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Whitening Backgrounds

1. jonfletch4 March 2010, 16:07 GMT +01:00


I have some images taken against a white backdrop and the backgrounds aren't white enough. I am having mixed results in getting this sorted. I have tried using lighting and colour corrections; to no avail. I did have some success on one image by using the magic extraction tool and dropping in a white background, but on some images, the line between background and object are quite 'obvious'. I couldn't find a tutorial on the net. I use Elements. Thanks in advance for any help.

2. xymonau4 March 2010, 23:54 GMT +01:00

I don't have Photoshop. If the edges are clear enough, can you use a paint fill? (Usually the icon is a little paint can tipped over.) That often works for me.

The best way is to extract the object - not easy on some images - turn it into an object, very slightly blur or feather the edges, and drag it into a new blank background.

3. jonfletch5 March 2010, 0:39 GMT +01:00

Hello again! I tried using the paint fill, but the edges of the object needed tidying up and that is what seemed to make the edges look obvious. I also managed to extract the image ok, but I have not used the blur or feather - that might be where I am going wrong, I will try it later tonight.

I also have a cheap tablet, I find it quite difficult to use but I guess it is worth persevering with?

Thanks again Dez. It is for the easter competition so I will credit you when I win ;-)

4. dlritter5 March 2010, 1:28 GMT +01:00

If you can send an example file to me I'll see what can be done with the background.

It is generally a bad idea to post email addresses in public forums like this.

Use the contact link in my profile to email me and I'll reply back with a real email address.


5. xymonau5 March 2010, 5:10 GMT +01:00

Dave is the expert.

I don't know the various ways things can be isolated in Photoshop, but I assume they are all a bit similar. If there is a way to click around the edges rather than using something like the magic wand, which will follow the colours of the pixels, and give you a rough edge if the image isn't really crisp, then do that. In PhotoImpact, you can then expand or shrink the edge to get in from the pixellated edge, then select that area as an object.

6. jonfletch5 March 2010, 11:59 GMT +01:00

Thanks, I have sent a few to Dave to work his magic. So many of the images here make you think that editing software must be easy to use - it is not!

7. xymonau6 March 2010, 22:28 GMT +01:00

It takes a few years of fairly constant use before you are familiar with all the capabilities, and if you have a rest for a while you become rusty. I didn't upload elsewhere for a very long time, and I have to scratch my head to find things now.

8. crisderaud8 March 2010, 2:36 GMT +01:00

There is a two-fold approach to obtaining the pure white background: taking the shot then editing the shot.

When taking the shot, make sure the paper you are using for the background is pure bright white. Turn your lights you are using onto the paper and take a shot of the white paper. Use that shot to set a custom white balance on your dslr so you get proper color correction. Set the exposure metering mode to spot metering so that the object is metered and not the background. Set up your object and put nearly all your light onto the white background. Let enough light spill onto the object so that you get the color and detail. Take the shot with a tripod and remote shutter switch. Repeat the shot in steps of exposure towards brighter as the recommended exposure setting by your camera meter may be too dark. Then you can choose the best from the bunch and don't have to try to adjust it with the editing software.

The magic wand can give you the jagged sharp edge look to the selection. Make sure you adjust the tolerance level of the magic wand tool. Default is 32 but you may find that selection to be too much and selecting deep into the object when you click on the white. You get a lot softer, natural edge with the tolerance set at 5 to 12. Clean up you selection by pressing Q for quick mask to get the ruby lithe overlay and use the brush tool to clean up the quick mask by using black and white for the brush colors to add or subtract to the quick mask.

When the quick mask is precisely along your selection press Q again to remove the quick mask and see the marching ants. Use the refine edge feature to soften the selection. Inverse the selection so you are selecting the background. Fill with white.

Your more accurate and sophisticated way to do this process is not to use the selection tools or magic wands but instead learn how to do alpha channel masks. You have much more control over the results. I'm not sure if the newest Adobe Elements allows you to do that. Photoshop CS4 is well equipped with masking features that CS3 does not have.

There is one more labor intensive way to select. Using a 10 to 15 pixel, 95 percent hardness white brush, zoom in real close and lay the edge of the brush against the edge of the object. Click to make a white dot. Hold down the shift key and keep it held down. A short distance from the first white dot, lay the edge of the brush circle up against the object and click again. If you were still holding the shift key you will see the two clicks were connected by a straight white line. Continue moving around the object clicking against the edge of the object while holding the shift key. You will eventually draw a white line all the way around the object that cuts it out from the background. Erase everything to the outside of the white line and your object will be cut out. When zoomed out, all the straight white lines connecting the clicks will look curved and smooth. It goes pretty quickly once you get the hang of it.

9. crisderaud8 March 2010, 3:21 GMT +01:00

Here is a video tutorial at Adobe: http://www.adobe.com/designcenter/photoshopelements/articles/lrvid2323_pse.html

This video is provided by Lynda.com and there are quite a few available at the link below the video or you can join Lynda.com on a monthly basis and watch as many as you can for a reasonable cost.

10. mzacha8 March 2010, 8:10 GMT +01:00

Maybe this will help?

11. jonfletch8 March 2010, 14:13 GMT +01:00

Thanks very much for the help. I think the point about getting the image right in the first place is probably where I am going wrong - I hadn't thought about the white balance.

dlritter kindly offered to help and I emailed him some images. He did exactly what I wanted with one of the images by creating a mask of the background. I had a go at that last night but without much success, I got a bit annoyed with it!

I'll have another go at the masks and have a look at the other suggestions tonight.


12. crisderaud8 March 2010, 15:29 GMT +01:00

Get this book from Amazon.com:

Photoshop Elements 8 One-on-One (One-on One) by Deke McClelland

It has the solutions to the questions you are looking for spelled out in an easy to follow format. You'll be amazed at how much there is to know about Elements after looking through this book.

13. jonfletch8 March 2010, 19:38 GMT +01:00

Thank you. I have elements 5; are there many differences between the versions? I imagine they will be quite similar.

14. crisderaud8 March 2010, 20:23 GMT +01:00

I had Elements 5 many years ago. You are running at less than half throttle.

Upgrade to Elements 8 and buy that specific book and your output quality will take a giant leap forward. Well worth the investment.

15. jonfletch8 March 2010, 23:32 GMT +01:00

thank you, ordered both!

16. Berenika26 April 2010, 17:44 GMT +02:00

@10 Michal, very useful link. thanks for sharing it :-)

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