Digital Imaging Tutorial

Digital Imaging Photoshop CC Tutorial: Part 1, Cutting out the Scorpion


As we said yesterday in Digital Imaging Photoshop Tutorial: Here’s the plan, Tortoise and the Scorpion, today we cut out the scorpion.  I used gifs in the tutorial.  Let me know how they work or if they are too slow to load. I’ll show you some different ways to separate something from the background so you can choose whichever method works best for you.

Photograph source: Scorpion by 41330 on

Quick plug: I use Photoshop CC so all the menu images below come from PS CC. I pay $9.99 a month to Adobe and they take care of the updates. Much simpler and for a little over $100 a year, it’s much cheaper than what I used to pay for Photoshop. I love all the things Photoshop can do and cutting objects out is just one of them.


These first steps are my safety precautions before I start. Makes things simpler later usually when I’m cutting out stuff. Then I show 3 different ways to cut something out. You can choose which you use depending on your own object and it’s background. Finally the lasso and history tool for cleanup.
We are starting with this : Photograph 1: The Scorpion

Before following along, I’d suggest a quick scan through the methods so you can decide which one you want to try. Well, here goes.


  1.  Open up the Scorpion image (or whatever image you want to follow along with)
  2. Drag the layer over the new layer (the little page icon next to the trash can) to make a second copy.
    That way you have the original layer to start over from if you really screw things up.  Don’t laugh!  I’ve needed it lots of times.
  3. Click on the eye to turn off the bottom layer.  That way when you erase the background you can see what you’re doing.
  4. Open the History palette
  5. Click on the History Brush tool
  6. Click on the Duplicate Layer (should be on the bottom of your history list)
    The reason for the putting the History Brush on the history list is this become where you can erase back to.  So if you erase too much in cutting out and want to get a piece of the scorpion back.  The History Brush lets you do that.  It will erase back to the state on the layer that you designated.
    Note: you’re going to see a “save as” on the duplicate layer on my image cuz I forgot to save the file and name it until now.  Actually it should have been my first step.

Below is a quick demonstration of the History Brush tool.  I erased across the sand and the scorpion.  Since I want the scorpion back, I clicked on the History Brush.  Using it like the Brush Tool, I colored over the area where the scorpion used to be and that original area came back — like magic!  If I had used Control-Z for undo, it would have reverted the sand and the corpion back — not just the scorpion since that was my last move.  With the History Brush, you control what you bring back.demo

Ok, safety stuff done.  Next step.

Cutting it out!   (Choice 1:  Magic Eraser)

  1. First I’m going to show you the Magic Eraser tool.  It’s awesome when there is a big difference in color between your object and your background.
  2. You will find it under the Eraser tool by right clicking.
  3. When you click on the Magic Eraser, it gives you some options in the tool bar.
  4. Tolerance allows you to control the range of color that gets selected.  The higher the number, the wider the range.
  5. Anti-Alias.  Clicking this gives you smoother edges.
  6. Contiguous.  Clicking this means it only selects the colors in the range that are connected to each other.  This way you don’t accidentally select the highlight in his eye for example that matches the sand.
  7. Here’s the demo. The problem is going to be the shadow is too close in color to his body.  I start with using a tolerance of 90 in this picture and clicked on a white rock — the furthest color from his dark colors I could find.  Then when 90 became too much — because it selected him. Quick control-z undo. I dropped the number down to 20–too little, then back up to 30. While the sand is very different than the scorpion, he does have some tan areas on his body that I’d like to avoid getting accidentally selected.


Since his shadow is so close in color to him, I could just lasso around him, then inverse to take out those little bits left and then lasso to get rid of the shadow.  Lasso is nice because you can just circle something quickly to select a large area.  Or you can use Lasso +alt to make a point to point selection to fine tune something.

Option 2: Background Erase tool

  1. go to the Erase tool, right click, choose Background Erase tool
  2. it makes a circle with a x in the middle.  Try to position it so 3/4 of the circle and the x is on the background.  Then you use it like the brush tool and go around the object.
  3. If it selects too much erasing the scorpion, don’t worry.  You can use the history brush tool to get it back like I did here.


Option 3:  My favorite The Quick Selection Tool

  1. Go to the Magic Wand tool.  Right Click.  Select “The Quick Selection Tool.
  2. Go to you object.  Hold down your button as you skate over the object.  It will select the object as you move over it.  Don’t forget the tips.
  3. Got too much?  Click the alt key and go over a bit to subtract it from your selection
  4. Once your object is totally selected, go to Select in the menu and click on “Inverse”.  It will inverse your selection so your background is selected.
  5. Hit the delete or backspace to clear your selection.  Either one works.  Tada!


Last is clean up: whichever method you chose above

  1. Zoom in.
  2. Then use lasso to take out areas. If you click the alt key, the Lasso goes from click to click. I find I have more control with that in close work.  Then hit the backspace or delete to clear your selection.
  3. Don’t forget to use Control-D afterwards to delect the lasso selection.  Even though it is now empty, the area is still selected until you deselect.  If you try another to lasso, it won’t work with the the other selection still there.  Control-D to deselect — I forget a lot and then it’s like, oh yeah!
  4. If you erased too much, change over to the History Brush to bring back the area.  then you can use the Lasso to clean up.  You can use the right bracket [  and left bracket ] keys to change the size of the History Brush on the fly.  Someimes you need big and sometimes you need tiny.
  5. Use the erase tool to clean up any lines or spots you see in the background


  1. Because the shadow is black like the body, I put a level layer above it to lighten the image.  Then I throw the level layer away afterwards.  The level layer is in the half circle menu on the bottom.  Pull the middle dot to the right to lighten the picture.  Then go back to the layer you were working on.  (make sure you’re not on the level layer because you can’t lasso there.  It happens to me a lot, lol)  The nice thing about the levels layer is that you can turn it on and off with the eye.  If you’re cutting out a bit of sand, turn it off.  A bit of shadow, turn it on.

With any luck: you will get something like this after about 30-60 minutes of cleanup.  If clean up takes longer, don’t worry.  You’ll get faster with practice.  If it weren’t for the shadows beings so close in color to the body, clean up usually takes about 15 minutes or less.  Like hair against sky is easy because most people don’t have blue hair.

Let me know what you think of my first tutorial.  Do you like knowing there are 3 ways to cut something out or would you prefer that I just show the 3rd one that I used?  Did you learn anything?  Was it fun?


Like snapshot as likes don’t export.  Likes from 9/23/17 to 12/31/17:



  1. Where is the link to subscribe to this ‘ photoshop’ thing? I do not like that bug thing either. It looks too much like a snack for some thing else.

    • Sorry, you don’t like the scorpion but it goes with the haiku folk tale The Tortoise and the Scorpion.

      I did a quick reformatting and changed the Adobe ad picture so it should be a little more obvious. Hope that makes it easier to spot for you. It should take you to the Adobe website and give you details on the $9.99 deal to use Photoshop CC as well as 2G cloud storage, Lightroom CC, Spark and some mobile apps for Photoshop. If that link doesn’t work, let me know.

      I haven’t used Lightroom, Spark or the other mobile apps yet. My phone might be smart but I’m not, lol. If you do the $19.99 for single app, you can choose Photoshop (and includes some fonts and 20GB of cloud storage) but I think the $9.99 is a better deal if you just want Photoshop.


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