Remove Background from a Picture

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Remove Background from a Picture

Removing the background from a picture is a popular photo editing procedure. There are dozens of possible reasons to perform this type of edit. For example replacing a boring background with a more picturesque one or a solid color, uploading product images to eBay, Etsy, or Amazon, preparing photos for job-seeking or dating websites, creating photo jokes and collages, retouching vacation photos for fun, or making a better impression, and many more.

Photoshop offers many methods, tools, and techniques to help us remove the background from our photos easily, and most recently they’ve introduced a free background remover as a quick and professional solution. In this tutorial, I will mention six different methods; and you can even use some of them together.

Six methods to remove background from a photo

  1. Quick Action: Remove background
  2. Background Eraser tool
  3. Select and Mask
  4. Select using Color Range
  5. Magic Wand tool
  6. Blend If tool

Guidelines to remove background from photos

  • Duplicate your original background layer, or, click on the lock to release it (in the layers panel) and turn it into an editable layer.
  • To see the effect after removing the background, create a solid color adjustment layer, and place it under the layer you want to remove its background.
  • To keep the transparency of the background after removing the original one, save the photo file in PNG format.
  • You can use the above six mentioned methods together

Useful shortcuts

  • Duplicate layer Ctrl + J
  • Decrease Brush Size [
  • Increase Brush Size ]
  • Default Foreground/Background colors D
  • Switch Foreground/Background colors X
  • New layer via copy Ctrl + J
  • Invert selection Ctrl + Shift +I
  • Convert mask to selection click the mask thumbnail + Ctrl

Method 1: Quick Action: Remove background (Automatic)

Quick Actions are a new feature added to the Properties panel in Photoshop CC 2020. Make sure that the ‘Properties’ is checked in the ‘Window’ main menu.

Remove Background from a Picture

The ‘Quick Action’ feature in Photoshop 2020 is quite good in removing the background for web cutouts. It’s smart and efficient to work with. I will use the below photo to remove its background.

Remove Background from a Picture

Photo by Sabrina May on Unsplash

Just click on ‘Remove Background’. You will see that the file is automatically rendered and the background is removed. To keep the background transparent, you need to save the file in PNG format. The result is shown below.

Remove Background from a Picture


Method 2: Background Eraser tool

The Background Eraser tool erases pixels on a layer to transparency as you drag. You can erase the background while maintaining the edges of an object in the foreground. By specifying different sampling and tolerance options, you can control the range of transparency and the sharpness of the boundaries.

In the following example, I will remove the background from the photo below

Remove Background from a Picture

Photo by Juli Kosolapova on Unsplash

Select the Background Eraser tool

Remove Background from a Picture

The options menu is shown below

Remove Background from a Picture

The background eraser tool samples the color in the center of the brush and deletes that color wherever it appears inside the brush.

Click the brush sample in the options bar, and set brush options in the pop‑up panel

For Tolerance, enter a value or drag the slider. A low tolerance limits erasure to areas that are very similar to the sampled color. A high tolerance erases a broader range of colors.

Select Protect Foreground Color to prevent the erasure of areas that match the foreground color in the toolbox. For more information click here

Create a solid color adjustment layer below our photo layer

Drag the brush through the background you want to erase. The process is destructive

Remove Background from a Picture

You may need to readjust the tolerance and the brush size as you continue deleting the background.

The result is shown below

Remove Background from a Picture


Method 3: Select and Mask

It may be the best tool to separate your subject from the background, it works also non-destructively. In the following example, I use the below photo:

Remove Background from a Picture

Photo by One zone Studio on Unsplash

To get the tool, click Select > Select and Mask. Alternatively, use the shortcut Alt + Ctrl + R

On the top of the screen, the options menu appears as shown below

Remove Background from a Picture

On the left side, a set of tools shows up also

Remove Background from a Picture

Start selecting our subjects using the Quick Selection tool, or Select Subject tool

Remove Background from a Picture

Refine the selection using the Refine edge tool, and the setting on the right side of the screen under Global Refinement.

Remove Background from a Picture

Finally, save the selection as a mask.

Remove Background from a Picture

The photo after removing the background is shown below.

Remove Background from a Picture

Another example with the same method

The original photo

Remove Background from a Picture

Photo by Cristian Rojas from Pexels

A gif photo shows the original, with transparent background, and with solid color background

Remove Background from a Picture


Photobacks Elite Package

Method 4: Select using Color Range

The Color Range command selects a specified color or color range within an existing selection or an entire image. Color Range is a selection tool that allows you to select parts of an image based on its color. This makes it easy to select one specific color and then change its hue, saturation, and/or brightness. You can also remove it!

