If your image has a complex background and you are hoping to cut out a particular element of the image, you’ll want to use the Lasso tool. With this tool, you’ll be tracing around the object you want to cut out manually. A great example of this type of use is cutting out a person completely from an image and pasting their likeness into an entirely different image. This is very doable, but it requires some skill and effort. You’re going to need to take your time the first few times you tackle this process, but once you get the hang of it, it should become second nature.
Two lasso tool options
The *freehand* lasso tool can be used to draw around an area with your mouse. It can be difficult to do this with precision using a mouse. It’s much easier to do if you’re using a pen-and-tablet device (although of course most people do not use those). You may instead want to use the *polygonal* lasso tool. With the polygonal tool, click and click again and keep laying down straight lines, with Pixlr connecting your points along the way. In this way, you’ll be able to have finer control over what you’re cutting out. Your ultimate goal is to draw a point-by-point area that closes in on itself at the end — you end up where you started and have your area selected.
Make a mistake? You can add to your path by holding down the Shift key. You’ll see a small plus sign near your cursor, which means you can add to the selection with a few clicks. At this point, you can even switch to the freehand tool to carefully add to your selection. Place your pointer somewhere inside your selection and draw outside of the selection to choose the areas you want to add, ending your dragging back inside your selection at your starting point. You’ll see that your selection has expanded to include the area you drew. This is great for capturing detail that may have been hard to capture with your first pass. You may even want to zoom in to do this kind of detail work.
Similarly, you can remove part of your path by holding down the Alt or Option key. You’ll see a minus sign, and you can remove areas in much the same way by drawing inside and outside of the selection area. Again, I recommend using the freehand tool to do this kind of work. And again, draw your path and end up where you started, and you’ll see that area has now been removed from the selection area.
Step by step with the polygonal lasso tool
Select the lasso tool from the toolbar. Check your tool options and make sure you have selected the polygonal lasso tool if that is what you are planning to use.
Click on a starting point in your image. Move your mouse along the path that you want to draw. Keep clicking as you go to keep laying down the path, drawing your way carefully around the object you will be cutting out.
Once you have drawn around the area you want to cut out and reach your starting point, click on that starting point. Pixlr will outline the area you’ve selected with flashing dotted lines.
Copy your selection. At this point, you may want to paste your selection into a blank canvas or into another image that you have waiting. Alternately, you can “invert selection” which will choose the area around your path. In this way, you can cut out the background if you choose.
An example to get you started
As a simple demonstration, let’s cut out this girl walking through the grass at an outdoor wedding and transport her to a wide open road.
I start by choosing the polygonal lasso tool and then work deliberately from point to point, starting at the base of her shoe. I draw up the left side and back down around to the shoe again.
Once I’m back where I started, I see that the area is selected, at which point I copy it to my clipboard.
Here I’ve also pasted it into a new document to show you what that looks like.
But my real goal is to add her to this file of a deserted highway, so I open up that image and paste the selection in.
I bumped up the contrast of her layer and used the burn tool to add a little bit of shadow in there after pasting her in. I could do more to clean this up and make it look a little more professional, but it’s fine for my purposes. You may want to more clean-up with your projects, but as always it depends on your goals and level of skill with some of the more advanced tools.
A few extra tips
Feathering: If you want the “cuts” you’re making to have a very hard outline, turn feathering off completely. If you want a soft, gradual edge, increase the feathering amount. The more you increase the feathering, the more blurred your edges will be. If you’re using very high feathering, your cut-out may take on a “halo” like appearance.
Anti-alias: Choosing the anti-alias option will smooth the jagged edges of your cut-out. Think of anti-aliasing as a piece of fine sandpaper that smooths out the pixels where you’re cutting.
Invert selection: If you’ve drawn a path around your object but want to delete everything outside of your closed path, use the “invert selection” command in the Edit menu to choose the area outside.
Check your contrast: Once the image you’ve cut out has no background around it, it can sometimes look less vibrant. Try increasing the contrast and see how it looks.
