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How to Remove Backgrounds From Your Photos in Photoshop

Learn how to edit and remove backgrounds from your photos in Adobe Photoshop.
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Photoshop has a slew of tools that make it easy to edit and manipulate photos the way that you want them. After all, being able to customize and play around with your photo is half the fun of photography!

Know that a program like Photoshop does give you different ways of getting to your end goal, and that’s usually based on what version of Photoshop you have.

For instance, there’s a really old-school way of removing backgrounds from a photo: Just select the object in question, copy it, and then paste it onto a new layer. Another more elegant way would be to use the Refine Edge tool, but this only has more extensive and useful features in versions of Photoshop from CS5 on.

We’re going to focus on the Refine Edge tool, probably the easiest way of doing this right now with Photoshop.

A Layer From the Background

After loading your image in Photoshop, you can transform it into a new layer. Head to the Layers panel, which is at the bottom right of your screen. There, you’ll see a thumbnail of your image, a label that says “background,” and a lock symbol right beside it.

Right-click this layer and then pick “Layer From the Background” from the context menu.

Now, a popup window will open, asking you to name your layer—you’re free to name it what you want. Of course, relevant names will make it easier for you to locate this layer again later on!

The Selection Method

FYI: There are different ways to make a selection in Photoshop. As with all things, we want to make tutorials as easy as possible for you, so we’re going to use the most efficient selection method: the Quick Selection Tool.

Image From Design Shack

Photo via Design Shack

Choose the Quick Selection Tool from the floating tool menu; it looks like a paintbrush. Use it to choose the area that you want to select.

Using the Quick Selection Tool

Once you’ve picked the Tool, hover your mouse on top of the image. Your cursor will become a plus sign inside a circle. Clicking on any area of your image will select its close-by parts. Once a selection is made, you’ll notice the distinct, dotted-line outline around the selected area.

To select your object, hold your mouse and begin to draw around the object’s edges. Be precise! Try as best you can to get only your object and not the parts around it. Should you make a mistake, hold down your Windows ALT key to unselect those wrong areas.

Refining Your Selected Object

You did your best you could to draw around your object, but—and this is totally unavoidable—it still looks somewhat rough. No problem! That’s where the aforementioned Refine Edge tool finally comes into play.

Get this tool by clicking on the “Refine Edge” icon within the Quick Selection menu. Once you click this icon, the Refine Edge popup will appear.

Image From Creative Bloq

Photo via Creative Bloq

Now, click on a small arrow beside “view” and then pick “on black.” Your photo will have a black background; this is only to help you see things clearer.

Edge Detection Option

Still inside the Refine Edge popup, choose to enable “smart radius” within the Edge Detection submenu. Increase or decrease the slider until you’re happy with what should now be a more natural look to your selection.

Next, look for the Refine Radius tool icon beside Edge Detection. This icon looks like a paintbrush, too. Your cursor now becomes a plus sign. Trace a rough outline around your selection; once you complete this act, your selection will look finer.

Adjust Edge Option

This option is in the same Refine Edge popup as well. Use this to fine-tune the smoothness, contour, lines and anything else of your selection. You want it to blend seamlessly with the empty or new background, after all. Generally, this is useful mainly for images that have fur or hair.

Color Decontamination Option

Located in the Refine Edge popup, too, this option works to take away any leftover background colors from the edges of your selection.

After you’ve thoroughly adjusted your selection, you’re good to go!

Now, simply pick “New Layer With Layer Mask” in the Output: To dropdown menu, which you’ll find at the bottom of the screen. Click OK.

The background is now a thing of the past! Congrats…you’ve removed it!

One Last Thing

Image From Design Faves

Photo via Design Faves

You have total freedom at this stage to do what you want with your empty background. Some ideas are:

  • Incorporating a solid-color background.
  • Adding a totally new background image altogether.
  • Using your cut out image as a part of a larger design or photography project.

Whatever you choose, know that you now have the power to take your image-editing capabilities to an improved level.

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