How to Cheat in Photoshop Elements 10: Release Your Imagination

How to Cheat in Photoshop Elements 10: Release Your Imagination

by David Asch, Steve Caplin

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While many Photoshop Elements users are content with using the software for correcting exposure, sharpening edges and removing unwanted objects from their photographs, there's a whole world of opportunity out there for creating fun photomontages, powerful panoramas and dynamic distortions just waiting to be discovered.

How to Cheat in Elements 10 is the answer to

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While many Photoshop Elements users are content with using the software for correcting exposure, sharpening edges and removing unwanted objects from their photographs, there's a whole world of opportunity out there for creating fun photomontages, powerful panoramas and dynamic distortions just waiting to be discovered.

How to Cheat in Elements 10 is the answer to anyone who has ever wanted to take their creative skills in Elements one stage further. Starting with the basics of layers, selections and transformations, readers will be creating their own movie posters, textures and caricatures in no time at all, while sections on outputting your images for web or print enable anyone to wow their friends with their creations

Covering the latest tools and features in Elements 10, this book is also fully compatible with all previous versions of Elements. QuickTime movie tutorials and images for all projects in the book are included on the companion website.

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"[W]e think Adobe should include this book with every copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 it sells. Now here's the best part for me: the book makes available an online set of resources that match all the projects in the book. You simply log on to the website, enter your credentials and download the original images that are used in the book. You can then follow the illustrations and mirror the job yourself."—PC Advisor

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How to Cheat in Photoshop Elements 10

Release your imagination
By David Asch Steve Caplin

Focal Press

Copyright © 2012 David Asch & Steve Caplin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-240-82048-4

Chapter One

Selection techniques

Marquee selections

The Marquee tool is the basic tool for making selections in elements. Pressing M is the keyboard shortcut for this tool: pressing the key again will toggle between the standard rectangular Marquee tool, and the elliptical Marquee tool.

Every Elements user should be aware of the ability to hold the Shift key to draw a square or a circle, rather than a rectangle and an ellipse, and to hold alt [??] to draw a selection from the center out.

We're not limited to just one selection at a time, however; by holding combinations of the alt [??] and Shift keys, we're able to add and subtract additional selections – and we can even create intersections between the old and the new.

1 The default method of drawing out a marquee selection, either rectangular or elliptical, is from corner to corner. In the above example we've positioned the cursor in the top-left corner of the document, then clicked and dragged with the mouse to the opposite corner.

2 If we begin to draw out our selection as before and then hold down [??] alt, the selection expands out from the original cursor position. This is especially useful when making selections with the Elliptical Marquee as it's much easier to judge the positioning from the center point.

3 So far we've seen how to draw freeform selections. If, however, we start to draw out a selection and then hold down Shift, the selection becomes constrained to form a perfect square (or circle). If we hold [??] alt as well, it will expand from the original cursor position as before.

4 Selections can also be made to interact with each other: if we hold down Shift before drawing a new selection, it will combine the two to create a single selection. We can also set this in the Options bar (see the inset). Notice how the cursor gains a small + to indicate it's in add mode.

5 Here are the two previous selections joined together. If we hold down [??] alt, again before we start to draw, we see a small - (minus) sign next to the cursor. This denotes that we are in subtract mode. This time the rectangle we are drawing here will be cut away from the shape.

6 The final selection mode is called intersect. This is invoked by holding [??] Shift alt Shift before drawing the selection; our cursor gains an x symbol this time. This has the effect of only leaving the portion of the previous selection where it falls within the new one.

7 Here's the end result of drawing with all the different selection modes. We've filled the shape with color to make it easier to see what's left. These modes are available to use with almost all the selection tools in Elements. We'll see them in action throughout the rest of the book.


The order in which you press the keys and the mouse button makes a difference to the result. Holding the keys shown here before pressing the mouse button will affect how the selections interact; pressing them afterwards will make a square or a circle, or draw from the center out.

One additional tip is to hold the Spacebar as you're drawing a selection. This will allow you to move the selection around while you're still drawing it; release the Spacebar (but not the mouse button) to continue.

More selection tools

We looked at the Marquee tools on the previous pages – but what if you want to make a selection that isn't rectangular or round? There are several other tools we can use for this purpose.

Here, we'll look at the Lasso, Magic Wand, and Selection Brush tools. While the Magic Wand selects a range of colors, the other two select only those regions you trace. They're three quite different tools, but they each have their uses, as we'll see here.

We're going to use all these tools to remove the sky from this photograph of the statue of liberty, beginning with the Magic Wand to select the bulk of the sky.

1 To select all the sky in this image, first use the Magic Wand tool W. You can change the tolerance to select a smaller or wider range of colors: a setting of 32 works well. Click once to the left of Liberty's body, and you'll see a selection something like this.

2 The top right and bottom right corners weren't included in the selection, as the color there is just outside the range. To add to the selection, hold Shift and click with the Magic Wand in the top right corner. These colors are now added.

3 We can see a few stray pixels – most probably dirt on the lens – above the book, and to the left. Rather than use the Magic Wand, switch to the Lasso tool L. Hold Shift once more and draw a loop around the stray dots to add them to the selection.

4 We can add the sky between the crown and the shoulder with the Magic Wand, holding Shift as before. Now that we're zoomed in, we can see a problem: part of the pale green statue has inadvertently been selected along with the sky.

5 Here we'll switch to the Selection Brush A, which we can use like a paint brush. Since we want to subtract from the sky selection, hold alt [??] as you drag over the area: everywhere within the radius of the tool will be removed from the selection.

