Decompose review

Removing backgrounds from digital images and placing people and things into new environments, is the bread and butter of Photoshop experts. But it’s not always easy. In Photoshop alone, there are half a dozen ways to extract objects from busy backgrounds – all requiring a level of technical expertise beyond casual users. And Photoshop itself is expensive.

Enter Decompose, a budget application that tries to simplify the process of selecting objects in photographs. It works, in fact, very much like the Extract feature found in versions of Photoshop from 5.5 onwards. That tool has since been superseded by the Refine Edge and Refine Mask dialogs, features that improve manual selections.

With Decompose, you don’t select elements with the magic wand, pen tool or lasso. Instead, you brush around the area you want to extract (or, depending on what mode you’re in, fill in the area you want to remove).

Removing complex backgrounds from images is an easier task with Decompose’s brush selection tools and masking features

The tool is smart enough to infer which pixels belong to the element you’ve selected and which are background. So, for example, if you’re trying to select around fur or hair – the bane of the professional Photoshopper – Decompose can do a pretty good job of fixing that for you.

It’s by no means perfect. The more accurate and refined your original selection, the better. That means, it can still take time, trial and error to get a good result.


So, why spend your money on a tool that’s no longer included in Photoshop? Well, that’s an argument for you right there. The Extract tool had its fans and Adobe dropped it unceremoniously. Combine Decompose with open source image editor Seashore (reviewed last issue) and you’ll have a pretty professional image editing suite for very little outlay.

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