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I have a render...

enter image description here

...of a computer game character that uses particle effects, making it difficult to render.

enter image description here

What's the best way to make the background transparent? I've already tried a soft edged eraser.

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What end result are you after? i.e. Are you trying to delete everything in the image that is not creature or smoke? –  ThatSteveGuy Mar 10 '11 at 19:40
    
@ThatSteveGuy That is correct. I'm aiming to get the same effect as this image –  Ambo100 Mar 10 '11 at 20:11
    
Do you have access to the editing tools of the game itself? Or is it a screen grab of a game you enjoy? If the former, change the ground texture to plain white, then make a render, this will eliminate the need for PS entirely, aside from any touchups you might choose to make. –  Kyle Sevenoaks Mar 10 '11 at 20:13
    
I'm afraid it's only a screen grab –  Ambo100 Mar 10 '11 at 20:23
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2 Answers 2

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If you are trying to extract the image from the background, start with the Quick Selection tool, get a good enough selection, then launch the Refine Edge tool. There are several options to get your edge more refined, and then their is, in the Refine Edge dialog, the paint brush tool which will do a great job of further cleaning the edges as you paint over them. You don't have to be exact in this painting, you just defining the edge to be refined.

All of the above was based on CS5. I think all of it is available in CS4 too, but not as powerful.

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I'm using CS3. When I feather the selection down using the refine edge tool I'm feathering out the hard edges of the image which I do not want. –  Ambo100 Mar 10 '11 at 20:08
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Well, there are a lot of methods for getting a good selection, but in any scenario you are probably going to want to build up your selection in multiple steps using either a layer mask or separate channel. If you have trouble with the smoke, google "photoshop channel extract hair" and find a good tutorial on using channel tricks to pull out difficult details. Note that by using a mask layer, you can save the smoke as partially transparent if your final image type supports that (for instance, a png24). –  ThatSteveGuy Mar 10 '11 at 22:37
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I typically prefer to use a layer mask for stuff like this; it's got a lot of advantages over selecting and deleting the background:

1) You can make the edge as hard or soft as you prefer simply by changing the hardness of the brush
2) You can actually vary the transparency / opacity by changing the brush color value (#000000 is completely transparent, #FFFFFF is completely opaque, values in between are appropriately opaque / transparent)
3) You can refine the edges with the smudge tool and blur functions. Drag the smudge tool along the edge of your mask to fade it at a specific point; use a blur function (such as gaussian blur) to soften the entire edge(s) of your mask
4) if you goof up, you can simply use the eraser tool to remove those parts of your mask you don't like.

To use a layer mask, make sure your image is on a floating layer (not the background) and click the little layer mask icon at the bottom of the layer palette. then, use your choice of brush(s) to paint black / grey / etc. in the mask.

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