Magic Wand / Quick Selection Tools
"The Magic Wand tool lets you select a consistently colored area (for example, a red flower) without having to trace its outline. You specify the color range, or tolerance, for the Magic Wand tool’s selection, based on similarity to the pixel you click. You can use the Quick Selection tool to quickly “paint” a selection using an adjustable round brush tip. As you drag, the selection expands outward and automatically finds and follows defined edges in the image."* This is the method most artists are familiar with and use. For simple and mostly straight lined images these tools work very well but for detailed curvy images the outer edges of the images tend to be "jaggy" and needs editing. The magic wand and quick selections tools are in the tools menu. Watch "Photoshop Tutorial - 9 - Magic Wand and Quick Selection Tools" on how to use the magic wand and quick selection tools.
Color Range Command
"The Color Range command selects a specified color or color range within an existing selection or an entire image."* This method takes more time to use than using the magic wand or quick selection tools but it does a better job of extracting detailed images. The color range command is in the select pull down menus. Watch "Photoshop Tutorial: Removing Background from Image Tutorial" on using the color range command.
Masking Layer Method
"You can add a mask to a layer and use the mask to hide portions of the layer and reveal the layers below. Masking layers is a valuable compositing technique for combining multiple photos into a single image or for making local color and tonal corrections."* This method does not extract an image or remove a background permanently and it can be continually edited. This is an easy method to use (similar to the color range command) but can be time consuming. The draw back is that files can get very large if many masked layered images are used in the same file. I do not recommend it to mask icons for patterns. The mask command is in the layer pull down menu. Watch "Basic Masking in Photoshop" on how to mask layers.
Extract Filter Method
"The Extract filter provides a sophisticated way to isolate a foreground object and erase its background on a layer. Even objects with wispy, intricate, or undefinable edges may be clipped from their backgrounds with a minimum of manual work."* I must admit that I haven't used this method and in fact I just discovered it while researching for this article. But I am really excited about trying it because it looks like the best method in extracting art especially if the image has lots of detail on the outer edges such as animal hair. The extract command is in the filter pull down menu. Read Adobe's tutorial "Extract an object from its background" and watch the video "Photoshop Background Extraction - using extract tool" on using the extract filter method.
* description from Photoshop's help menu
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