Step-by-Step Photoshop Selections and Layers Tutorial

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A lot of the fun and challenge Photoshop combining images together. Our object in this lesson is to select the girl and put her into the window. Take a close look at the girl first. Using the Lasso selection tool could work but it would be tedious to outline her. Now notice the background. She stands in front of a blue wall and a brown floor with a small kickboard at the intersection. A black line also outlines the floor. For the most part each of the objects are the same color. By using the Magic Wand tool we can select the color of each object. Using the correct tolerance range is important when using the Magic Wand tool. By remembering that there are different shades of say the color be will help guide you. Take for instance the girls pants. If the Magic Wand tool is set to high then when you click on the background the pants may be selected. Let’s experiment. From the menu choose File/Open and locate the CD on your hard drive and open the image file girl.jpg. While you are at it open the window.jpg image too.

1. Double click on the Magic Wand tool. By double clicking on this tool Photoshop will bring up the Option palette for that tool.
2. Set the tolerance to 100 and then place the cursor in the blue background area and click once. You will see that the selection will include a part of the girls pants because the color brightness range of the Magic Wand too is set too high.
3. Now go back to the Magic Wand palette and set the tolerance range to 32.
4. Next go the menu and choose Select>Deselect to take away what you selected a moment ago.
5. Click in the blue background again and the program will select just a part of the blue background that is in the brightness range for the tolerance you set.

Take a moment to yourself to let this momentous procedure to sink in. You have just selected a part of the image that is vital to getting the job done. When you are ready you need to add to your conception. All of the blue wall is not selected yet. Photoshop had these things in mind when they were writing the programming for this inevitable turn of events.

6. Without doing anything yet, let’s think as if we are in a programmers mind. (Yeah, It’s difficult because we don’t want to stay there for fear of having no right brain but we do need to understand how this program operates before we can use it) The programmers foresaw that Photoshop users would want to add to their selections because in many cases a color can not be chosen in one click. Thinking in these terms then a way to add to a selection with the Magic Wand tool would be by holding a key on the keyboard that usually represents adding to or making larger. They chose the Shift key for a sensible reason and we can all be thankful for their wisdom. This key is often used with other selection tools to add to a selection as you will see in future lessons.

7. Place the cursor in the blue background area that is not selected and while holding down the Shift key you will see a small plus (+) sign next to the tool. This symbolizes that you are telling Photoshop to add to your selection. Now click once. Be sure not to click more then once because you may delete or change the selection. If you do click once to many times, here is what you will want to do. Go to the menu and choose Edit/Undo.

8. The rest of the blue background should be selected.

9. If you see any stray areas of selection then you will need to hold the shift key down and click on them too. It is likely that you will have to enlarge the area to make sure that the cursor is directly inside the stray selection. If so, go to the Magnifying tool and place the cursor at the upper left area of the stray selection. Press down on the mouse and drag to the lower right of the stray selection. You will see another selected area drawn. Don’t be alarmed. This is a different type of selection called a Zoom marquee. When you have reached your lower point with the zoom tool release the mouse. The image on your screen will redraw to the a higher magnification.

10. After you have added to your selection by pressing the Shift key and clicking on the stray areas you may want to zoom back to full view. To do this double-click on the hand tool in the tool bar and the image will reduce and fit full frame inside your monitor screen.

Let’s take a moment to review. You have discerned that the girl needs to be selected but see that the background maintains a constant color in many areas and have started to select it with the tolerance tool. After your initial selection you have added more selection by holding down the shift key and clicking and then you have learned to navigate in Photoshop by using the Magnifying tool efficiently. Nice work. Let’s go on.

11. We now have the blue background completely selected but the floor and kickboard is not. You got it! Go ahead and hold down the shift key again and click once on the floor.

12. Most of the brown floor around the girl is now selected along with the blue background but there are still missing areas that need attention. The kickboard on the sides and between the pants need to be selected. Be sure to make a zoom marquee wherever the stray selections are and then shift-click on them.

