Per­haps you are shoot­ing prod­ucts for a cat­a­log against a crum­pled back­ground that noth­ing can save, or you need to move the mod­el into an atmos­pher­ic fan­ta­sy uni­verse — in any case, the back­ground needs to be changed. All begin­ners face this soon­er or lat­er.

What are the ways to cut out the back­ground? What is the fastest way to do it? Is it pos­si­ble to per­fect­ly remove the back­ground the first time and, if not, how to refine the pic­ture? We answered these ques­tions and put togeth­er a com­plete guide for you on how to get rid of the back­ground in Adobe Pho­to­shop.


How to cut out a background in Photoshop using a mask

The mask is a sten­cil with which you can adjust the opac­i­ty of indi­vid­ual parts of the lay­er. You decide what will be vis­i­ble in the image.

The advan­tage of the mask is that it does not erase pix­els like an eras­er, but hides them, as if cov­er­ing them with an invis­i­bil­i­ty cloak. It turns out that the pic­ture under the mask remains the same as it was, we just do not see it.

The mask is worked with the Brush tool (hot key B, that is, Brush). To draw on a mask, only two col­ors are used — black and white.

One thing is impor­tant: black hides the image, and white shows the vis­i­bil­i­ty of the lay­er.

The selec­tion tools Mag­net­ic Las­so, Mag­ic Wand and Quick Selec­tion are on the man­u­al edit­ing tool­bar on the left. You can quick­ly acti­vate them with the W (Quick Selec­tion, Mag­ic Wand) and L (Mag­net­ic Las­so) keys. Illus­tra­tion: Eliza­ve­ta Lentchevicha, Photostore.Expert

To remove the background in Photoshop using a mask, you need:

1. Select the lay­er from which you plan to erase the back­ground.
2. Add a mask to it. A white mask will auto­mat­i­cal­ly be added — that’s what we need.
3. Select a black brush and erase the excess, avoid­ing hit­ting the mod­el.

To add a mask to a pix­el lay­er, click on the indi­cat­ed but­ton. A white lay­er will appear, from which you can erase the excess with a black brush / Illus­tra­tion: Eliza­ve­ta Lentchevicha, Photosklad.Expert

Away from the mod­el, use large brush­es to work faster. The clos­er to the object you want to leave with­out a back­ground, the small­er the brush. Also adjust the brush feath­er­ing para­me­ter — too soft edges will give an unnat­ur­al result, will make the mod­el translu­cent, and too sharp will make the pic­ture look like a rough-cut scis­sors pho­to with torn edges from a glossy mag­a­zine.

4. After you remove the back­ground using the mask, any move­ment of the lay­er must be done with it. Luck­i­ly, the mask is auto­mat­i­cal­ly attached to the lay­er, so no extra effort is required. Also, the mask can­not be removed, oth­er­wise all your work will be lost.

The result on the left looks slop­py because the feath­er­ing and brush diam­e­ter are too large / Illus­tra­tion: Eliza­ve­ta Chechevit­sa, Photostore.Expert

5. If you acci­den­tal­ly erased too much — it does­n’t mat­ter. Change the black col­or to white and return the lost area (the fastest way to swap col­ors in places is with the X hotkey).

To work faster, and your hand does not get tired, use a graph­ics tablet. For con­ve­nient work, the sim­plest and cheap­est option is suit­able.

Remove background feature in Photoshop

Start­ing with CC Pho­to­shop 2020, the pro­gram has a Remove Back­ground fea­ture. The devel­op­ers have imple­ment­ed the Adobe Sen­sei neur­al net­work, which itself cal­cu­lates where the object is and where the back­ground is, and removes only the back­ground.

  • You open the file.
  • Remove the lock from the lay­er by click­ing on it. It blocks the abil­i­ty to erase pix­els from the lay­er, which defeats our pur­pose.
  • Open the Prop­er­ties palette. If it’s not in your work­space, look for it in the top com­mand line on the Win­dow tab.
  • Click the Remove back­ground but­ton.

