photoshop creative

Create cutout effects without the cutout filter!

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
October 22, 2014

Excel at cutout effects that retain the personality a filter can remove…

1. Prepare the Pen tool

Open up your picture. The Pen tool has a number of settings but the two we’ll use here are Shape Layer and Paths. To begin with we’ll need to select the Paths option, which enables us to crop the model away from her background.

2. Begin the rough cutout

Begin by clicking a point on the background, then cut around the model. This doesn’t have to be precise, but if you make a mistake, just hit Cmd/Ctrl+Z or Edit>Undo to go back to your last point.

3. Work on the hair

When cutting out the hair, you can curve the Pen tool’s lines by clicking and dragging. Anchor points appear when you move the cursor, so drag where you want the curve and release to create a point.

4. Confirm your selection

Once happy, Cmd/Ctrl-click inside your path and pick Make Selection. Hit OK and a flashing border will appear around your selection. Hit Cmd/Ctrl_J to duplicate anything inside that selection.

5. Create colour swatches

Go to Window>Swatches, click your Foreground colour, pick an off-white then select Add to Swatches. Do the same for a mid-grey and black.

6. Block out the main shape

Now select the other Pen tool option (Shape Layer), as well as the black we created, and cut out the model again. Once you close the path a new layer will appear, so name this ‘MODEL BLOCK’.

7. Work with the high tones

Now we need to add the lighter detail back in. Hide the MODEL BLOCK layer by clicking its eye icon, select the off-white swatch and use the same method as before to trace around the face.

8. Adjust the midtones

Here the midtones we’ll be applying are mainly the shiny areas of the hair. Repeat the techniques of the last few steps and block out the midtones, labelling new layers as you go.

9. Organise your selections

Select a layer in the palette, hold Cmd/Ctrl and click any other layers you want to group together. Hit Cmd/Ctrl+G to create a group from the selected layers.

10. Add the detail back

For the eyes, add in colour and use a solid white for the pupil reflection. Move new layers so they sit in the correct order and label them accordingly.

11. Tweak the shirt

Drop the Transparency of the shirt’s creases to 20% to achieve a nice blue/green tone. This helps to separate it from the hair’s shine.

12. Enhance the background

Select the Background layer, pick the Gradient tool (G) and open the Gradient Editor. Set a black-to-white gradient, confirm and apply it to your canvas.


  • Hi Mark, Thank you for sharing this topic. A great tutorial about Photo Cut Out, Its a bit different about the terms that we usually know about Photo Cut Out or Clipping Path. We usually do this type of Illustration / Artwork on Adobe Illustrator.

  • Very intersting information post………