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Can I make just the background of a picture semi-transparent while leaving the two people opaque? I have tried many things, but it keeps making the entire background completely transparent. Please help. Trying to make an anniversary gift for hubby.

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have no fear hubby's gift will be great, this is real easy. Are you in Photoshop or Gimp or something else entirely? –  Ryan Apr 24 at 13:52
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Sorry was away. I am using gimp. –  Jill Apr 28 at 22:59

2 Answers 2

  1. Go to photoshop and use the file open to make a new document/image in photoshop. Your background layer should be photo.

  2. Duplicate the background layer and hide the original, you should have two layers now to work with.

  3. Using the Magic wand tool, (this will take some trial and error depending on the contrast of the people and beach ) and drop the tolerance down to 15 or 20 and begin to select the beach around. Use shift to add more to the selection and use alt to remove from the selection.

  4. Work your way around till you have a pretty decent selection that separates the people from the beach, you see the lasso basically wrap the people.

  5. Once you have the selection, right click and press select inverse, this reverse so you have the people in the selection area.

  6. Then right click and then select the feather option and depending on the picture size feather between 1 and 5 pixels. (this will brush the edges of any hard selections leaving the edge soft, once you have this done right click and select "Layer Via Copy" and make copy of the selection.

  7. You should have your people and by copying still have them in the layer beneath so you can avoid any fine touch-ups. So all you will have to do now is hide the background layer (the original layer if it is not already hidden) select the middle layer, and then slide the opacity from 100 to what ever degree you would like the transparency to be. *I usually create a solid color layer and put it behind the photos i'm working with so I can see it in a setting, not the no background checker area.

  8. Now you should have your transparent beach

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There are 2 ways to do this in a non-destructive way. Non destructive means if you mess it up, you can easily undo it (nothing is lost).

Method 1 is with a layer mask, method 2 is with a vector mask. Vector mask results in cleaner sharper edges, but it takes a longer time and isn't well suited for any soft edges like fuzzy hair.

Here is one way to it with a layer mask in Photoshop.

  1. Use the lasso tool (or quick selection or magic wand) and make a really quick selection around the section you want (people). Don't worry if it isn't perfect.
  2. Go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection. This will create a black & white layer mask icon next to your layer in the Layers Palette. It will also hide everything outside your selection. Note - A layer mask uses a greyscale map to control what is hidden on the linked layer. Black is fully transparent, white is fully opaque. Grey is semi-transparent and you can control the amount by the shade.

  3. Select that layer mask and use a brush to paint out the unwanted areas in black. if you accidentally paint too much, click x to switch your color from black to white (or the foreground/background color) and paint in the area you want to keep in white. You can use hard or soft brushes to control the edge.

Using a mask is always better practice than deleting or erasing. This is because nothing is ever lost for good, you can always paint it back.

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