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  1. Selection and Layers
  2. Selection and Layers Project
  3. In Closing
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Selection and Layers Project

For this project, the United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C., will be separated from its dark background and placed against an intense twilight sky. Please download the Chapter 4 project file at

  1. Open the image named Capitol.jpg (FIGURE 4.20).
    Figure 4.20

    Figure 4.20 The Capitol building, Washington, D.C, was shot with a Canon 20D with a 200mm lens.

  2. If the Layers palette is not visible, choose Windows > Show Layers. The palette will show the Capitol image (FIGURE 4.21).
    Figure 4.21

    Figure 4.21 The Layers palette shows the Capitol layer.

  3. The image exists as a Background layer and will not contain transparent pixels (a necessity for a layered image element). Double-click the layer and name it Capitol. It is now a floating layer, which means you can have other layers beneath it (FIGURE 4.22).
    Figure 4.22

    Figure 4.22 Transformed from the Background layer.

  4. Remove the background of the image. Using the Magic Wand with its tolerance set to the default 32, click on the black sky. As you can see, most of the area around the Capitol has been selected (FIGURE 4.23).
  5. Fine-tune the selection. As you can see in the previous image, the selection border has breached the Capitol. Select the Lasso tool to correct the overselected areas. Since the actual selection is on the background sky, the Lasso should be in the Subtract From selection mode found on the Menu Options bar (FIGURE 4.24).
  6. Zoom in to make a precise selection. Use the Magnification tool by choosing it from the toolbox, or hold down Command-spacebar on the Mac or Alt-spacebar in Windows. Drag the tool over a reasonable work area and release.
  7. Draw around the overselected areas on the Capitol dome. Don't attempt to do it a single action; instead, reconstruct it in stages. This way if you make a mistake, you can easily undo the last action (FIGURE 4.25).
  8. The Freedom Statue atop the Capitol dome was so dark, it merged into the background selection. Using the Lasso tool, trace around its edges (FIGURE 4.26).
  9. Before separating the Capitol dome from the background, let's smooth the selection using the Refine Edge command. Since we are already using a selection tool, just access this from the Options bar (FIGURE 4.27).
  10. In the Refine Edge palette, adjust the radius by 5 pixels; increase contrast to 11%; set smooth at 10; feather at 3 pixels; and expand the selection +2% (FIGURE 4.28).
  11. After clicking OK, remove the background by hitting the Delete key. It still looks rough, mainly due to the darker area on the bottom (FIGURE 4.29).
  12. Get rid of the darker, bottom portion of the image by cropping it out. Drag the crop box to include a fully lit Capitol dome and a little space above it. Hit return. Save the image and close it (FIGURE 4.30).
  13. Open the Background.jpg file (FIGURE 4.31).
  14. There are many ways to add a layer to another image. You can copy and paste it, drag it from one picture to another, or use the Place function. For this project, we'll do the latter. Go to File > Place and navigate to the Capitol file you just saved. When you find it, click Place (FIGURE 4.32).
  15. The placed image appears in an adjustable bounding box. Let's make it a little bigger by tugging one of the bottom corner anchors. Hold down the Shift key to constrain proportions (FIGURE 4.33).
  16. Hit the Return key to relieve the bounding box. Move the Capitol dome to the bottom of the frame, and there is your final picture (FIGURE 4.34).
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