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I'm doing a little project to learn how to Photoshop. The objective here is to take this image:

original

and add this background instead

background

This is my attempt

Attempt

The obvious issue is the little halo effect around the beanie part. I've tried playing around with the mask feathering and other options but it either creates more halo or eats into the image. The original image is very low res (65kb), so maybe I have to try to upscale it or downscale the background resolution more? What could I do to improve this - or is there really no way to perfect old pixelated images like this?

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    The mask is the worst part. Not just around the beanie, but the entire cut out. Even the bars of the lift chair are "fuzzy". For quality masks it, more often than not, takes manual painting on a mask with a brush.
    – Scott
    Jul 17 at 0:14
  • I did do it manually that's the thing. The fuzzy bars are because I added a blur effect to them, as they were too sharp previously.
    – Alex B.
    Jul 17 at 4:06
  • Metal isn't "fuzzy" in photographs. If you look at the original image.. the bars aren't "fuzzy". Making them "fuzzy" causes them to look completely unnatural. In general, you shouldn't blur things which are not naturally soft-edged.
    – Scott
    Jul 17 at 4:48
  • I'll remove the effect, I just need to find some way to make the edges blend in better. Is there any feasible way to do it with this composition? I can try taking more off with a brush, but obviously some will eat into the image. I also tried using a edge refine brush in the mask filter but that didn't help much either.
    – Alex B.
    Jul 17 at 4:51
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    Edges of hard objects shouldn't "blend" into anything. Hard-edged objects should remain hard-edged. If you are getting "stair-step" pixels then you simply need to feather or soften the edge. but only by 1 or 2 pixels, nothing more. This is where manually using a brush rather than any automated technique helps.
    – Scott
    Jul 17 at 5:30
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The problem here is that mask isn't very good. Even despite the fact automation makes mask creation easier than it has ever been, there are probably still some skills you will need to practice. In this particular example, I feel a mix of semi-automatic methods and some manual editing of the layer mask should get better results, although fully manual methods such as using the Pen tool would probably work too. Manual methods don't work so well when the subect gets more complex, like hair and fur.

Anyhoo . . .

Try using Photoshop's Select> Subject functionality to automatically select the skier, then use the Select and Mask functionality to refine the mask. Decontaminate Colours will help remove any halos. Add smoothing, add contrast to keep the edges smooth but sharp. Forget about the chairlift bars at this stage, you can edit the mask later manually.

Example

enter image description here

Note: There are tools within the Select and Mask workspace which will allow you to add or remove parts of the selection. The most useful for you in this edit is probably the top one, the Quick Select tool. Holding down Shift as you paint with the tool allows you to toggle between adding and removing from the selection.

enter image description here

After you've created a good layer mask, use the Polygonal Lasso tool to select the bars of the chairlift. Select the mask in the layers panel, and fill the selection with white using Edit > Fill. This will reveal the bars.

enter image description here

Here's the finished result. I'm toggling the mask so you can see it easily. It's almost perfect.

enter image description here

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  • Hey thank you very much for the detailed instruction. I actually used this method to make the selection but I'm just not very accurate with it since I've only done a few of these. My previous attempt actually used the lasso tool and looked like this: imgur.com/fGljUvt I haven't tried decontaminate or contrast though I'll play around with those. If I do manage to get a good selection what would be the 'go-to' next steps to make it more natural? Play around with the curves, saturation, color channels?
    – Alex B.
    Jul 17 at 21:15
  • Here's what I made with your selection: imgur.com/uwq2tIH
    – Alex B.
    Jul 17 at 21:36
  • The next step I think would be to use a colour balance adjustment layer clipped to the masked layer, to try to match the colour temperature of the background shot which is more to the blue end of the spectrum.
    – Billy Kerr
    Jul 18 at 9:39

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