Photoshop: How to Cut Out an Image in Under 3 Minutes / by Melissa Mederos

We’re no Photoshop gurus, but last year we were awarded a job that entailed cutting out over 280 items from a background… so, I guess you can say that we learned a thing or two from the process and I’m here to share a secret! Here is how we cut out images in under 3 minutes.

For this job we were asked to create Silo and detail shots on a solid white background. We took the photographs on a white backdrop, cut it out on photoshop and dropped in a solid white. I do admire the pen tool and use it on practically everything I cut out, but for the scope and timeline like the one we had, it would be nearly impossible to have these photos finished on time. The total number of cut outs were approximately 600 final silo/detail images and edits were to be done within a month while also juggling other jobs.

Although this method does not work for everything, it is an absolute life-saver for a job like this and may work for any contrasting items and backgrounds. I found that it was about 95% accurate and I only spent some extra time on items that blended with the background such as white flowers on a white background.

See below for a step-by-step tutorial or scroll down to see the video on how to cut out an image in under 3 minutes.

Here’s the step-by-step on how we cut out images using RGB Channels on Photoshop: It’s best to go through the steps while watching the video to better understand how this works.

  1. - Open your image on Photoshop

  2. - Use the lasso tool to cut as close around your subject

  3. - Hit “Command + J” to duplicate your layer. (This will create a new layer without the excess background)

  4. - Now you should have a “background” layer and “Layer 1”. Be sure to turn off your background layer so only your new layer is visible.

  5. - Click on your “channels” and search for the the color that provides the most contrast. In my opinion, the - Blue Channel usually always works best!

  6. - Click on the “Blue Channel” and drag it down to create a duplicate.

  7. - With your new blue channel copy selected, click on “Image” -> “Adjustments” -> “Levels”

  8. - Where you see “Input levels” on the graph from left to right you will see your black, grey, and white triangle sliding tabs. Start with the one all the way to the left and slide the tab to bring out as much black to contrast against your white background. Then you’ll want to move your middle (grey) slider and right (white) slider to bring out as much white as possible. Be sure to keep your shadows light or it may get too murky and your cut-out will totally suck! (You can check out the quick video to see how I use this tool).

  9. - Click on “ok” to finish up your input levels.

  10. - Click on your brush tool and select black - 100% to color in any places that you know should be selected in black.

  11. - Don’t worry - You may see some speckles or grey areas that need some work and that’s exactly what this next tool is for.

  12. - Next, you’ll want to click on your dodge tool and at the top left hand side be sure that your “Range” is set to Mid-tones and “exposure” is set to 100%. Now you’re going to paint over the light grey areas. This is going to bring those medium toned greys to a white color. Try to avoid the black areas that you worked so hard to clean up.

  13. - Using the same Dodge Tool, you’re going to change the range to “Highlight” and continue painting over the areas that need to remain white. As before, try to avoid the black areas (Remember, this will be your cut-out so try and be as specific as possible). By using the dodge tool on highlight you will make the whites really white so that photoshop can select the item (black) and get rid of your background (white).

  14. - I always use my brush tool one more time for clean up, switching between black and white to get an accurate cut out.

  15. - Next, you’ll click on your selection tool at the bottom (also known as, marching ants) At this point you should see your selection.

  16. - You’ll click on “RGB” and all 4 channels - RGB, Red, Green, Blue will be selected.

  17. - Click on “Layers”

  18. - Shift - Command - I to Invert your selection

  19. - Command - J to create a copy

  20. - BAM! Your selection on a transparent backdrop.

  21. - Turn off your layers and only leave your new layer on. Select the white background as your solid color and merge the layers.

If you’ll be using another color other than the white, your photo may need some additional editing on the edges which we will get into in another tutorial.

We hope this quick tutorial helps with cutting out tough items! If you have any questions, just ask in the comments section and I’ll be sure to answer!