Removing a background in Photoshop is one of the essential skills for every designer and artist, one of the first steps to becoming a proficient Photoshop designer.
Removing the background of an image presents you with a beautiful blank backdrop, a clean slate, so you can set any color behind your subject to accentuate it.
There is more than just one technique to remove the background in Photoshop.
The one you chose will depend on the image’s quality and the range of blend between the subject and background.
If the background is a block of solid color, such as a white background or a green screen (some people plan) removing the background layer will be a cinch.
Removing the background of an image with blended lines might be more time-consuming but not impossible, we’ll show you how.
Here are four ways to help you remove a background in Photoshop, automatically with the remove background tool or manually with the background eraser tool.
Download the latest version of Adobe Photoshop to follow along with this simple tutorial.
Start a free 7-day trial today
Table of Contents
How to Remove Background in Photoshop (4 Fool-Proof Ways)
Method 1 – Quick Action
If the background is one block of color contrasting the subject or foreground, you’re in luck, you can use a quick action to remove the background instantly.
Locate Quick Actions in the Properties panel, and choose the Remove Background option.
To locate the properties panel click on the two arrowed icon at the top right-hand corner of the canvas window or go to Windows > Properties.
When you click Remove Background Photoshop will instantly remove the background.
Method 2 – Magic Wand
Another quick-click option is using a selection tool like the Pen Tool or the Magic Wand Tool.
Select Magic Wand from the Tool Bar to the left of your image or use the keyboard shortcut by pressing W.
When the Magic Wand tool is selected navigate to Select in the menu and click on Subject.
The active selection area is now your subject, change this to the background area, navigate to Select in the drop-down menu select Inverse.
The active area is now the background, to remove the background head to the Top Menu bar choose Edit > Cut. The background will be automatically deleted.
When the image is complex or has overlapping colors Photoshop will not always be able to select the entire subject perfectly.
If Photoshop’s remove background tool can’t do the job to perfection, you can use one of the next two techniques.
Method 3 – Background Eraser Tool
The background eraser tool is the ultimate magic tool. It does exactly what it says it is going to do, erases the background!
The great thing about this tool is you have more control than the previous two methods.
Select the Eraser Tool from the Toolbar, in the drop-down menu select Background Eraser Tool.
On top of your image window, the Background Eraser Tool Options Bar will appear.
Here you can set the size of the Background Eraser Tool’s brush, tolerance, and limits.
Adjust the Background Eraser Tool’s brush to suit your needs and begin to erase your background.
If you make a mistake you can revert using the Keyboard Shortcut Command Z (for Mac) or Ctrl Z (for Windows).
When you have finished you will have a checkered backdrop behind your subject.
Method 4 – Create a Layer Mask
Use this method to remove the background of an image that has overlapping colors in the background and foreground.
Using a Layer Mask you will have more control to select the exact area you wish to remove, no extra bits will be included or excluded.
To add a layer mask navigate to the Top Menu Bar and select Layer in the drop-down menu below scroll down and select Layer Mask > Reveal All.
A layer mask thumbnail will appear beside the layer thumbnail in the layers panel.
The layer mask indicates visible areas in white, invisible in black, and grey areas indicate full opacity and transparency.
Click on the layer mask thumbnail in the layers panel to make it the active layer.
Using the Brush Tool you can hide or recover areas from the Layer Mask.
The two squared black and white icon at the bottom of the toolbox sets the foreground and background colors.
When the foreground color is black areas of the layer mask will be hidden and when switched to white areas of the layer mask will be recovered.
Use the brush tool to remove areas of the background, zooming in when you want to work in more intricate detail.
When you have removed the background you can leave the layer mask for later edits or you can delete it.
To delete the layer mask go to the top menu bar Layers > Layer Mask > Delete.
Now that you have successfully removed the background, you can transpose your isolated subject onto your background of choice.
The freedom to replace the background of a product you wish to sell online will make marketing a breeze.
- Read more: How to import a PDF file in Photoshop
Why can’t I erase the background in Photoshop?
Photoshop is an amazing tool, but sometimes it can be darn right frustrating, especially when a tool won’t work, no matter how much you click on it.
The more you use Photoshop, the sooner you will realize that the first port of call to resolve an error easily is in the layers panel.
Normally the issue arises because a layer is locked or the layer visible in the window is not the active layer.
Check the Layers Panel to see if the layer is unlocked, if it isn’t click on the layer to unlock it.
If the layer is unlocked check if the visible layer is selected and active, if it isn’t click on the layer thumbnail in the layers panel to make it the active layer, now the eraser tool should work.