How to Remove a Background in Photoshop

Learning how to remove a background in Photoshop can be extremely helpful if you're looking to place your subject in a new scene. For example, you might have a great photo of a dog running in a park, but perhaps you only want to use the dog for a brochure, or want to place the dog in a different setting (like outer space). Photoshop makes it relatively easy to isolate certain sections of an image, and with a little practice, you'll be able to do it in minutes. 


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Removing Simple Backgrounds

  1. Typically, a simple background comprises a single color. After opening the image in Photoshop, find the Layers window (it should be on the right of the screen). Right now, there should only be one layer for your image, and it will probably be called "Background". 

  2. Right click on the "Background" layer and choose "Layer From Background". This will open a new window with a few layering options. Leave everything the way it is, and press OK. Now, your "Background" layer will change to "Layer 0", and you can edit the layer as you see fit. 

  3. Next, go to the toolbar and find the Eraser tool. Clicking and holding this icon will bring up more eraser options; select the Magic Eraser.

  4. Now, your top menu bar will change to reflect the Magic Eraser settings. You'll want to adjust the Tolerance to around 25, set Opacity to 100%, check the Contiguous box, and check the Anti-alias box. 

  5. When you click on the background of your image, the Magic Eraser will remove everything that matches the background color. However, some tiny areas in between the object's outline may still have color, so you should zoom in and clean those sections with the Eraser tool. 

  6. To isolate your remaining image, click on the Lasso tool and draw a rough outline around it. Then, press CTRL+Shift+J to create a new layer for this specific section. Now you can delete "Layer 0" and save your edited image file. 


Removing Complex Backgrounds

  1. Learning how to remove a background in Photoshop gets a little trickier when the background contains multiple colors and shapes, but it's still pretty straightforward. Instead of the Magic Eraser tool, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the Background Eraser. This tool gauges color at the center of your brush, and then removes similar hues as you use the eraser. Select the Background Eraser by clicking and holding on the Eraser icon. 

  2. Now, take a look at the eraser toolbar at the top of your screen for more advanced settings. Choose a round brush that is large enough to handle the job, set the Tolerance to around 25, Sampling to "Continuous", and Limits to "Find Edges". 

  3. Since the Background Eraser tool works from the center crosshairs, you can bring the pointer as close to your subject as possible. Click and drag around the subject to start erasing the background. As long as the crosshairs don't go over the edge, it should look perfect. You'll know it's working when the background is replaced with a checkerboard pattern.

  4. After you've finished erasing the finer details and your subject is isolated from the background, you can switch to a larger eraser size to handle the remaining background. You can also use the Lasso tool to create a new layer for your subject. Save your work as a new image file, and then use it on your future projects!

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