How to clip an image in Photoshop in 5 quick steps!

In our previous tutorial on editing several photos, we soon saw some aspects of clipping. Today, we will get to the bottom of it and see how to clip an image.

Although there are dedicated plug-ins that facilitate the clipping in Photoshop, in this tutorial, we will learn how to manually clip an image in 5 quick steps; and as a bonus I will also give you some tips, to make it even easier for you.

Learn more about photoshop here.

The advantage of having a plain background

To clip an image is easy when you have a plain background (white, black or whatever the colour, but plain). So be careful when taking pics : avoid contrasting backgrounds as much as possible, particularly if you know that the photos will have to be cut later on Photoshop.

When you have an image with a uniform background, you can use the Magic wand tool to select pixels within a similar color range with one click. It’s so much easier! In the opposite case (if the background is more contrasted), the best tool to use is the feather tool that works on the principle of vector curves. It is very effective for drawing rounded contours or for delimiting the curves of a subject.

The image we are going to clip today stands out against a white background. But, just to show you here, we’re going to pretend that we have a contrasting background and use the feather tool (see how I like you people? XD).

Step 1: Clipping with the feather tool

The feather tool is the least obvious tool to use when starting on Photoshop. But it’s also the most ingenious when you know how to handle it!

On the tool pane (usually on the left of the interface), click the pen tool. Once you have the tool “in hand”, click at a point in the image that you want to trim to create an anchor point. Then click elsewhere, always continuing on the edge you want to cut. This will create another anchor point and the 2 points are now linked by a segment.

Note how the segment starts in a straight line between the two points. It is possible, if your contour is a curve, to arch this segment. To do this, when you click to create the second anchor, hold the click and drag the slider. You will then create a lever. This lever will allow you to bend the segment as you wish. You can then lengthen it to create a “harder” (U-shaped) curve, or shrink it to have a “softer” curve (in a bowl).

Do not worry if you feel lost, the use of levers will become easier as you get used to the way you do it. For beginners, it’s quite possible to create plenty of small anchor points so that the segments stick best to the curves.

clipping with the feather tool
Clipping with the feather tool

Step 2: Create a new layer and convert the plot into a selection frame to clip your image

Now that you have outlined the part of the image you want to crop, next you have to copy the image to a new layer, because we are going to need a transparent layer for the upcoming events (lol).

From the moment we started using the feather tool, the “draw” tab was created. You will find the “draw tab” in the Layer pallet on the right side of your screen.

Our goal is to convert the plot into a selection frame. To proceed, go to the menu of the draw tab, symbolized by four lines superimposed, then click on “Define a selection“. A dialog box will appear on your screen.

Create a new layer and convert the plot into a selection frame
Create a new layer and convert the plot into a selection frame

Step 3: Define the progressive contour

As our image is quite small, we will define the progressive edge at 1 pixel then click OK to close the dialog box.

Note that the progressive contour helps to smooth out the crenelated edges of a selection by softening the colour transition between the edge and background pixels.

Step 4: Swap the selection

Now that we’ve got our selection box, we’re going to erase everything outside of the clipping path.

So let’s start by swapping the selection, in other words, instead of selecting the body of the character, Photoshop will select the background. To do this, go to the “Selection” menu then “Swap”, then end with “Delete” (on your keyboard).

A checkered background appears on the screen, which means that the background is now transparent and therefore the clipping is complete. You must now do Ctrl + D to clear the selection.

We have finished clipping the image!
We have finished clipping the image!

Step 5: Put a background

To see if the clipping is really successful and check there’s no residue of the old “background”, the trick is to put a colored background behind.

To do this, click the square icon “Set Foreground Colour” on the toolbar and select the colour of your choice from the color picker. Preferably choose a bright colour to bring out the details of the edge. Here we have chosen a blue background.

We must now create a new layer that you will put behind the first layer and fill it with this colour. To proceed, go to the “Edit” menu, then “Fill with” and choose “Foreground colour”. And your work is done!

Our clipping is successful, there is no "residue" on the edges
Our clipping is successful, there is no “residue” on the edges

As a bonus: a few tips to succeed in clipping an image

For a successful clipping, trim a little inside the subject. In other words, you do not have to follow the edge to nanometer precision, you can even exceed a little inside the image. And do not hesitate to zoom in on the subject to distinguish the contours, even to see the pixels.

Finally, another trick when trimming is to cut out anything that annoys you in the pic (such as the tip of a nail that’s too long, for example).

That’s all for this tutorial on how to clip an image. Note that making a good clipping does not necessarily mean a very clear outline, it is rather to have a subject that blends well into the decor that will welcome it.

You will perhaps notice that we did not touch the hair. I bet you were thinking that we forgot about this part! Actually we didn’t, but it deserves an entire article too. So, see you soon!

>See here: How to cut out hair in Photoshop.

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