One of the most basic – but certainly one of the most useful – functions that Photoshop allows you do to to photos is to remove background in photos or images, allowing you to use the chosen subject in a different image.
In other words, it allows you to take a selfie on a beach, cut yourself out and with a little Photoshop magic, make all your friends think you’re actually in The Alps.
In true Photoshop fashion, there’s multiple ways to achieve this, all of which are quick and easy. Here are 3 that you can try now:
Option #1: Remove Background – The Magic Wand Tool
The magic wand tool is one of the quickest ways to accomplish this. It works best on a scene with a clearly defined colour difference between what you want to cut out and what you want to keep. Simply clicking on your subject that you wish to cut out from the background will give you a default photoshop selection for the subject. (The moving lines indicate a selection).
If your selection is not precise enough, you will want to play with the tolerance setting on the highest Photoshop toolbar. Increasing the tolerance will expand the selection and decreasing the tolerance will shrink the selection. Play around with this number, press (CMD+D or CTRL+D) to deselect your current selection, and click your subject again to see the tolerance change take effect.
The key part of this process is the selection inversion. As this lets us remove the background as opposed to the content you actually want to keep. Navigate using the top Photoshop menu, and choose select > inverse. This will change the moving dots around your selection to be on the background, as opposed to the subject. Now with one final delete (backspace) you’ll find you’ve successfully remove the background!
Option #2: Remove Background – The Background Eraser Tool
Another simple, quick, yet extremely effective method! It’s in the name for goodness sake! The Background Eraser Tool is one of the most failsafe ways to do this – again, working best on a background with a different shade or hue to the subject you want to cut out.
The settings that are most important with this setting are your brush configuration – that is to say the hardness and size of your brush. Increase the size, and you’ll remove more of the background in one click. Decrease the hardness to make the background removal less harsh and give it a slight fade into the subject of your image. The tolerance setting is also extremely important. This is the setting that dictates how strict you’d like Photoshop to be with the background. A lower tolerance will allow more of the background through, whilst a high tolerance will remove both the subject and the background without distinction between the two.
A tolerance perfect for the image above will be around the 15-20% mark. This will allow us enough flexibility to remove the background but retain our subject image that is the woman.
The trick is to set a brush size of suitable size, in this case around the 50px for most of the image will work fine. We then need to trace around the edges of the woman, creating a ‘halo’ of transparent image.
Decrease or increase the size of the brush according the part of the image you are tracing. The black cross in the centre of the cursor is the target colour you are trying to remove, with the outsides of the cursor being the affecting area. Drag around the cursor to your hearts content, play around with the tolerance and size until you have a successfully traced image. Remember! If you aren’t happy with a section, simply press (CMD+SHIFT+Z) or (CTRL+SHIFT+Z) to undo and step backward.
Once you’ve created your ‘halo’ around the subject, you can move onto remove the rest of your background with a normal eraser tool – or the background eraser tool. Whichever you find easiest. Increase the size of your brush and get erasing!
Option #3: Remove Background – The quick selection tool
Option number three to remove background in Photoshop is possibly my favourite. Very quick, and not easy to go wrong.
This tool lets you set a brush size, as with the above background removal eraser. Once the brush size is set, get selecting. When selecting, you can switch between ‘subtract from’ and ‘add to’ modes. These are what make the quick selection tool so powerful.
Using the plus and minus selection, you’ll be able to dictate which parts of the image you want to keep and which you want to remove. You’ll usually get a fairly good outline of your subject just by dragging the selection tool around – this often depends on how much your background and subject colours vary. However you’ll almost definitely have some areas of your subject included in your selection.
Fixing this is easily done – it’s where we use the minus selection tool. Simply resize and hover the minus selection tool over the area of the subject that you do not want inside your selection. Minus off the areas you don’t want, and add the areas of the background that you want to remove. You’ll soon have a perfect outline selection that you can apply a simple (CMD + DELETE) or (CTRL + DELETE) to remove the entire background.
Just like magic!