Cute Alert! New Kawaii Stickers Dangerous to Easily Melted Hearts
Recently, we added a set of New Stickers that let you put all kinds of silly stuff on faces like hats and glasses and eye patches. This time around, we’ve replaced the old one-tone Kawaii stickers that used to be in Pixlr Express with a dozen full-color, fully cute, expertly designed Kawaii stickers. You’ll find these in Pixlr Express for both the web and your mobile phone, and you don’t even need to update your app to start using them.
So start spreading the Kawaii. And keep spreading the cute.
New sticker alert! Today, we added 10 new stickers to Pixlr Express. You’ll find them in the Accessories sticker pack. A lot of these stickers are items you might want to use to dress up your friends and/or enemies. You’ll find bandages, eyepatches, halos, headphones, horns, and a few other things you can plaster on top of faces, in particular.
We’ll be adding more stickers on a regular basis, so stick around this blog for more updates.
Are You Up for the Android Editors Photo Challenge?
When you run a photo through Pixlr Express or Pixlr-o-matic and take full advantage of those tools to create something worthy of being hung on a wall — of being called “art” — that’s when we smile the widest. We think your smartphone isn’t just a tiny computer with a tiny camera that you carry around with you everywhere; it’s a tool for creating beautiful, arresting, substantial, moving works of art.
If you agree with that sentiment in even a small way, you’re going to love Android Editors. They are a community of Android photographers who continually challenge themselves and each other to create works of art using only their phones. This week, they launched their #AE_Pixlr Editing Challenge. And you are cordially invited to join in.
This is a two-week picture-fest that culminates in a lot of back slapping and personal recognition. We would love to see what our community of Pixlr Express and Pixlr-o-matic users can add to this flowering of creativity. While the Android Editors usually keep the focus on Android apps, they have opened up this challenge to iPhone users, too. They want to see what our community of photo takers can do. It’s a challenge that’s less about which operating system you use and all about what you can do with Pixlr apps.
We’ll be sharing our favorites as the challenge progresses here on this blog, via our Twitter feed, and to our 2.5M+ Facebook Fans. When it’s all said and done, the cream of the crop will be featured on this blog and on the Android Editors site — as well as everywhere else our communities go to get the word out. In short: We’re going to celebrate the best of what our community can do.
Joining us is easy. Just share your photos with the hashtag #AE_Pixlr on a few key platforms so we can uncover them and spotlight them. And don’t hesitate to get our attention by tweeting to us to point out your own submission to the challenge. We want to see and spotlight your work!
Cutting Things Out the Easy Way Using the Magic Wand
How do you cut things out? That’s one of the most-asked questions on our support forum.
Cutting out an image can be very easy or a bit challenging. A lot depends on the background of your photo and how complex the image is. Today, we’re going to show you the simple way; later this week, we’ll show you the advanced way.
The easy way: the magic wand
The magic wand is magically effective when your background is simple in nature. If the background is one color or monotone or without a lot of complex shading or tones, or if the area you want to cut out has a strong outline that sets it apart from the background (e.g., a logo), you can simply use the magic wand and click on the area you want to copy or the area you want to cut. Once you do that, you’ll see the respective area outlined with a flashing dotted line.
Step-by-step: how to use the magic wand
You’ve got nothing to lose and an undo button with you at all times. So, get going and make it happen:
Select the magic wand tool from the toolbar.
Click on an area you want to sample. The magic wand will outline the area selected with flashing dotted lines.
Hold down the shift key to add more areas to your selection (if needed).
Hit the delete key or choose Cut from the Edit menu to delete selected areas.
Two examples to get you started
The easiest images to alter are ones like this illustration of the Instructables robot, which is basically a collection of flat colors with very clear outlines. I started by opening a blank, transparent canvas and pasting the Instructables robot into it as a layer. One click with the magic wand, and I’ve selected the entire area outside of the robot. The area selected is outlined with flashing pixels.
If I choose to cut the area out with a simple “Cut” command, I have the robot all by itself. I could then copy and paste into another image if that’s my goal.
Using the magic wand with shaded backgrounds
Similarly, real-world images like this one that have a relatively simple composition with straightforward shading can be easily cut out. I start with one click of the magic wand:
I clicked the sky area outside the monument a few times more while holding down the shift key and was able to select all of the area *outside* of the monument. Initially, the magic wand only picked up some of that sky, but multiple clicks pretty easily got me to the point where I had selected all of it — and isolated the monument.
I chose to cut the area I had selected — the area outside the monument — out of the image. Viola. I’ve cut out the monument and isolated it.
A note about transparency
For this second example, I didn’t use a transparent background. If your goal is to cut out an area so that you have a transparent background behind it, remember that you will want to paste your image into a transparent canvas as a new layer *before* you start cutting anything out.
Adjusting the magic wand
What the magic wand is doing is looking at the overall photo and choosing pixels that are similar to the one you’re clicking on. Adjust the tolerance up to make the magic wand select pixels that are even more like the one you’re clicking on. Adjust tolerance down to make your magic wand pickier about choosing the area you want to cut out. Once you begin using the magic wand, you may decide you need to combine additional flashing outline areas to your overall selection. As I did, hold down the shift key as you click to add more areas (pixels) to your selection.
Next time… the advanced way to cut things out
If your image is more complex, the magic wand may not be the tool you want to use. For example, if you want to cut a person out of a photo in a very precise way, you will probably want to use the Lasso tool for more precision in your work. We’ll cover that next week right here on our blog.
How to Make an Illustrated Portrait With the History Brush
Since Pixlr Express added the History Brush to mobile apps, I’ve been experimenting with it in different ways. Pixlr Express for the web has had this capability for a long time, but having it added to the phone versions encouraged me to pick it up again on the web version and try some new things.
What I can’t stop making with the History Brush, and which you might enjoy trying out, are what I’m calling “illustrated” portraits. You start with a well-composed photograph of a friend or loved one and, by using various overlays in combination with the history brush, you end up with a portrait that places your subject in the foreground with an illustrative background — almost like a comic book in some ways. You’re basically creating a very rich, textured background while leaving your subject in real-world focus.
Give this a shot. You might find that what you end up creating is artwork worthy of being printed on canvas and hung on the wall. Come to think of it, it’s probably one of the best gifts you could give someone: an artistic portrait that’s handmade and extremely creative.
Step 1: Start with a great photo
You’ll want a photo that is well-composed, that really features your subject, preferably one that shows most of their body. A picture of four family members standing in front of the Eiffel Tower simply won’t do. This technique works best with solo subjects, but you can find creative ways to include more than one person or even make a portrait of an object.
Step 2: Pick your overlays and effects
Open your image in Pixlr Express and do any normal photo editing you would do like auto-adjust or color correction. Then, think about the overlays you want to use. You may want to try a bunch out (use that undo button!) until you find the two or three that really work with the photo you’re using. The point here: You’re going to work in a step-by-step fashion, so it’s probably best to know which filters you want to use ahead of time and then work in a very deliberate way.
Step 3: Add an effect and brush out your subject
Start by laying down an effect and then use the history brush to brush the effect out of the area of your subject. If you plan on printing this later in a large format or even printing it on canvas (which is my plan), you may want to be more meticulous with the brush. Then again, a little sloppiness with the history brush will increase the “comic book” illustrative look, so be sloppy if that is the effect you want to achieve.
Step 4: Repeat step 3 until you’re satisfied
Each time you add an effect, you’ll want to use the history brush to restore your subject itself to their real-life look. As you add more texture or color or overlays or whatever you’ll start to see that your subject really does start to stand out in a dramatic way the more effects you add. But you can definitely go overboard with this technique. If you want your subject to look like they are a real-life person walking through a Van Gogh painting, you can probably achieve that, but I’ve found that subtle effects are often better. Try choosing effects that complement the personality of the person you’re spotlighting.
Example: Crafty spots
Here’s an example of one I created for an Instructables community member who makes very pretty, very crafty things. I made everything in the background look like it’s covered in dots:
Some effects used: The “Sunflower” overlay located in the Paper set + plenty of saturation, vibrance, and color tweaks.
Example: Cyborg warrior
You can use the history brush with all kinds of adjustments — not just overlays. For example, you can oversaturate your photo dramatically and then paint your subject back without the saturated color.
