Adobe Photoshop is great for editing photos, as the name suggests. There are many different things you can do in Photoshop, from color correction to sharpening blurred edges. You can also remove a background in Photoshop, so in this article we explain how to remove a background in Photoshop.
1: How to Remove a Background in Photoshop
The first thing you need to know is that removing the background will never be easy. It will always take some time, no matter which way you try it (and there are several ways).
If you join us for this tutorial, we will assume that:
- You have access to Photoshop.
- You’ve used Photoshop before.
To remove a background in Photoshop, you need the right type of image: not all images will work. Choose something with high contrast values and sharper edges. For this tutorial, I’ve used an image of my desk lamp.
Prepare your Quick Selection Tool
There are several different ways to remove the background in Photoshop. The first way we’ll try is my personal favorite: the Quick Selection Tool.
This method is simple but thorough. To get started, open your Quick Selection Tool, which is located in the left-hand toolbar. These will be grouped with the Magic Wand Tool.
The Quick Selection Tool determines what to select based on:
- Your color sample.
- What’s next to that color sample.
- Color borders within your image.
- The “focus” point on your image.
Once you select the Quick Selection Tool, you will see its controls appear at the top of your screen.
Make sure Auto Boost is turned on. Auto-Enhance allows Photoshop to do more fine-tuning along the edges of your choice, which is a good thing to have if your edges have a lot of curves or details in them.
Next, press Select Subject.
Select Subject tells Photoshop to select the most dominating item in your image. This will be easier for the program to take if you have selected an image where there is a clear front, center, and back.
Make Your Choice
After I hit Select Subject, Photoshop selected my lamp head. You can see the outline of this selection with a line of “marching ants” around it.
This selection isn’t perfect, as it only selects some of my lights and some of the background. But touching on your choices is part of the game and it’s a great start.
At the top of the screen, make sure your Add to selection option is active. Next, click and drag from your selection along the rest of your lights. Photoshop will learn what to select based on the color underneath and the edge you previously selected.
In the end, most of your lamps should be selected.
Once your selection is made, you may want to use the Lasso Tool (found in the left toolbar) to quickly smooth the edges.
I used the Add to selection option for Lasso, then drew along the edges of my selection to make it look less jagged. This will pick up a small area of pixels that the Quick Selection Tool has missed.
One thing to note is that removing the background and using the Lasso Tool is much easier if you are working with a pen and tablet. This gives you greater hand-to-eye coordination.
However, if all you have is a mouse, there are still ways to touch up your selections. Just use the Polygonal Lasso Tool, as it relies on clicking and dragging anchor points to create straight selections.
With the Lasso Tool, you have to draw everything by hand.
Erase Your Background
Once your selection is to your liking, return to your Quick Selection Tool. Hover over your selection, then right-click.
Select Select Inverse.
By selecting Inverse, Photoshop will select everything in your image except your main object.
Next, go to Edit>Cut. When you press this, Photoshop will remove your background in one fell swoop. This is how to remove the background in Photoshop.
After that, you will see a gray and white checkered area indicating that the space around your object is transparent. However, after you remove the background, you may notice that some of the edges around the object are still rough.
To further define your edges, go to your Layers panel and add a layer of solid color beneath your image. These colors are not a permanent part of your image: they are only there to help you edit. You can turn visibility “off” when not editing.
For this layer, it’s best to choose a color that contrasts with the remaining “bits” you have around your image. I’ve chosen a bright blue, because blue tends to “vibrate” when placed next to a bright red and makes it easier to see.
- Click on your image layer so that it is active.
- Go back to your Lasso or Polygonal Lasso Tool and select the rough bits around the lights that you want to get rid of.
- Click Edit > Cut to remove it.
2: How to Remove a Background in Photoshop
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If you’re looking for a faster way to remove a background in Photoshop, you may want to remove an image’s background.
There are two removal tools that work well for this. You’ll find the eraser along the left toolbar, seen here in red.
Magic Eraser Tool
The first tool you will want to try is the Magic Eraser Tool. To use Magic Eraser, open your eraser icon, click the little white arrow to access the dropdown menu, then select the appropriate tool.
The Magic Eraser Tool is very easy to use. Sample the color that’s under your cursor, then erase all pixels of the same color: both those under your brush and any pixels around them.
By simply clicking on the red chair behind my light you can already see that I’ve removed most of my background. Let’s keep clicking.
As mentioned, removing the background in Photoshop is never perfect. Once you’ve gotten rid of most of it, you’ll still have a few small areas that aren’t picked up.
To delete this area:
- Select your Lasso Tool.
- Make multiple selections of your background, including transparent areas.
- Go to Edit > Cut.
This will remove not only the area that you can see, but the microscopic sample of 1-2 pixels that remains. It makes the image cleaner.
Again, if you want to zoom in and fine-tune things right, activate a solid color layer beneath your image to increase the contrast. Then reactivate your image layer, zoom in, and use the Lasso Tool to select and crop.
Background Eraser Tool
The second tool you can use is the Background Eraser Tool. It’s finicky and not as fast, so I don’t use it very often. When I do, I use it for detail work.
When you click the Background Eraser Tool, you’ll see its controls appear at the top of your screen. This is where you can adjust the settings, and we recommend that you do so.
The most important settings to remember:
- Your brush icon, seen here as a white circle.
- Limits Next to this, you’ll find a dropdown menu with three options to control what gets deleted:
- Find Edges removes adjoining areas of color, but keeps the “edges” of objects in your image.
- Contiguous deletes the sample color and all colors next to it.
- Discontiguous erases your sample color, but only when it passes under your brush.
Next to Tolerance, you’ll see a slider that you can adjust. The lower the percentage, the picky Photoshop will be when selecting the color to be removed. If you set the Tolerance too high, it will remove the associated color as well not just the one you want to remove.
After customizing the controls, you can start deleting. If you look inside my blue square, you can see the Background Eraser Tool in action.
Even though my brush is currently over the lights, the eraser tool only erases the red pixels while leaving the lights intact. This is because I have found Active Edges, and have detected edges.
Again once you are done erasing you can go back to using the Lasso Tool and clean it up.
3: How to Remove a White Background in Photoshop
What if you want to remove a white background in Photoshop?
Make sure your image is on a separate layer. Next, make sure your contrast color layer is below your image.
Go to the left toolbar and click on the Magic Eraser Tool. Activate your image layer, then click anywhere on the white in the image.
Photoshop will automatically remove all the white in your background because it is one continuous “color”. Yes, it’s that simple.
Once your background is removed, turn on your solid color layer to check and see if there are any edges that need fixing. They will appear as a thin white line around your object.
When you’re done fixing these edges with the Lasso Tool, turn off the visibility on your color layer.
When you remove a background in Photoshop, you can add a new background or keep it transparent.
To keep your background transparent, go to File > Save As, then choose PNG as your file format. This will keep the edges transparent in your image.
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