To help you navigate more use the hand tool. Certainly, you could go back and forth from the Hand tool to the Magic Wand tool to the Hand tool but that is cumbersome. The Adobe programmers helped us again by giving another keyboard shortcut to access the Hand tool. While you have the Magic Wand tool selected you can access the Hand tool by holding down the Spacebar on the keyboard. Notice that the cursor changes to the Hand tool when you do this. Now at the same time hold down the mouse button and drag for a test drive on your new navigable controlled cruise. You are now in control. Whenever you hold the spacebar down the Hand tool is activated. This happens with any tool you may be using at the time.

13. The entire background around the girl should be selected now. From here we do a reverse or as the Adobe people call an inverse. Whatever it is. It does work like a charm. Take your mouse to the menu and to Select/Inverse and watch your original selection background around the girl take form around her alone.

14. Take a closer look by going to the menu and Edit/Undo a couple of times. This will help you visualize that the selection (they really look like crawling ants, huh?) outline is around the entire image and the girl signifying that the background around her is active and when you Edit/Undo the selection is around her alone making her the active selected area.

15. Now that we have the girl entirely selected we can copy her to the Clipboard for use further along in this lesson. The Clipboard is an area that you can not see on your computer that Photoshop saves files to. The Clipboard is usually regarded as your short term memory or Random Access Memory (RAM). Go to the menu and choose Edit/Copy. This will put your active selection into the Clipboard.

Take a deep breath and get ready for the next moves. Earlier we opened the window.jpg image. If you haven’t do now by going to the menu and choosing Edit/Open and find the window.jpg on the CD. Our mission is to put the girl inside the open window and behind the glass in the window too. You say I never said that? Well you’re right. I didn’t want things to get confusing or difficult more than you may think they may be. Follow along closely here and I will lead you through step-by-step.

16. Take your time. I know this is not a step but let go and get serious and play.

17. Make sure the window.jpg is your active image. To be sure go the menu and choose Window and look to the bottom of that scroll and see which image has the check mark next to it. This is also a helpful way to locate files that are open but hidden behind other open image files. You can also tell at a glance if an image is open if the title bar and type is darkened. The girl image should be lightened now.

18. With the Magic Wand tool again and the setting at a tolerance of 32 click once inside the open window. Click only where there is no glass first. We will take care of rest of the image in a moment.

19. To understand the complexity of Paste and Paste Into we will first do this step incorrectly. There are some that are anxious and I can not blame you because this is a fun program. If you are in a hurry to get going than go the quick lesson review at the end of the chapter for a fast lesson with no quips from me. Those of you that want to really understand this program, do look at this as a way to really comprehend the concept of how things must go. To be creative the tools a person uses must be commanded. Like a photographer that spends much time on practicing with apertures and shutter speeds to get creative with a camera or a person learning French needs to know the language structure to speak fluently then just as a digital imager with Photoshop needs a firm grasp of the program. Only then will the imagination run freely while working and hardly thinking of how to do a certain function. Enough of the pep talk. Go to the menu bar and choose Edit/Paste and watch what happens next.

20. The girl that we copied to the Clipboard earlier is pasted in front of the window scene now. We want her inside the window where we selected earlier. Go to Edit/Undo. It is important to note that whenever there is an active selection then that is the only area that can be worked with at the time.

21. Now go to Edit/Paste Into and see that the program will insert the image from the Clipboard inside the selected area.

22. You created a layer. “A what?” you may say. A layer is an image on top of another image. You may of seen how cartoonist draw an image of say a person on clear acetate and then draw another object like a tree on another clear piece of acetate. Well, that is what layers is like. Each image is cut out by itself and added to the others making a composite or whole image. When you pasted the girl from the Clipboard then Photoshop automatically makes a new layer.

23. Take a look a your new layer. Go the menu and choose Window/Show Layers. If it already says hide layers then it already open on your monitor screen. It should have a tab on it that says Layers. Click on it once and it will come up. You will see the new layer on top of the window. Perfect! That is where we want it.

24. Notice that there is an eyeball next to each layer. That signifies that that layer can be seen. Try clicking once on that eyeball and it is dimmed and the image goes away. Nifty, hmm? When you see that a layer is highlighted in dark and that it has a brush icon next to it means that that layer is the active layer. It most case you can only work on one layer at a time but there are things that can link layers and merge them that we will learn later.

