Extracting Stevie

A few people asked what method I used to extract Stevie and put her on a new background (see this and this if you have no idea what I’m talking about).

The process was pretty simple, thanks to Photoshop CS5 and Refine Edge – and the fact that the lighting in the photo was pretty good and provided a nice separation from the backdrop, with no shadows.

Here’s the original photo (click for larger view).

I started with the Quick Selection tool and made a basic selection. It did a great job on her body and arms and was so-so around her hair (as I would expect). I used Refine Edge and only did 3 things: I painted with the Refine Radius tool, I changed the Shift Edge to -4% and I checked Decontaminate Colors.

This was the result (shown on a black background in Refine Edge)

Here’s Stevie with the new background dropped behind her. It’s still a little noticeable around her hair…

So I added a blank layer on top and used the Brush tool with Fade set to 90 (I experimented with different values to get the fade out effect that I wanted). Then I painted a series of new hairs, each time pressing Option (PC: Alt) before painting to sample the color of her hair. The Fade setting helps it look more natural.

Here’s what just the “new hair” layer looks like.

Total time? Approximately 15 – 20 minutes (including taking screen captures).

Let’s not overlook the importance of having some good separation between the subject and the background – if she had been standing in front of a busy background of trees, it would not have been anywhere near this quick or simple.

<begin plug>For more training on making selections, check out my online training class or DVD, Mastering Selections in Photoshop CS5<end plug>


  1. Michelle H

    October 12, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Thanks for posting this, Dave. I’m just getting started with an at home studio, and don’t want to spend a ton of money on backgrounds (the main purpose will be pictures of my son and family). I think I’m going to start with a basic white background, but was looking at the green screen stuff as well.

  2. Troy Breidenbach

    October 12, 2010 at 10:43 pm


    If you are a NAPP member, Dave has a couple of really good tutorials for removing people from green screens!

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