This paper addresses the problem of extracting an alpha matte from a single photograph given a user-defined trimap. A crucial part of this task is the color modeling step where for each pixel the optimal alpha value, together with its confidence, is estimated individually. This forms the data term of the objective function. It comprises of three steps: (i) Collecting a candidate set of potential fore- and background colors; (ii) Selecting high confidence samples from the candidate set; (iii) Estimating a sparsity prior to remove blurry artifacts. We introduce novel ideas for each of these steps and show that our approach considerably improves over state-of-the-art techniques by evaluating it on a large database of 54 images with known high-quality ground truth.