Photoshop Elements 10 and the competition review – Frank Thomson

Last Monday, we had a chance to look at the competition entries and make constructive comments.  Gary suggested that Marjorie’s picture of two lemurs would look even better if the background was blurred.

Ringtail Lemurs by Marjorie Wilkinson

Here is my recipe for doing this with Elements 10, using

  1. the Quick Selection Tool (with Refine Edge) to select the Lemurs
  2. the Gaussian Blur Filter applied to a copy of the background,
  3.  the Clone Stamp Tool to remove the rather bright rocks just behind the lemurs.
  4. a layer mask to the blurred layer with a black to white gradient, to give a more realistic look to the background, and leave the foreground in focus.
  5. the Burn Tool to tone down the remaining whitish rocks.
  6. the Spot healing Brush to remove the eye-catching stick just below the further tail.
  7. flatten the image and save as a JPG

Here are the details:

1. Selection

Click on the Quick Selection Tool in the toolbox. Check that Auto Enhance is ticked. At this stage there is only one layer so “Sample All Layers is irrelevant”. The Refine Edge option is only available once a selection has been made.

Smart selection with marching ants

Paint over the lemurs, and the “marching ants” outline a rough selection { to increase the brush size, use the right square bracket ] }. To improve the selection, reduce the brush size by pressing the left square bracket [. Enlarge the image using the Zoom tool (Z) or pressing CTRL and = at the same time (CTRL+=), and using the smaller brush add in any missing lemur detail. To remove any selected background, press the ALT key whilst brushing over the unwanted selection (a small minus sign on the brush shows that it is subtracting from the selection). Concentrate not selecting any background from around the Lemurs’ faces. Any mistakes around the feet won’t matter, as the background won’t be blurred there.

Refine Edge

The Refine Edge tool improves the selection. There is no need to smooth it (remove jagged edges) as this would spoil the fur, or to feather more than a minimum amount. Expand the selection a little to include all the fur. The red mask shows the area not selected.

Windows Menu

If the Layers panel is not visible, open the Windows menu and click on Layers

Create a new layer with a copy of the selected area by pressing CTRL+J.

Cut-out of lemurs

The cut-out will look something like the above.

2.  Blur

To make a blurred background, copy the background layer by clicking on the background layer  in the Layers Panel to make it the active layer, and pressing CTRL+J. To change the name of the new layer to something more meaningful, click on the words “background layer”, which changes colour, and type Blur.

Blur Filter choices

With the Blur layer active (black background), click on the Filter menu -> Blur    ->  Gaussian Blur.

Gaussian Blur setting

Move the Gaussian Blur radius slider until the preview shows a suitable amount of blur.

3. Clone out the rocks.

Clone Stamp Tool

Select the clone stamp tool in the toolbox. Make sure that the option Sample All Layers is not ticked.

Clone out the rocks

Place the cursor over an area of blurred brown and click Alt to select that as the source area of the cloning. Paint over the white rocks behind the lemur heads, changing the source from time to time to get variety in the cloning. It does not matter if the cloning goes over the lemurs as the cut out will cover it up.

4. Apply a gradient to a layer mask

Add a Layer Mask

With the Blur layer active, click on the add layer mask button at the bottom of the layers panel. Click inside the layer mask to make sure the black to white gradient will be applied to the mask.

Gradient Tool

Click on the gradient tool and check that a black to white linear gradient is selected.

Gradient Mask settings

Hold down the Shift key to keep the line vertical, click on the start point and drag up to the finish point. Experiment with the start and finish points until the blurring looks right. Make the background layer visible to see the result.

5. Burn in the rock highlights.

Burn Tool

Settings for Burn brush

Tone down the white rocks by brushing over the highlights with the Burn Tool set to highlights and an exposure of 7%. The result is built up by repeated brush strokes with a low exposure.

6. Spot healing.

Spot Healing Brush Tool

Use the Spot Healing Brush with the background layer active, and brush along an irritating twig just under the rear tail remove the twig.

7. Flatten the image

Click on the Layer Menu -> Flatten image to make one layer to save as a jpg and save disk space. (Alternatively save the layered version as a PSD and then save as a JPG.)

Ring Tailed Lemurs


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