6 There's a problem with 'leakage' on the other shoulder as well, and we can use the Selection Brush to fix that. The book, however, has straight edges to it; even if we made the Selection Brush really tiny, we'd find it hard to trace those straight lines.

7 Instead, let's go back to the Lasso tool: this time, we'll use the Polygonal Lasso instead. Holding alt [??] before we drag once more, click from inside the body onto each corner of the book to add it with a straight line selection.

8 Once we've done a little further tidying up, our statue is selected. Except, of course, that it's the sky that we've selected rather than Liberty herself. We need to inverse that selection, by pressing ctrl Shift / [??] Shift /.

9 With Liberty now properly selected, we can make a new layer from her by pressing ctrl J [??] J. When we hide the original layer by clicking on the eye icon in the Layers panel, we see Liberty just cut out against a checkerboard background.

10 Once the original background has gone, we can replace it with anything we choose – such as this more appealing sky, for example. See the following chapter for more about working with layers.


You can make the radius of the Selection Brush bigger and smaller without opening a panel or dialog: use the square bracket keys [ and ] to make the radius smaller and larger in stages.

In step 7 here, we use the Polygonal Lasso tool, which you can choose from the toolbar when you pick the regular Lasso. As a shortcut, though, you can make the regular Lasso work like the Polygonal Lasso (tracing straight lines between click points) by holding alt as you use it.

The Magnetic Lasso tool

Although The lasso Tool is useful for tracing outlines, it can be tricky to draw accurately with it. There is another method: the Magnetic lasso is a variant. as its name implies, this tool sticks to the edges of shapes as you draw around them, making the process of cutting objects or people from their backgrounds very much simpler.

The tool isn't perfect, by any means; it's almost impossible for any computer program to figure out the difference between foreground and background objects with any degree of accuracy. But it's a real time-saver, and can be used to make quick selections with ease.

To choose the tool, click on its icon in the options bar when the lasso tool is selected, or simply select it from the fly-out lasso choices in the Toolbox.

1 Start in one corner of the statue and trace along the edge of the object, sticking as close as you can to it. We've zoomed in here and enhanced the Magnetic Lasso edge to show it more clearly. The tool places square 'anchor points' each time it marks a change in direction.

2 Right away, we hit a problem: when we get to the shoulder, the Magnetic Lasso wants to follow the gold bar, rather than the paler white cloth. No need to start again; simply press Backspace to remove the last placed points, backtracking along the traced line.

3 We can now force the tool to go in the direction we want. Drag a little way up the perimeter, and before Elements places another point, get in first by clicking the mouse button to place one of your own. Continue doing this until the tool recognizes the direction in which you're going.

4 We'll hit a few more of these snags as we work our way around the figure; they occur each time Elements finds a strong line to follow. Once again, it's not a problem; simply delete the misplaced points, and then click the mouse button to add your own.

5 To make it easier to trace the outline, press the Caps Lock key on your keyboard. This will change the Magnetic Lasso cursor to a circle, which shows the perimeter of the area in which it searches for boundaries.

6 When you get to the end of the object – in this case, the bottom right corner – it can be tricky to trace back along the bottom to the start, as the tool will think you're still looking for edges. Rather than get this wiggly line, press Enter to turn the path you've drawn into a selection.


In step 5, we change the icon from a standard Magnetic Lasso to a circle showing the radius. You can make this larger and smaller using the Width setting on the Options bar; make it bigger for straightforward images, smaller for lots of fiddly edges.

The Edge Contrast and Frequency settings determine how much variation the tool looks for, and how often points are added to the path. In practice, you'll rarely need to change these from their default values.

The Quick Selection tool

The quick selection tool may well be the fastest method yet for cutting a person or object away from the background.

We've seen several selection methods already in this chapter, but they all involve a fair amount of work on the part of the user. The quick selection tool can help the process of lifting a complex subject from a complex background, quickly and painlessly.

The image we'll work with here is of a boy reading in his living room. it's a tricky selection to make: both the boy and his surroundings include a range of colors and tones, making it harder for automatic selection to take place. But even in cases like this, we can perform the function with ease.

1 Begin by switching to the Quick Selection tool A. We'll see the cursor change to a circle with a cross in the center. We'll start by making a small selection on the boy's head. This only needs to be a single click at the moment, just to set the process off. We're going to be doing something slightly different to begin with.

2 The Quick Selection tool learns about the image whilst you're using it. So to begin with, we'll tell it about the areas we don't want selected. First switch to subtract mode by selecting it in the Options bar. Using a small brush, paint around the outside of the boy; keep close to the edges but don't touch them. We don't see any difference yet.

3 Although there's no obvious change, we should see better initial results when we select the boy. Make sure you're back in add mode. Start to select the boy by painting loosely over his body and his book. As before, we don't need to go too close to the edges as the tool will find them itself. It's not a bad start, with only a couple of missed areas.

4 With our initial selection made, we can start to sort out the problem areas. Most are spilling away from the boy, so before we continue, we need to switch back to subtract mode. Make the brush small enough to fit comfortably into the missed sections. Now make small strokes to snap the selection back into place, varying the brush size accordingly.

5 There are occasions where the tool will simply refuse to make the selection properly. This generally happens in areas of very low contrast: the shadows where the boy's leg meets the cushion, for example. If it becomes too fiddly it's better to switch to the Selection Brush A and add or subtract the areas manually..


Excerpted from How to Cheat in Photoshop Elements 10 by David Asch Steve Caplin Copyright © 2012 by David Asch & Steve Caplin. Excerpted by permission of Focal Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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