasted into mask

Selected image pasted into mask

Step 5

Create a new layer now or open an image that will serve as your new background. Drag this below your existing layer. In my case, I just made a blue gradient as my background as seen below.

New BG

New BG

Image with new BG

Image with new BG

Step 6

Now it’s the finishing touches… Grab the Burn Tool and carefully brush away the fuzziness around the image especially the thin strands of hair. Don’t overdo it though to maintain some of the strands to its grayish state. Optionally, you can enhance the whole image by using the Curves in Image adjustments. Here is the final result :


Guava Face Photo Effect

Final Result Preview

In this tutorial, you will learn how to make someone’s face into a fruit, like a guava, in this case. Having this done, it’s fun to create your own version using your own or friends photos to amuse them. You can even make a fruit cartoon characters out of your friends if you’d like to. Cool, isn’t it? Let’s get started then…

What you will need:
1. Guava

2. Face Photo

Step 1 Open both the guava and face photos in Photoshop. After this, make a selection using the Lasso or Pen Tool out of the face, leaving the ears, hairs, and body behind because we don’t them (unless you opt to include it).

Step 2 Copy and paste the selected image into the guava, and then use the Free Transform Tool to resize and reposition it to fit well.

Your layers palette looks like this one upon pasting the face:

Step 3 Set the appropriate color balance adjustments depending on the image you use. What we’re trying to do here is to make the face color nearest to that of the guava’s.

Step 4 Grab your Eraser tool (soft brush, size:60 px, opacity:30), then erase out the edges until the cut fades and no remnants of the edges are seen. After this, remove the noise to eliminate the grainy effect of the image so as to make it softer.

Now, that’s looking pretty good eh!

Step 5 Click the “Create new fill or adjustment layer” icon below your layers palette and choose Hue/Saturation… Apply the following settings:

Step 6 Back to Layer 1. Grab your Burn Tool (range:midtones, opacity:30, soft brush:30 px) and then brush over the eyebrows, eyebugs, nostrils, below the nose, and below the lips. This will give more accent to the shades and enhancing the overall look.

Step 7 Finally, pick your Blur Tool and brush out a little bit more of that grainy effect to have a smoother and cleaner look of the image. Don’t overdo it to preserve the natural look. That’s it!

* This post can also be viewed at PSD Rules.

Colorful Image Typography


In this tutorial, we’re going to make a typographic poster from a simple photo using Photoshop techniques. I haven’t done something like this before despite the fact that I started doing typography both in GIMP and Photoshop. Filling out an image with different fonts appears so cool to me and it inspires me to do one.

The described effects look nice on portraits or any other images with good contrast and light background, but you can easily adjust the contrast and make the background lighter using the different tools and filters in Photoshop.

Step 1 : Choose your photo

In Adobe Photoshop, open your chosen image and adjust the contrast (Image>Adjustments>Brightness/Contrast…). The image used can be downloaded HERE.

Step 2 : Create various text brushes

Create a new document (File>New) in a size that’s smaller than your photo: the specifics don’t really matter. Press D to set the Foreground color to black. Use the Type tool (T) to type several different words in various fonts and sizes (in this case we used a person’s name). One at a time, draw a selection around each word with the Rectangular Marquee tool (M), and from the Edit menu, choose Define Brush Preset. Name each brush in the Brush Name dialog and click OK.

Step 3 : Selecting the shadows

Switch back to the photograph (Background layer). From the Select menu, choose Color Range. From the Select drop-down menu in the Color Range dialog, choose Shadows and click OK. (In our example, nothing in the background was selected. If parts of the background are selected in your photo, see the next step for removing those selected areas.)

Then, press Command-J (PC: Ctrl-J) to copy the selected pixels onto a new layer. Press Command-J (PC: Ctrl-J) to copy the selected pixels onto a new layer. Click back on the Background layer in the Layers panel to activate it.

Step 4 : Selecting the Midtones

Go back to the Select menu and choose Color Range again. From the Select drop-down menu in the Color Range dialog, choose Midtones and click OK. If (as in this example) some of the background is selected, use the Lasso tool (L) with the Option key (PC: Alt key) held down to circle the areas you don’t want selected. Then, press Command-J (PC: Ctrl-J) to copy the selected pixels onto a new layer.

Step 5 : Fill the layers with black and gray

Click the Eye icon next to the Background layer in the Layers panel to hide that layer from view. Click on the midtones layer (Layer 2) and from the Edit menu choose Fill. Use 50% Gray, check the Preserve Transparency box, and click OK. Then, activate the shadow layer (Layer 1) and use the Fill command again, except this time use Black with Preserve Transparency checked. You should have a very basic portrait made from black and 50% gray.

Step 6 : Fine-tune the results and merge down layers

If necessary, show the original Background (click where the Eye icon used to be) and use the Brush tool (B) to paint with black on the shadow layer, gray on the midtones layer, or use the Eraser tool (E) to completely remove areas. (Note: For gray, click on the Foreground color swatch, enter R:128, G:128, and B:128 in the Color Picker, and click OK.) In this example, we added a little more definition to the ears by painting with gray on the midtones layer. Once you’re satisfied, click on the top layer (the shadow layer) and press Command-E (PC: Ctrl-E) to merge it with the midtones layer.

