Sometimes I do it just fine and other times I can't get it to magic erase the background to save my neck.
I've spent 4 hours trying to get this done today......earlier I did it to a photo in 5 minutes.
The magic eraser has provision for tolerance setting. Look on the tool's option bar at the top. It is not unlike the magic wand in this regard.
I prefer to select the foreground, place that on a new layer, and place a replacement background below this.
With these 2 layers one can make subtle changes to enhance the output.
Either way is ok if it works for you.
Are you saving the image as a JPG? Only PNG and TIF files support transparency.
The other thing is the program you're using to view the document into which you paste your image. If you saved the image with transparency as a PNG, that program might not be capable of dealing with transparency in images.
In this type of situation I take a different approach.
None of the selection tools will make a precise selection around and in between the hair whisps, esp. the whisps at the top. Perhaps it can be accomplished with a mask, but even that is very tedious with a mouse.
Consider retaining the foreground, but de-emphasizing the background.
Once you see the marching ants, create Levels adjustment layer #1
There's another approach to getting a transparent background -- using the selection brushes, but for a subject with areas of wispy hair you'll definitely need to do some handwork.
Now comes the fun part of building the final image:
The layers wind up looking like this:
And the final image looks like this:
That clouds layer gives a nice, blurred "semi-natural" looking outdoors effect to the background -- since the lighting on her face is obviously natural sunlight, the background should also seem to be an outdoors background.
Ken, great work in your last example!
I have one question..before applying the Clouds filter in step 6, what did you set the Foreground/Background colors to?
I tried both black/white and white/black and there was a slight difference. Or did you use other colors?
The Foreground/Background were the default black/white.
I'm going to do some more experimenting with extracting this portrait. Just for practice, I want to see if the Background Eraser tool can mean less work. I also remember several months ago we worked on a problem of dropping out an overblown sky from behind bare tree branches, and in that case a layers mask did not work too well, but maybe in this example with a white foreground image, it changes things....
Well, I tried the Background Eraser tool, and it worked great! I used a Tolerance of 14% and "Discontiguous" Limits. What I found is that when I got to an area of wispy hair, increasing the brush size to cover the internal areas of background worked like a charm to erase those, even when surrounded by strands of hair.
I still needed to go over the erased edges with the Eraser tool using a hard edge, use the Color Replacement tool as before to remove the green cast from some of the edges and wisps of hair and finally the Dodge tool to lighten some of the areas that were still too dark, but overall it was much less work since I didn't have to manually draw over the individual wisps of hair.
I think the difference will show even at this reduced size: