One of the most useful Photoshop skills is removing the background from an image. This allows you to paste the subject of the image onto any other photo, without having to worry about backgrounds blending in or large stretches of solid white. There are several methods of removing the background from an image, which differ depending on the complexity of the background.
Method 1 of 2: Erase a solid background
Step 1. Open the image with Photoshop Elements
This method works best if the background is a solid color or very close to a solid color.
Step 2. Navigate through the layers window
It is usually located to the right of the screen. Most images that have not yet been edited have only one layer, called Background Right click on that layer and select Layer from background.
- A New Layer window will open. Leave the default options and press OK. Background will change to Layer 0. This will unlock the image in order to start editing.
Step 3. Select the Magic Eraser tool
It is located in the Eraser menu. To access it, click and hold the eraser icon. In the menu that appears, select the tool Magic eraser.
Step 4. Adjust the Magic Eraser settings
When you have selected this tool, you will see specific parameters appear in the menu bar at the top of the screen. Make the following settings.
- Set the tolerance to 20-30. A small tolerance allows parts of the original image to be preserved from the eraser tool. Set the tolerance to a level that works for your project.
- Check the box Antialiasing.
- Check the box Contiguous.
- Set the opacity to 100%.
Step 5. Click on the background
The Magic Eraser will remove all the part with the color you clicked on, to make a transparent background appear. The tolerance level affects the number of similar colors that are removed (for gradient backgrounds).
Step 6. Make some minor adjustments
If you just removed a solid color background, it should be almost completely erased with just one click. You can now zoom in on the transition areas and do some fine finishing with the Eraser tool.
Step 7. Select your subject
When you are satisfied with removing the background, you can use the Lasso tool to surround the main object in the image. Press Ctrl + Shift + J to create a "Layer by Cut" to place your object in a separate layer. You can now remove the background layer (Layer 0).
Step 8. Save your image
The image now represents an object with a transparent background that can be affixed to another existing image.
Method 2 of 2: Erase a complex background
Step 1. Open the image you want to edit
This method allows you to remove more complex backgrounds without removing the main subject from the photo.
Step 2. Select the background eraser tool
Click and hold the eraser icon until its menu appears. Select the background eraser.
Step 3. Configure your brush options
In the toolbar at the top of the window, click the arrow icon next to the brush. Set the hardness to 100% so that the brush can erase across its entire width. Adjust the diameter so that the brush size is well suited to your image. You will be able to draw large extended lines.
Step 4. Set the edges to Contiguous
The selected color in the circle can then be deleted, but only if the colors are close. This saves you from removing colors inside the subject while removing the background.
- If in some parts of the image the background fits into the subject (strands of hair, for example), use the option Discontiguous to remove the background in those particular places.
Step 5. Set the tolerance low
A low tolerance prevents the removal of areas of similar color to that of the sample. A high tolerance erases too many color tones. Set your tolerance between 20 and 30.
Step 6. Place the cursor over the edges of the subject
You will see a circle appear with small reticles in its center. The reticles point to the hot spots and erase the color that appears in the brush. They also allow you to remove the edges of foreground objects so that the color halos are not visible if it is subsequently placed in another image.
Step 7. Click and move the cursor to start erasing
You can touch the subject without erasing it, as long as you don't touch it with the crosshairs, otherwise you will erase its colors.
Step 8. Check your progress
As you click and drag the circle, you will see the checkerboard pattern appear in the areas you removed. This checkerboard represents transparency.
Step 9. Continue to erase all around the subject
In some places you will need to reduce the size of the brush so as not to accidentally erase pieces of the subject. For example, in this image you should change the size of the brush before erasing the background between the petals.
Step 10. Concentrate on erasing the edges of the subject precisely
Once you have properly defined the subject, you can erase large bands of backgrounds with the brush.
Step 11. Soften the edges
If you want to soften the edges of your subject so that it blends in better with the new background you're going to give it, use the tool Soften. Set it to a low intensity (20%) and run it around the edges of the subject. This softens the hardness of the lines.
The magic wand works best if the background is solid and there is no similar color in the rest of the image
- If you save the image as JPEG, the background will not be saved as transparent.
- The magic wand could cause parts of the image that are similar in color to the background color to be erased.