For some time the pro­gram will exe­cute the com­mand — this process is not light­ning fast even on pow­er­ful com­put­ers, so you have to wait a bit.

As a result, you will get a lay­er where the back­ground is hid­den under a black mask. The pro­gram adds the mask auto­mat­i­cal­ly so that in case of an error you can man­u­al­ly refine the result and make it more accu­rate.

The Remove back­ground func­tion in the Prop­er­ties palette. Result after appli­ca­tion / Illus­tra­tion: Eliza­ve­ta Chechevit­sa, Photosklad.Expert

The more the object dif­fers from the back­ground in col­or and bright­ness, the more accu­rate the selec­tion will be. If the mod­el and the object merge with the back­ground, then the pro­gram will inevitably skip a piece of the back­ground, or hook the object itself, as in this case. This result needs to be improved.

If you have an old­er pro­gram, then there is no way to imple­ment this func­tion — you will have to switch to new ver­sions of Pho­to­shop.

How to remove the background with a selection

The selec­tion tools help you select an object or back­ground so that you can then cut it out, or adjust the select­ed part of the image. For exam­ple, iso­late a piece of the back­ground to change the col­or or bright­ness of the sky.

  • Choose any selec­tion tool. Mag­net­ic Las­so or Quick Selec­tion works best. They stick to the object along the con­trast bor­der — the dif­fer­ence between objects in col­or or bright­ness.
  • Out­line the object. The mag­net­ic las­so out­lines the out­line itself, but if you use Quick Selec­tion, then you need to select a brush with a plus drawn next to it and indi­cate the areas you want to select your­self.
    If the Quick Selec­tion cap­tures a piece of the back­ground, take a brush with a minus drawn next to it and exclude unnec­es­sary pix­els from the selec­tion. Watch the size of the brush — the larg­er it is, the larg­er pieces the tool cap­tures and works less accu­rate­ly.
  • At the top, on the tool options pan­el, select Selec­tion and Mask. There you can turn the selec­tion into a lay­er with a mask, or sim­ply remove extra pix­els by eras­ing the back­ground.
  • To do this, scroll the pan­el on the right to the very bot­tom, find Out­put to and select New Lay­er or New Lay­er with Lay­er Mask. In the first case, you will get an object with­out a back­ground, in the sec­ond — every­thing is the same, but the back­ground will not be removed, but hid­den under a mask. This option is bet­ter, because this way you can change the result.
The brush­es on the left add or remove pix­els from the selec­tion, while the Select but­ton and the mask on the right allow you to hide the back­ground under the mask or com­plete­ly remove it / Illus­tra­tion: Eliza­ve­ta Chechevit­sa, Fotosklad.Expert

Finalization of the selection

Often Pho­to­shop cre­ates a selec­tion not per­fect­ly accu­rate — some­where it cap­tures an extra piece, some­where the edges between the object and the back­ground turn out to be too sharp and torn. You can auto­mate the process as much as pos­si­ble, trust­ing the tools, and then mod­i­fy it man­u­al­ly — this will save time and ensure max­i­mum qual­i­ty.

Quick mask mode

  • Click on the rec­tan­gle below the col­or swatch­es in the pan­el on the right (or hotkey Q). The selec­tion will tem­porar­i­ly dis­ap­pear, and part of the image will turn red. This is a quick mask mode that allows you to make selec­tions more pre­cise with a reg­u­lar brush, as if you were work­ing on a lay­er with a mask.
  • Adjust the brush set­tings as you would with a mask. Keep track of shad­ing, size, and also what col­or you are work­ing with — black or white.
  • When you’re done, press Q again or on the rec­tan­gle below the palette. The quick mask will turn into a selec­tion that you’ve fine-tuned by hand.
Signs that you are in Quick Mask mode — the selec­tion has dis­ap­peared, and instead there are areas col­ored in red. Also, a lay­er in the Lay­ers palette was high­light­ed in red / Illus­tra­tion: Eliza­ve­ta Lentchevicha, Photosklad.Expert