Step 7 : Adjust brush settings and apply some texts

Click the Create a New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. Press D to set your default colors. Press Command-Delete (PC: Ctrl-Backspace) to fill the new layer with white. Choose one of your custom brushes from the Brush Picker in the Options Bar, and in the Brushes panel (Window>Brushes), click on the words “Brush Tip Shape.” Adjust the Spacing so there’s space between each word. Under Shape Dynamics, vary the size and rotation of the brush. As you paint on the white layer, experiment with the Shape Dynamics. Repeat with your other custom brushes. For now, just get some “text paint” on the layer—we’ll continue painting in a moment.

Step 8 : Copy the image

Create a new layer and drag it above the black-and-gray portrait layer. Press Command-Delete (PC: Ctrl-Backspace) to fill it with white. This will provide a white background behind our image. Hide all the layers except the black-and-gray portrait layer, and then click on that layer to make it active. Press Command-A (PC: Ctrl-A) to Select All and then Command-C (PC: Ctrl-C) to Copy.

Step 9 : Paste image into the layer mask

Show all layers and activate the layer with the painted words. Click on the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a layer mask. Hold down Option (PC: Alt) and click on the layer mask thumbnail (this will hide the painted text and show just the mask). Press Command-V (PC: Ctrl-V) to paste the copied pixels onto the mask. Press Command-D (PC: Ctrl-D) to Deselect. Press Command-I (PC: Ctrl-I) to Invert the mask (your mask should look like a negative of the black-and-gray pixel image that you pasted).

Step 10 : Add more texts with varying brushes

Activate the painted text layer (not the mask) by clicking on the layer thumbnail, and continue painting using the different custom brushes you created. You can also continue to experiment with the brush settings for Size, Spacing, and Shape Dynamics. (Although you don’t need a pressure sensitive pen for this technique, it sure helps!)

Step 11 : Add a new layer with random texts

The painted text will only appear inside the white and gray areas of the mask. To add a bit more randomness to the portrait, add a new layer above the painted text layer. Then use the same text brushes to add a few words here and there outside the boundaries of the mask.

Step 12 : Apply Gradient

With the image with layer mask active, click the New fill icon below the layers palette then select Gradient…Choose the yellow, red, blue gradient in the selection box, click Ok. Set blend mode to Overlay.

And here’s the final result:

Cattle Egret Watercolor Effect


Step 1
Create a new document 600×600 pixels and fill the background with a black color, then a radial gradient (white to orange). Rename this layer as “Background”.

Step 2
Make a selection out of the cattle egret below, copy and paste it into the newly-created layer, resize and reposition it using the Free Transform tool (Edit>Free Transform). Rename this layer as “Egret”.

Step 3
Download macbadshoes’ watercolor brushes. Select one of the brushes of the set and paint a red (or any color of your choice) into the duplicated background layer (Background copy), then set blend mode to Overlay, Opacity and Fill to 100.

Step 4
Create a new layer group and name it “Watercolor”. Switch back to Background copy layer.Use any shaped brush to paint a large watercolor orange or light red to this layer, then paint it and change its Blend Mode to Linear Light, Opacity and Fill to 80.

Step 5
Under the group layer “Watercolor”, create a new layer (by default, this is Layer 1). Select a big dry brush or the one we’ve just used. Try different shapes and opacity. Paint randomly over the bird with different colors. When done, click Watercolor layer then set blend mode to Linear Light, Opacity 80.

This is how it looks now:

Step 6
Merge Watercolor group layer (with the Watercolor group layer highlighted, right-click, then select Merge Group…). After this, go to Filters > Filter Gallery > Artistic > Dry Brush, set the values shown below and see how it looks.

Step 7
For some finishing touches, grab a big soft brush and paint the edges of the image to make a reddish orange vignette.

Step 8
Add your desired text, I’m using Parchment and Eras Light ITC here.

Step 9
Finally, merge all visible layers, then apply Hue/Saturation using the Create New Fill. Set Blend Mode to Overlay.

Here’s the expected final result:

Parchment Font Text Effect

The Parchment Font is an eye-catching, classical font originated from the Old French and late Middle English times. Derived from the ancient form of writing material like the skin (parch), yellowish paper of old, and others of this type. Bringing back the old glory like this one just interested me so much and, as such, my pleasure to share this back to life.



Linear Burn




Step 1

Make a new document, 500×500 pixels, fill it with a gray paper pattern (Edit>Fill>Pattern…). You may fill it with a plain gray color as alternative, if you prefer to. When done, duplicate this layer.

Step 2

Add noise (Filter>Noise>Add Noise…),render clouds (Filter>Render>Clouds…), then Gaussian Blur (Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur…) with the following settings:

Step 3

Grab the Text Tool and type letter “T” (or any letter of your preference). A “T layer” is created as a result and the image is like this:

Step 4

It’s time to apply the layer styles. With the text layer still active, click the “fx” icon below the layers palette then set the following:

After applying the above layer styles, the result would be something like this now:

Step 5

Go back to Layer 1 copy and we’ll make a little bit of enhancement, because our background is dull. So, click Create new fill icon (that half-shaded circle) then select Gradient…

Copper Gradient

Step 6

Now, activate the text layer (the topmost layer), then click once more the Create new fill icon. This time, select Pattern then choose the brown skin.

Note: I’ve uploaded a skin pattern here then loaded it in the Patterns (Edit>Define Pattern) lists.

Mode: Hard Light

Here is the outcome, another variant of the images shown above: