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PNG Cutouts in Adobe Photoshop


June 27th 2008
February 27th 2009

This tutorial shows you how you can create a simple cutout in Adobe Photoshop, and then save it as a transparency equipped PNG -- this tutorial uses Photoshop CS3, but the technique works in the same way in earlier versions of Photoshop.

Follow the steps to create a cutout:

  1. In Photoshop, open the picture from which you want to create a cutout, as shown in Figure 1.

    Image opened in Photoshop
    Figure 1: Picture opened in Photoshop

  2. Select the Pen tool from the Tools palette (see in Figure 2).

    Pen tool
    Figure 2: Pen tool

  3. Now within the Options palette, click the Paths icon as shown in Figure 3, so that you can make a selection with a path.

    Figure 3: Pen tool

    Note: If your Photoshop interface doesn't have a Options palette at the top, choose Windows | Options to activate the Options palette.

  4. Now zoom on part of the picture, and start making the selection minutely, as shown in Figure 4. Continue making the selection until you get back to the point you started from. Click on the starting point to create a closed path.

    Making selection using pen tool
    Figure 4: Making a selection using pen tool

    Note: Make sure you close the path to get a proper selection.

  5. Figure 5 shows the path selection created -- as you can see, the water lily has been isolated from the rest of the picture.

    Path selection
    Figure 5: Path selection

  6. Now press Ctrl+Enter to create a selection from the the path, as shown in Figure 6. You'll know that this is a selection when the water lily (or anything else in your picture) has a path of marching ants around it.

    Figure 6: Selection

  7. Press Ctrl+J to copy the selection to a new layer. Figure 7 shows a new layer created in Layer palette.

    New layer
    Figure 7: New layer

  8. Figure 8 shows you the cutout after I hide the background layer.

    Figure 8: Cutout

  9. Now choose File | Save for Web & Devices, as shown in Figure 9. Users of previous Photoshop versions will choose File | Save for Web.

    Save for Web
    Figure 9: Save for Web

  10. This opens the Save for Web & Devices dialog box (see Figure 10). On the right side of the dialog box Choose PNG-24 from the preset dropdown menu and check the Transparency option.

    Figure 10: Save for Web & Devices dialog box

    Click Save to export the cutout to a PNG file.

Tip: Any cutouts that you export as PNGs can be inserted within PowerPoint slides -- and PowerPoint will show all areas that are not part of the cutout as transparent.


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