brokenarts's blog

Tutorial 3: Isolating an object in Photoshop.

posted by brokenarts, Dec 29, 2005 12:21 PM — 16 comments

Some people asked me how I've isolated the object and created the clipping mask of my photos named 'shopping cart' (#207887) and 'shopping cart mask' (#207888).

A clipping mask can be useful if a sxc user need to place your isolated image in a background with a different color.

When opening an image, the first step is to use the Photoshop "layers".

Look at the example image below.
Every newly opened image is placed in a background level (in italian "sfondo". Sorry, my Photoshop version is in italian language). In the english version of Photoshop the layer name is "background".
In the right side of the layer you can see a "lock" icon.

In the layers window, you must now double click the background layer(sfondo).
A pop up window appear, simply click the "ok" button.

Your image is now in a floating layer.
The layer name is now "Layer 1" (and without the "lock" icon).

When you delete something in the image (with the erasing tool) you make an "hole" (and you can see the transparent background). Look the image below to see an example:

You can now delete all the unnecessary parts from the image (with the erase tool or with the lasso or with other tools).

Your image is now ready.
Save your work in Photoshop format (floating layers can't be saved in JPG format).

Save a copy of your image in JPG format. Layers will be flattened in the resulting file; the transparent parts will be fitted with white color.

Creating a clipping mask

You can now create a clipping mask of your image, this mask can be useful to the other users of, if a user need to place your image in a background different from white.

Set the foreground color to black.
From the menu select "Edit->Fill" and fill the image with the foreground color (leave checked the "trasparency" checkbox).
Look at the example below (Riempi = Fill, Colore di primo piano = Foreground color, Mantieni trasparenza = Trasparency).

You now have a floating layer with a black mask of the isolated object.

Save a copy of this image in JPG format. This is the clipping mask of your image.

This is how a user can use your mask to change the background of the colour image:
Open the two images in Photoshop.
Select the mask image and copy it.
Select the color image and go to the 'Channels' window; from the menu of this window select 'new channel'.
Paste the mask in this new channel.
Click on the RGB view in the 'Channels' window.
Control+click the new channel 'Alfa 1': the background selection is loaded; you can now fill the background with your preferred color.

Layers are also useful for many others creative purposes.

Hope this can help you.

My english isn't fluent. Feel free to correct me.

Comments | RSS

1. posted by ellesdee, Jan 17, 2006 11:22 AM

very useful, very nice, very sxc.

2. posted by hortongrou, Dec 30, 2005 4:48 AM


3. posted by nightlina, Dec 30, 2005 7:40 AM

thankyou for this :) Your English was very easy to understand.

4. posted by fabio23, Dec 30, 2005 10:29 PM

Very Usefull.

Perfect to work at all.


5. posted by aasif, Dec 31, 2005 8:36 AM

quite nice and easy to understand :) keep it up

6. posted by Slantsixx, Jan 1, 2006 5:24 AM

I had PhotoShop (7) for Windows, but now I own a Mac...

7. posted by teambo, Jan 5, 2006 5:07 PM

Broken Arts: I think your photography of simple objects is great and you're one of the great stock photographers on here.

I wanted to share a tip I had about how to make overlying objects look even more natural, especially if it involves glass or anything translucent (plastic, sheeting, etc.)

For example, look at the front page for (I believe that's your picture of the magnifying glass!) If you notice, the natural shadows that were cast by the glass in your picture are still present in that graphic. I always think this leads to a better, more natural look than adding an automatic drop shadow --- a dead giveaway of lazy design in my view.

For that object, I simply made sure that the background in the original picture was as white as possible (255,255,255). Then I changed that layer to Multiply under the layer settings.

Underneath this layer, I created a clipped path or area in the shape of the solid objects. That is, in the shape of the handle of the magnifying glass, as well as the metal rim. The glass and the shadows on the outside were left empty.

I'm fluent at English but not very good at explaining. Here is a ZIP file with a layered Photoshop file so you can see exactly what I did:


8. posted by brokenarts, Jan 10, 2006 12:17 AM

I've looked at teambo work, and it's professional done.
I think... maybe a special area for tutorials can be useful on!
A tutorial area can help sxc users to upload better photos! (Hoping the stock-commercial-photos mafia don't kill us). :)

9. posted by akashk, Feb 11, 2006 7:41 AM

Your tips are just perfect and simple to make anyone give it a try. I personally think we should have a special tutorial section by BrokenArts! I'm serious.

I'm not a pro photoshop user, but I would like to throw a quick tip at the first part of this topic .. "separating the image from its background" after you have enabled a floating layer. (A quick note: you can hold down Alt key and double click on the layer-lock to make it floating)

1. If you have a considerable mono-color background (like the white background in the case above), on a casual basis, you can try using the Magic Wand (W) tool. Check the Anti-Alias. Check/Uncheck the Continuous checkbox depending on your need. Now, with the magic wand, click on the white area to select the white background. Now simply hit delete.

2. Photoshop now offers the Extract tool under filter menu. This is more accurate with alpha transparancies. Simply choose the image layer and select filter -> Extract. Set your brush size appropriately and drag it over the object edge you wish to separate. Its like drawing an outline over the object. Now choose the fill tool and simply click inside the drawn outline. Thats'it! Now hit preview to see the separation. If not satisfied, you can experiment with the correction tools provided there and get the image out of its background cleanly.

Hope this helps.

10. posted by akashk, Feb 11, 2006 7:43 AM

Oh! I forgot mentioning. With the Magic Wand, a value of 32 will help you work with most of the object isolations.


11. posted by davemarcot, Mar 5, 2006 5:38 AM

Very cool everybody. Thank you so much for this info.

12. posted by sohbet, Jun 20, 2009 3:37 PM

Very Usefull.

Perfect to work at all.

13. posted by escan, Aug 19, 2010 11:27 AM


14. posted by iamabdus, Oct 22, 2010 1:49 PM

Thanks for nice post!

Photoshop tutorials in Designer's blog

15. posted by harissonA, May 27, 2013 1:21 AM

I like these easy and simple tutorials, all very helpfull, thanks.

16. posted by trainer2, May 31, 2013 8:50 AM

Very Usefull.

Perfect to work at all.


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