Here is one that I made for an Instructables superstar who builds dramatic science-fiction worthy things out of discarded materials like working robot arms. He deserves a lot of effects:
Some effects used: The “Weave” overlay from the Canvas set + focal blur + various light leaks and chemical burns + a space overlay + tons of color saturation.
Example: Poster child
If your subject has other items they are interacting with that you can brush out, well that’s even better. See below how I have brushed out the Quickrete and other tools being used by this Instructables artist in residence. This is a great way to put an emphasis on someone doing something they love or interacting with items they love.
When you’re nearing completion, you might want to let one effect work through your subject and not brush it out with the history brush — like the “Beam” Retro Poster effect I added here. It can add another layer of interestingness to your portrait.
Some effects used: The “Stoned” overlay in the Grunge set + focal blur + a retro poster overlay that I didn’t brush out with the history brush.
Up for the challenge?
If you try out this technique, please let us know how it went! Share your image to our Flickr group or shout to us at @pixlr on Twitter. We’d love to see what kind of artwork you can make using the history brush.
This week, we’re rotating some new “Symbol” stickers into Pixlr Express. We regularly rotate seasonal stickers (e.g., the recent July 4th stickers in the U.S.) to keep things fresh, but we also like to keep the library of stickers fresh by rotating in new ones and rotating out some of the lesser-used ones.
These new symbol stickers include some playing card clubs, spades, diamonds and hearts, a dollar sign and music note, some radiation symbols and a “NO” circle that will surely come in handy. This new pack is probably perfect for skateboarding fans — or NO SKATING fans.
Seasonal Stickers and Effects for Canada Day & the 4th of July
Holiday ahoy! If you live in the United States, we’ve added some borders and effects to Pixlr Express (both the web version and mobile apps) that let you add star overlays and some red-white-and-blue ribbons to your photos. These seasonal Fourth of July effects are perfect for photos you take at an outdoor BBQ or fireworks celebration — or wherever and whenever the patriotic mood strikes you.
If you’re located in Canada, you can also say Happy Canadian Birthd-eh to friends and family with some of your own special effects.
If you’re not from either of these locales, don’t fret. We regularly rotate in new stickers, effects, and borders to mark the seasons. It’s only a matter of time before new things will pop up in Pixlr Express no matter where you are.
If you’re a regular user of the web version of Pixlr Express, you may have used the history brush before. If you’re not, give it a look and see if it’s a tool you might want to use. The history brush can sometimes be misunderstood, so I wanted to offer a few pointers for those folks who may have seen it show up but who don’t know how it works.
I think of the history brush as an undo brush. You always have an undo button to fully undo the last effect or border or overlay you’ve added, but what if you wanted to just remove part of an effect and not the whole thing? That’s where the history brush comes in. I’ll show you what I’m talking about from the web interface, and then I’ll show you what it looks like on an iPhone; they’re both essentially the same tool.
I have this very colorful photo of a boy looking through a kaleidoscope directly at the camera (look closely and you can see his eye through the kaleidoscope lens). I’m going to turn the entire photo into a sepia-toned image by applying one of the “too old” effects — the one called “Henry” — to the photo.
Then, I decided I wanted to undo part of the effect so the circle that represents the kaleidoscope will be in color — the look of the original photo.
I basically painted away part of the “Henry” effect using the history brush. I got a little sloppy while using it, so I used the eraser option of the history brush to bring back some of the color. I adjusted the size of the brush to get the finer points of erasing just right.
In this way, I was able to partially undo an effect I added. The end result looks great and achieves what I was going for — a photo with a flourish that hints that what the boy is seeing through the kaleidoscope is way different than what we see when we look at him. Let’s call him “The Boy with Kaleidoscope Eyes.”
There are lots of other uses for this like removing part of a border you’ve added, a detail from a sticker that you don’t like, or some of the stars from an outer space effect.
It works essentially the same way on your phone or tablet. I’ll show you.
Here I laid down a star pattern and then removed the stars from the area of the beer can itself with the history brush. Adding adding this mask of a sort makes the beer can stand out while giving a nice appropriate texture to the background.
Those are the essential things to know about the history brush. Try it out the next time you’re doing detailed editing on a photo with your phone or tablet. It can help you add just that little extra detail to your photos to make them a little more special.