Well, let's see if I can type this up and digest some turkey at the same time.
I am so overfed.
This is how I cut out objects in PS Elements. I just got my first book on PS for Christmas today - so I've probably been doing it wrong all along and if you guys know a simpler, more efficient way, I'd be glad to learn it.
First, I open up the picture that contains the object I want to cut out (in this case, Ariel) and I use the rectangular marquee tool to outline the object I want to cut out.
Then, I open up a new file that will end up being the file I'll be working with. Back in Ariel's picture, where she is still outlined with the marquee, I click on the move tool, and then I click on her and drag and drop her into the new file.
There, you can resize the object and reposition it. With the eraser, I then erase all the background from the old picture, leaving some margin around the cat herself.
If you have a section of the background that you are trying to get rid of that is pretty uniform in colour and not too similar in shade to the cat, you can use the magic erase option to get rid of a lot of the background at once. I used this to get rid of most of the blue blanket. I find this tool tricky to use though, you always have to adjust the tolerance to make sure it doesn't erase more than you want it to.
When I've erased all around the cat, I zoom in as much as I need to and using a soft-edged brush, I start to erase the background closer to her. If I have a lot of time or if the background I'm pasting her onto is plain, I'll be more picky with erasing between her fur. But usually I'm pretty quick-and-dirty. Especially for graphics contests, the size of your final photo is not so big that little details like that are usually not noticeable.
When I've gone all around her, I use a larger, sharp edged brush to get rid of the excess that we've trimmed off. The most important thing when you're erasing is to always use small strokes. That way, if you mess up and you need to hit undo, you will only undo your last move and not a huge section.
I usually find my backgrounds from Google image search
or my own photographs. For this I picked some happy sunflowers. You can already have the background in place when you transfer the cat's image over, or you can put it in after you've cut her out of her background. I find sometimes it's helpful to put the background in as another layer after cutting the cat out, because then you can see where you may have forgotten to erase some bits. Oops!
I messed around with the layers a bit to make it seem like she was sitting in the sunflowers.
Then, the really important step: making the kitty furry again after you've erased all the fuzziness! I use the smudge tool for this, and it's a picky step too because it's easy to overdo it and make the cat look like she's been electrocuted. I zoom in a bit and by alternating the width of the brush (usually only a few pixels) and the strength (around 50%) I make quick little strokes from just inside the edge of her body, directed outwards, just like the way the hair grows. I haven't found a good way to replace whiskers yet - that requires a high strength setting and comes out looking really weird. I'm still working on restoring whiskers. If anybody knows how, I'd love to hear it!
If you have a box that says "finger painting" next to the strength, don't tick it. It paints with colour instead of smudging the photo.
Lastly, I run a light-strength blur tool over the edges of her body to soften where I've given her more fluff.
I warmed up her eyes a bit and tweaked the sky, and I'm done like dinner! Ugh, not dinner. I'm still so full.
You probably could have played with this picture a bit more to make it nicer, but I hope that it helped you out a bit! Like I said, I've mostly just taught myself photoshop and read some tutorials online, so this might not be the best way of doing things, but I'm sure you'll be able to improve on my method! Hope to see you Kim (and you, Marie!) in the graphics contests.