25. You may only see a part of the girl inside the window. Don’t worry we can adjust that with the Move tool. At the top upper right in the tool bar is the Move tool. Click once on it and bring the cursor into the image area. Now click and hold down on the mouse and move it around. The image of the girl moves with your mouse.

26. Place the girl with just her torso showing in the open window. Seems strange I’m sure but trust me on this. We will make this image look like she is looking out of the glass window.

27. To make your art work look realistic it is essential to select the area you want accurately. If you don’t, then stray areas and outline of objects will be obtrusive. A sign of professional work does not have questionable selected areas. By enlarging your work area with the Zoom tool you will be using Photoshop to your advantage by doing detail work. Now go to the Zoom tool and draw a Zoom Marquee from the top left to the bottom right of the glass window to enlarge it.

28. At the upper left corner of the Toolbar is the tool we will work with next. This is the Marquee tool and it comes in different shapes to choose from. Take your mouse and click and hold down on that tool button. Here you will see a number of shapes including the Crop tool. We are looking for the Rectangular Marquee tool. Release on that tool and it will be selected.

29. Before you click notice the two parts of the glass window separated by a wooden horizontal frame. Take note that there is a shadow from the horizontal wooden frame that you will want to include in this selection. Place the cursor inside the upper left of the lower glass window area. That is a mouthful, huh? If you got this then go on to the next step. OK, for clarity place the cursor inside the smaller lower window. Then adjust it at the upper left corner of it and hold down on the mouse and drag to the lower right end of the window pane only. Avoid the wooden area of the window.

30. After you have drawn your selection from the top left to the lower right of the window pane and have released you will see a new selection area. This is your new selection. We are still not finished because we want to include the top window to put the girl into. To do this a similar procedure you used earlier will be utilized. Remember what function adds to a selection? If you guess holding the Shift key then go ahead and throw away this book....Just kidding. There’s more to play with as we go.

31. With the Rectangular Marquee tool again and while holding down the Shift key on the keyboard drag an area in the open curtain area of the top window glass area. It does not have to be precise. Just be sure though that you include all of the open area between the curtains and come down to the horizontal wooden window frame. You can start at the left top and draw down to the right ending at the window frame or start at the window frame and drag up and over.

32. We now should have two selection areas in the window. If you don’t, go over the last few steps again carefully.

33. There is one important thing remaining to do before we paste. The window layer has to be active in order for Photoshop to read the selection .Most likely the layer that is active is the last layer that was pasted: the first girl layer. Be sure to click on the background layer showing the window before you go to the next step. You might want to experiment and do a Edit/Paste Into first just to see what will happen. By seeing mistakes and understanding then will help in knowing when things go awry. Deciding when to choose your layer beforehand is something you will learn to do as you acquire more time with Photoshop. There are times that it is easier to choose a selected area from another layer in order to help you outline and edit the image.

Choose Edit/Paste Into and the girl that is still in temporary memory of the Clipboard is now inside the two windows.

34. Notice that the layers window updated this recent action. We now have two image of the girl in layers of their own. Next, go to the Move tool and place it inside the active layer and drag her into place to the same position of the first girl that you pasted earlier. Her head should be showing through the window.

TIP...Use the arrow keys to nudge her into place. The image will move one pixel at when you press the key. By using the shift key the image will move in increments of 10 pixels.

35. It now look that the girl is behind the window but it lacks realism. The girl’s face behind the window should be translucent or a little opaque. Photoshop has the answer. Make sure that the most recent layer you pasted (the middle layer because a paste always goes on top of the layer that it is pasted to) is active. In the layer palette at the upper right there is an opacity setting. Click on that setting and drag it to 50%. Like magic your image is opaque and partly transparent within the window image. You did it!

TIP.....You can set the opacity by pressing the numbers on the keyboard. Try pressing 3 for 30% or 8 for 80%. Pressing 0 will make it 100%

For extra credit paint the bulbs different colors (one way is to use a paint brush in a Color Blending mode at about 70% opacity). You may also want to experiment with changing the red color of the window awning (one way is to select the awning with the Rectangle Selection tool and then choose Image > Adjustments > Replace Color. Then use the eyedroppers to isolate the red before moving the Hue slider to change the color).

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