Warning: Total photoshop newb!

I recently got a cool image of my fiancee and I holding hands and showing off her engagment ring. The backdrop is the beach:

enter image description here

I tried to trace an image using a combo of the laso and magic wand tools to select my target. Then I used that to pull out the target as another layer. I then pasted in a background gradient.

enter image description here

Ended up with a really lame photoshoped looking picture. Notice the white lines where I didn't get the arms close enough and the choppy spots where I got too close.

enter image description here

So what's my main problem here?

  • Is their a way to bet a better cutout?
  • Is their a blending tool that will make the background look more natural?
  • both

I tried a dozen or so tutorials I found in google searches but they just don't blend these types of images together in any of them. Thanks in advance.

1 Answer 1


You need to take better care when working on the extraction. To me, it simply looks like a fairly poor mask on the extracted image. As if the Magic Wand tool was used and that's it. That's your entire issue.

Often a good quality extraction requires you to create a layer mask and then zoom in and paint on the mask with a brush to "tighten" the mask around the desired element(s). Most quality image extractions may start with some automated method to get close, but in the end they require you to manually work on the mask to refine things. Many online extraction tutorials focus on the quickest method to get acceptable results, but they often don't focus on high quality extractions because telling people to use a brush and refine the mask isn't exciting in a tutorial.

No matter what the subject, if you want a high quality extraction it always requires brushwork on a mask. Regardless of what any tutorial tells you, there is no magic button.

If you use a brush to refine the mask, things look fine.


  • 2
    Masking is definitely the way to go. When finished, though, you'll likely need to come back and blur the edges slightly to make it look natural. Scott's extraction is excellent, but note how the crisp lines feel a bit unnatural. A little blurring of the edges can give it a final realistic touch.
    – DA01
    Jul 22, 2013 at 1:15
  • Brush on a mask. That's what I needed to know thanks guys. I'm so used to using all the "magic" of photoshop I forget that some of this is just hard work. Jul 22, 2013 at 15:00
  • @Scott what brush settings do you find the best in this case?
    – user9447
    Jul 22, 2013 at 17:54
  • @Matt_2.0 I tend to use the default round brush at a hardness of about 75% for most things. I will reduce hardness for images with much softer edges.
    – Scott
    Jul 22, 2013 at 18:33
  • The pen tool could also be used for things like this. But that's a big learning curve. (pun intended) Nov 22, 2013 at 21:18

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