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Advanced Photo Retouching in Adobe Photoshop

Lesson 6 of 7

Remove an Object with a Complex Background

Ben Willmore

Advanced Photo Retouching in Adobe Photoshop

Ben Willmore

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Lesson Info

6. Remove an Object with a Complex Background

Lesson Info

Remove an Object with a Complex Background

Let's say in this particular image, I need to retouch out one of these objects. Well, if I want to retouch them out, that's gonna be kinda difficult because if you look at the background that's behind it, it needs to be very exacting in what is placed there, and if I copy from this open area down here let's say, well this might be brighter than up here where I actually need to apply it. So, also the background here is straight, and there it might be distorted because of the hanging that's in here. So how could I end up dealing with some of that? Well I just want to share you a few ideas. I can come in here and use my lasso tool and select the largest area that's clean in here, not sure how much of it I'll need yet, so I'm gonna select as much as I have available. Then I'm gonna copy that to it's own layer. Command J would work for that, Control J in Windows. That means jump to a new layer, and when you have a selection active it does it just to the area that's selected. Then I could us...

e my move tool. And I could reposition this to the area that I need to apply it in. And so I'm gonna come up here and try to get this to line up. Now when I attempt to get this to line up, let's zoom up. Right now I'm looking in the left edge. I'll get this little yellow stripe to line up and I might use the arrow keys on my keyboard if I'm in my move tool. I got it to line up, but now down here it doesn't line up, and down there it doesn't line up, and it doesn't line up over here either. So how the heck would I possibly get this to work? Well, what I'm going to do is first, I'm going to convert this into something known as a smart object. A smart object is gonna make it so any changes that I make, like transformations to scale and to rotate this are not permanent, and I can go back again and again and try to update them. And I can do that by choosing Layer, Smart Object, Convert to Smart Object. We had an entire lesson on smart objects as part of Photoshop the Complete Guide, so if you haven't, look for that particular lesson. And you're unfamiliar with smart objects, you might want to explore it. Then I can come in here and choose Edit, Free Transform, that'll let me scale and rotate things. When you're in free transform, it depends on your settings, but you might find a crosshair here in the middle. In older versions of Photoshop, that crosshair was always there, but in newer versions they've hid that. And we're gonna use it. If you don't find a crosshair after choosing free transform, go to the upper left of your screen and just turn on this check box. That's what controls if you get that crosshair or not. Well, what the heck is the crosshair? Well, if you ever rotate something, it pivots it around that point. And therefore by default, if I move my mouse outside of these handles and rotate, you see it's pivoting it right around that crosshair. I'll choose undo, Command Z. Well, if I click on the crosshair, I can move it up here to where that yellow stripe lines up with the image, 'cause I want that to be consistent. Now if I attempt to rotate, you notice it's rotating it, pivoting it around that spot. And therefore I can keep that spot consistent. Then I can try to get the others as close as possible. If I need to scale and I wanna keep that spot consistent, well watch. If I don't do anything special and I just scale, do you see how the yellow line no longer lines up up there where the crosshair was? Let me choose undo. Here's how you could keep it lined up in the same location. When you're scaling, if you've placed the crosshair somewhere, when you click, right after you click before you start dragging, hold down the option key. And holding the option key in this case means keep the area where the crosshair is, consistent. So you see when I scale down now, that that yellow line right where the crosshair is, is still in the same position? And so therefore I can scale this up and down and try to get as close as I can to the right size without messing up the position of that area. So do something like that. Then I'll press return or enter to indicate I'm done. But now how do I get the straight lines that are found here to line up? Because they don't line up here, they don't line up there. Well, what I would do, is I'd go to the Edit menu, and there's something called Puppet Warping. Puppet warping will put a mesh on top of your image. The mesh isn't really helpful to look at, so in the options bar at the top of the screen, you could turn off the show mesh check box. But then I can click on my image, and I'm gonna click right where that yellow line was, and I'm locking in the position of that area so it doesn't move, by adding the pin. Then I'll come down here and click on the next yellow line, I'm gonna click to add a pin, and then I'm gonna grab the pin and move it up and down. And I'm gonna get it so that yellow line aligns. I'll go to the opposite end of the same yellow line. I'm gonna click, and then it adds a pin, and I'm gonna move the pin up and down to try to get it where I think it should belong. I'll come down here to a white line that's not lining up. I'll click to add a pin. Then I'll drag this up and down until it aligns. And I'll continue doing that with the other lines until they line up on both ends. This is like making your image out of play dough or just clay and you're molding the clay with your fingers to pull it around to various positions. But by doing so, I should be able to get this to eventually line up in all the areas that are important. Once I've done that, I could either mask this with a layer mask to determine where it shows up and therefore get it so it only covers up the area needed. Or I can get fancier with other tips. In the middle here I can also grab it if it needs to have any kind of a bend to it and fine tune it. I'll press return or enter when I'm done. Now since I turned it into a smart object, if I ever return to the Edit menu and choose Puppet Warp once again, it's gonna remember all those points and I'll be able to fine tune them, which is very nice. So for now I might end up adding a layer mask to this. I'll click on the layer mask icon, and then if I fill that mask with black, I can do that by Edit, Adjustments, Invert. Inverse gives you the opposite of what you currently have. So if you look in the layers panel, I see a mask full of white. When I choose Inverse, it's full of black. Then if I grab my paintbrush tool and paint with white, that's when I'm gonna bring this in. And so I'm gonna paint over whatever it is I was trying to retouch. And since I was covering a larger area than that, it's hard to figure out exactly where the edges needed to be, so right here the yellow doesn't line up, same with down at the bottom. So that's when I go back to Edit, and I have to not be working on the mask, sorry I didn't mean to choose what I did. I need to not work on the mask, I need to be working on the image. Then I can go back to the Edit menu, and choose Puppet Warp once again. And I just add more spots here to get this to line up where it needs to. Wherever it doesn't line up, grab it, pull on it. And there's one other spot here I need to retouch. I'm not gonna spend the time to do it 'cause you could just repeat the process of what I've done here. I mainly wanted to share with you how you can do a more complex retouch. But now let's get into the really hard stuff.

Class Description


  • Retouch in perspective using Vanishing Point
  • Separate fine detail from overall tone/color using Frequency Separation
  • Eliminate telephone lines that cross intricate trees
  • Swap heads, closed eyes, and smiles in group photos
  • Get rid of whiskers without affecting skin texture and tone
  • Remove stains from clothing while retaining fabric detail


  • Beginner, intermediate, and advanced users of Adobe Photoshop.
  • Those who want to gain confidence in Adobe Photoshop and learn new features to help edit photos.
  • Students who’d like to take ordinary images and make them look extraordinary with some image editing or Photoshop fixes.


Adobe Photoshop 2020 (V21)

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a Creativelive Student

Cannot recommend too strongly. Each lesson is filled with gems clearly and smoothly explained. Techniques I use frequently will become much more powerful using the expanded tools that Willmore illustrates. This is one of those courses that is worth full price, and more