Cutting Out With the Lasso

Now it's easier than ever before to cut out an object from the background of a photo, thanks to the vastly improved Lasso tool with editable control points. When you want to cut something out and it's not practical to use the Magic Wand, the most efficient way to accomplish the task is to make a Lasso selection and follow up with the Eraser tool.

I'm going to cut this water lily out from the background. Right click and save it to follow along.

Select the Lasso tool in the Tool Panel. Note that in the PI8 the Attributes toolbar for the Lasso tool is different than in previous versions. Note especially the Line, Node and Freeline options and their associated color boxes. Once you make your selection, it will consist of FreeLines (aqua) and purple Nodes (control points). After completing the selection, you'll be able to drag on its nodes to fine tune the selection. You can change these colors if necessary by clicking in the related Color boxes.

For this excercise, select "Snap to edges" and edit the Sensitivity value to its highest possible value of 10. Zoom in to 200% to see better. Begin making a selection along the edges of the water lily, as shown below. Don't be concerned about making a perfect selection right now.

start selecting edges

You'll probably notice that with the image magnified to 200%, you can't view the entire image in the work space. Select as much as you can, then double click to complete the selection. Important: In the Attributes toolbar, click Finish. Then from the Attributes toolbar's Mode options, click the plus (+) button to enter "Change an existing selection by addition."

Drag the scroll bars in the image window so you can see the rest of the image. Position the Lasso where you finished off on the first part of the selection. Continue making your selection around the edges of the water lily. When you reach the beginning of the first selection, drag across its selection line in the middle of the flower and double click to finish. If you are working on a very small monitor screen, you may have to make another selection to finish selecting the entire flower. Don't forget to click Finish to finish your selection.

finish making selection

As you can see in the screen shot above, it's not a flawless selection. There are places where some of the green lily pad background has been selected in error, and places where I've selected the water lily.

Click Editing in the Attributes toolbar to enter Edit mode. The Attributes toolbar will look different. You'll notice that the Path Edit tool will be selected in the Attributes toolbar. That's because the Lasso creates a Path with editable control points, or nodes. You can select, add or delete control points for editing.

path edit mode

In the Edit point section, make sure "Pick point" is selected. Drag on the control points around the flower to tweak the selection. (Some people have reported that when the Path Edit tool is selected, their Attributes toolbar options are grayed out. If that happens to you, click on the Lasso selection tool once, then back to the Path Edit tool and your Attributes toolbar options should re-appear)

Each time you select a control point, you will display two smaller squares on the ends of "fulcrums," which you can drag on to reshape curves. Add or Delete nodes as needed; just remember to return to "Pick point" before you try to edit newly added nodes. You can see how the nodes (or control points) have been edited to refine the selection in the Before and After screen shots below.



Continue editing all the way around the selection. When you're done, click Toggle in the Attributes toolbar. Take a good hard look at the selection. Click Toggle to return to Editing mode to further tweak, if necessary. When you're satisfied with the selection, click Toggle to return to Selection mode. You should have a pretty accurate selection.

edited selection

Right click, Convert to Object. Choose View and deselect "Base Image" (or hit Ctrl+F5). You'll get a warning box that says "You are about to hide the base image and show the web background. To show the base image again, press Ctrl+F5 or click this same command." Click OK.

The base image will disappear. You'll see the gray and white checkerboard pattern signififyng a transparent background. Select the Object Paint Eraser from the Tool Panel. Erase any stray bits of background from the object, cleaning up the edges.

erase around edges

You will have to edit the brush to a very small size to get into the nooks and crannies of the flower. I had to go as small as 1 pixel with a Soft edge value of 2 to get into corners. Zoom in even closer than 200% if you need to. Click "Recover" in the Attributes toolbar to recover bits of the object which you have erased in error. Remember to deselect "Recover" to continue erasing. Eventually you will have a very cleanly cut out object.

finished object

To check how this object will look in another base image, hit Ctrl+D to make a duplicate of the base image and object. With the duplicate active, hit Enter to deactivate the object. Then hit Ctrl+F5 to show the base image again. Don't be concerned if it looks like your object disappeared. It's still there. With black as your background color, hit the Delete key. This will fill the base image with black. Any glaring errors will show up immediately.

cut out against black

Close out the duplicate. If you need to, return to the original. Hit Ctrl+F5 to hide the base image again, and continue refining the edges of the object with the eraser.

After you've done all the work of cutting out an object, you might as well save it for future use in in the EasyPalette. If you want its EasyPalette thumbnail background to be white, make sure that white is your background color before proceeding. With the Pick tool drag the object onto your EasyPalette. Doing so will open the Add to EasyPalette dialog box.

save to easypalette

Name the object and save it to My Library (or a custom Library). Now you have an endless supply of fresh copies of this object. You can add it to any image simply by dragging from its thumbnail onto a base image. Below, the object has been added to two different photos.

object added to photo

add to statue photo

This tutorial uploaded 12/13/02

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