Erasing is an important step in any editing process – so much so that Photoshop has created three different eraser tools.
Each eraser tool comes with its own special erasing capabilities.
Read on to learn which Photoshop eraser tool is best for removing the unwanted areas of your image.
Download a free copy of Adobe Photoshop to follow along with this simple tutorial.
Table of Contents
How to Use the Eraser Tool in Photoshop in 4 Steps
Step 1 – Open
Open the image you wish to work on in Photoshop by navigating to the Top Menu bar, and selecting File > Open.
Locate the image on your computer.
Once your image is opened as a background layer, duplicate it by selecting Layer > Duplicate Layer.
Duplicating means you can retain the original, unedited version as a backup.
Step 2 – Select the Eraser Tool
Head to the toolbar on the left-hand side of your canvas window. This is where you’ll find all the photoshop tools displayed.
The Eraser Tool is located directly under the History Brush Tool. Click on the Eraser Tool icon, and in the tool’s drop-down menu, you will find the three different types of erasers.
There’s the Eraser Tool (this one is the default), the Background Eraser Tool, and the Magic Eraser Tool. Select the standard Eraser Tool.
Step 3 – Customise Tool Settings
Each of the three different Easer Tools, when selected, will open with its own customising options.
Tool 1 – Standard Eraser Tool
When you open the standard Eraser Tool, the tool’s Options menu will open above your canvas window.
Here you can customize the Eraser Tool before you begin to Erase.
Click on Brush Settings and a Brush Panel will open. Here, you can set the type of brush, the size of the brush, and its level of hardness.
The brush type isn’t limited to a circle – you can choose to erase star-shaped sections if you choose.
The Mode can be set to Brush, Pencil, or Block.
The Eraser Tool Opacity can be adjusted to set the level of transparency of the brush.
Set the Opacity value to 100% and the Eraser Tool will erase every pixel it touches on the active layer.
Set the Opacity value to 5% and the eraser will only erase 5% of the active layer.
Set the Flow percentage to determine the amount of flow from the Eraser Tool (i.e., how quickly the erasing effect is applied).
Smoothing is an automated action to reduce the impact of shaky hands when using the Eraser Tool.
Set it high if you want your shaky hand stroke corrected or low if you want no change made to your hand stroke.
The Angle setting will change the direction of the flow of the Eraser Tool Brush.
Change the Angle to change the Brush Tool’s directional angle.
Tick the box beside Erase History and your Eraser Tool brush strokes will now recover erased sections.
This is useful when you are editing and want to restore a deleted section.
Tool 2 – Background Eraser Tool
In the Options Menu bar that will open above the canvas window when the Background Eraser Tool is selected, you can customize the Background Eraser Tool settings.
Click on the Brush Settings and a Brush Panel will open, you can set the Brush Size and Hardness.
Select one of the Sampling Eyedropper Icons to set the background color sampling of the Background Eraser Tool.
You can choose between Contagious, Once, and Background Swatch.
The Limit setting automates how the Background Eraser Tool finds the edges of the background.
You can select between Discontiguous, Contiguous, and Find Edges.
Set the Tolerance to define the range of colors the Background Eraser Tool will erase.
The higher the value set the larger the range of colors that will be included.
For more on removing backgrounds check out this Photoshop tutorial: How To Remove the Background In Photoshop.
Tool 3 – Magic Eraser
The Magic Eraser Tool is the least complex.
The Magic Eraser Tool will erase a selection of the image depending on how the Tool’s settings have been customized.
There is no brush option – instead, the Magic Eraser Tool will delete the color it’s clicked onto.
When the Tolerance is set high, a wider range of colors will be included in the deleting action.
Set the tolerance low and fewer colors will be included.
Tick the box beside Anti-Alias and Photoshop will smooth the erased edges.
Tick the box beside Contagious to increase the seepage of the erased area into areas of similar color range.
The Magic Eraser Tool Opacity can be adjusted to set the level of transparency of the erasing action.
Step 4 – Erase
Now you have customized the Eraser Tool of your choice, you can start erasing.
Go wild, you can always use the History Eraser Tool to recover areas or undo an erase by rewinding the edits using the History Panel.
How to Erase Part of a Layer Mask in Photoshop
Now that you know how to use the Eraser Tool, you will be able to erase part of an image in Photoshop.
However, if you’re working with Layer Masks you must be careful NOT to select the eraser tool when erasing parts of it.
The Layer Mask is created as a masking layer (true to its name).
To erase part of the Layer Mask, activate the Layer Mask in the Layers Panel.
When activated, use the Brush Tool, not the Eraser Tool, to draw on the image to recover or erase part of the masked area.
If you want to learn more about creating and using layer masks, check out this tutorial: How To Layer Mask in Photoshop