I will use the following photo as an example to clear the background using the color range command

Remove Background from a Picture

Photo by Y Cai on Unsplash

Color Range is a selection command, and we access it from the same place we access other commands, the Menu Bar along the top of the screen. Select > Color Range

This opens the Color Range dialog box.

Remove Background from a Picture

To sample a color, position the Eyedropper pointer over the image or preview area, and click to sample the color you want to be included. To adjust the selection:

  • To add colors, select the plus eyedropper, and click in the preview area or image.
  • To remove colors, select the minus eyedropper, and click in the preview area or image.

You can adjust the range of colors selected using the Fuzziness slider

The selection for our example is shown below

Remove Background from a Picture

Moreover, the final transparent background of the logo is shown below

Remove Background from a Picture


Method 5: Magic Wand tool

The Magic Wand was first introduced back in the very first version of Photoshop. It is one of the oldest selection tools in Photoshop. Unlike other selection tools that select pixels in an image based on shapes or by detecting object edges, the Magic Wand selects pixels based on tone and color.

When you click on an area in the image with the tool, Photoshop looks at the tone and color of the area we clicked on and selects pixels that share the same color and brightness values. This makes the Magic Wand exceptional at selecting large areas of solid color.

In the following example, I will use the below image

Remove Background from a Picture

Photo by REVOLT on Unsplash

You can find the Magic Wand tool in the toolbar

Remove Background from a Picture

When choosing the Magic Wand tool the options menus appear on the top of the screen.

Remove Background from a Picture

Press on the background to choose its color and tons; you may need to click on different areas of the background to get a better selection. Try different values of the tolerance, and make sure the contiguous box is checked for this example.

When you are satisfied with the selection of the background, press Shift + Ctrl + I to inverse the selection, then press Add a Mask at the bottom of the layer panel, to hide the background nondestructively.

Remove Background from a Picture


Method 6: Blend If Tool

In this method, we will use the blend if to remove the sky from the following photo.

Remove Background from a Picture

Photo by Tamba Budiarsana from Pexels

Blend If does pretty much what Luminosity masks do: It masks out part of a layer based on the luminosity of pixels. Let us start:

  1. Take a look at the individual channels in the image, you may find one where there is plenty of contrast between the area you are seeking to hide (the blue sky) and the areas you want to keep (the trees). Choose Window > Channels and click on the Red, Blue, and Green channels, in turn, to view them, and look where is the higher contrast.

Remove Background from a Picture

Remove Background from a Picture

  1. In this case, the Blue channel displays the sky as a lighter tone than the trees, which are darker. This channel has the most contrast in the area we are interested in so it will be a good one to use. Select the RGB channel again before you leave the Channels palette.
  2. Blend If can be found under the Blending Options dialog which you can access by simply double-clicking on a Layer to open the layer Style, where you can find the blend if at the bottom.

Remove Background from a Picture

  1. There are two sliders:
  • One that controls blending for the current Layer.
  • One that controls how it will blend with the underlying Layer.
  • We will use the sliders called This Layer to remove the existing sky
  1. From the Blend If menu, choose the blue channel( The one with the highest contrast)
  2. Because the sky is lighter than the trees, we will start by moving the right slider to the left, you will see that parts of the sky is disappearing. To make a smooth transition hold Alt and double click on the right triangle to split it to two triangles. Move the triangles to completely remove the sky.

The result is shown below

Remove Background from a Picture

Remove Background from a Picture


Related posts

What Are The Selection Tools In Photoshop?

How To Use Digital Background In Photoshop

Sky Replacement In One Click-Photoshop 2021

How To Change A Sky In Photoshop


Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the article, in case you have any questions just drop them below & I will be happy to answer you.

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  • The information you shared helped me better understand background removal. But actually removing background is a difficult skill for me. So I usually use an online tool that can help me do that.

  • Thank you for the detailed descriptions on how to remove the background from a photograph. It still seems pretty complicated to me, but might be better if I experiment with the different tools. Is there any one tool out of the six that is easier to use for a beginner? Would I also be able to increase the pixels on the photo, or do I need a different process for that?

    • Thanks for your comment, It is clear that the Quick action: Remove Background (Method 1) is the easiest one, it is fully automatic, with only one click. For adding pixels to your photo, check my post “How To Stretch Image

  • Hi Amin. Very interesting article. Im just starting my adventure with photography and posts like this are extremely useful. I tried few different programs to remove background from pictures but to be fair I wasn’t fully satisfied with results. But looking on your post, photoshop is perfect tool for this exercise, and Im looking forward to test your advices in practice.

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