Monday, January 19, 2009

Photoshop Tips for Elements

Blurred Backgrounds and Color Cutout Photographs

Now that the Holidays are over I know you have tons of new photos to scrapbook. The problem with Christmas photos though is that so many of them are busy with all the family and wrapping paper in the backgrounds that the photos end up being a mélange of colors taking away from the subject you are photographing. A good way to resolve this issue is with a simple Gaussian Blurred Background or a Color Cutout technique. There are many other things you can do using this same technique such as sepia background with color, black and white, blurred, and solid backgrounds. You just have to use your imagination. I hope you give this a try and if you do share it with us under the Photography section of the Message Board.

Blurred Background Photos

I am going to start with adding a Gaussian Blur to the background of this photo. I love how my daughter is looking at her present. She looks so sweet and excited but the craziness of everyone opening presents is taking away from her.



  1. Go to Layer > Duplicate Layer(do this twice because the original layer is locked and you will be doing 2 different steps.)
  2. Select the top layer then go to Image >Magic Extractor (Magic Extractor allows you to select part of an image so that you may alter the photo without changing that part.)
  3. First you will want to select the first tool called the Foreground Brush tool.This tool allows you to select the portion of the photo that you will want to cut out, the part you want to stay the same.You do not need to make a solid line just put dots around the image this tells Photoshop that this is the part you want to cut out.If there is a drastic change in the colors of this section like a face compared to hair you may want to put a few dots there too.Photoshop just goes by what is similar in color.Zoom in on small section of the photo and place your dots, 20 pixels is a good size to use for your brush.
  4. Zoom in on a small section of where you will be cutting out and select the second tool, Background Brush tool, this you will want to make a solid line around the area you are cutting out.Once again 20 pixels is a good size for the brush.Make sure though you drag it along the background and on the edge of the part you are cutting out.In my examples it is right up against the red dots.
  5. Once you are done zoom out by hitting CTRL Z and the minus key. Make sure your selection looks correct.You may erase any mistakes if necessary with the third tool, Point Eraser Tool.
  6. Then click Preview in the upper right hand corner.This will show you the cutout image.Sometimes there will be parts you wanted to select or deselect but don’t worry that is easily fixed.
  7. In my example her face was not selected when I had wanted it to be.To fix this click on the fourth tool, Add to Selection Tool, with this tool you will just be painting the parts you want back on so you can have the brush at 100 pixels unless you want to just touch up a few fine details. If part of your picture was left and you didn’t want it to be you can use the fifth tool, Remove from Selection Tool, to paint away the parts you didn’t want.
  8. Once you are satisfied with your cutout portion click OK.Then select first layer to make changes to the background.For this example I selected Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.Then you can use the slider to adjust the amount of blur you would like.For this example I wanted the background quite blurred so I went with 7.

Color Cutout Photos

Color Cutout Photos can be really fun at Christmas time because there are so many bright decorations, clothes, hats, presents and new toys. For this example I choose to keep the new present in color and turn the rest of the photo black and white focusing more on my nephew looking at his new present.



  1. Follow above steps 1-7. But when keeping a portion of the photo color try to be more exact in the cutting out of your selection.
  2. Once satisfied with your cutout click OK. Then select the first layer to make changes. For this example I selected Enhance > Convert to Black and White. Then I selected Enhance > Adjust Lighting > Brightness/ Contrast. You can use the sliders to adjust the white black contrast of the photo with the brightness/ contrast sliders.

Hope you give this new technique a try! Can’t wait to see your fun new Christmas Photos!


Anna said...

Cool, I didn't know how to do it that way! I will have to try that!

Chrissy said...

I think you need to teach an online course!! These tips ROCK!

LisaW. said...

Lovin' the tutorials - you rock!

Nathalie said...

I did it, I did it! Thank you for the toturial Carrie. I was not sure about what to do towards the end (after I modified the second layer) but I just saved and it worked...

website design said...

Hello there! appreciate the tips! great tutorial.