Edge Detection and Global Refinement in Selection and Mask

  • By increas­ing the radius in Edge Detec­tion, make the selec­tion more accu­rate, espe­cial­ly where there is hair, fur, fleecy sur­faces. Note that if the radius is too large, there is a risk that the tool will erase part of the object. In this case, the inac­cu­ra­cies that have appeared must be final­ized man­u­al­ly.
    If Edge Detect does­n’t help, use the Refine Edge brush. The prin­ci­ple of oper­a­tion is sim­i­lar, only here you can man­u­al­ly con­trol the entire process of select­ing com­plex areas.
  • The glob­al refine­ment works with the path. We can make it smoother by feath­er­ing, smooth­ing, increas­ing edge con­trast, or narrowing/expanding the selec­tion even­ly.
On the left is the Refine Edge brush sec­ond from the top, on the right is Edge Detec­tion, and then four slid­ers that refine the selec­tion: edge smooth­ness, selec­tion feath­er­ing, con­trast and selec­tion edge shift / Illus­tra­tion: Eliza­ve­ta Chechevit­sa, Fotosklad.Expert

How to cut out the background with the Color Range and Magic Wand tools

A sol­id back­ground can be cut out using the Col­or Range tool or the Mag­ic Wand tool. Their prin­ci­ple of oper­a­tion is sim­i­lar — they find and select pix­els of a cer­tain col­or.

Magic Wand Tool in Photoshop

  • Choose a tool and point to the back­ground on the image.
  • The pro­gram will cre­ate a selec­tion based on the col­or you spec­i­fied.
    To make the spread of shades larg­er and the pro­gram does not high­light the col­or of a ran­dom pix­el on the back­ground, set the Sam­ple size to 3x3 or 5x5, and also increase the Tol­er­ance para­me­ter. The high­er it is, the more shades of col­or the tool cap­tures.
    If you click the Select Adja­cent Pix­els Only but­ton, the tool will only select areas that con­tin­ue in col­or with the one you select­ed. If this but­ton is not pressed, the Mag­ic Wand selects all parts of the pic­ture where this col­or occurs. For exam­ple, if you want to cut out a red back­ground and the mod­el has red lips, the tool will select both the back­ground and the lips. It is incon­ve­nient if you need to remove the back­ground, and not all the red col­or from the pic­ture.
  • Fin­ish the result­ing selec­tion with a Quick Mask or Select and Mask and con­vert it to a reg­u­lar lay­er or a lay­er with a mask.

Color Range Tool in Photoshop

  • Go to Selec­tion and choose a Col­or Range.
  • Click on Select and find the back­ground col­or.
If the pow­er of automa­tion was not enough, take the By Sam­ples tool and click on the desired col­or in the pho­to. At the same time, if you take the pipette +, the pro­gram will cap­ture more and more new shades of the back­ground / Illus­tra­tion: Eliza­ve­ta Lentchevicha, Photosklad.Expert

3. Click OK, and final­ize the result­ing selec­tion, con­vert it to a mask or a lay­er with pix­els using Selec­tion and Mask.


Which way is more con­ve­nient and bet­ter? The one that is more con­ve­nient and under­stand­able for you. In Pho­to­shop, the same oper­a­tion, as a rule, can be per­formed using sev­er­al equiv­a­lent algo­rithms.

  • Draw­ing a mask by hand and using it to cut out the back­ground is a high-qual­i­ty and most con­trolled way. But, as a rule, it takes longer than the rest.
  • You can speed up the removal of the back­ground by select­ing it in any way that the Pho­to­shop tools offer (Las­so, Quick Selec­tion, Col­or Range, Mag­ic Wand, etc.). But keep in mind that it will not work out per­fect­ly — you need to refine it. Quick Mask or Select and Mask will help you with this.
  • The Remove back­ground fea­ture saves time, but neur­al net­work flaws will have to be cor­rect­ed man­u­al­ly.
  • The more con­trast the object is in rela­tion to the back­ground, the eas­i­er and faster it will be to cut out the back­ground using auto­mat­ic meth­ods.

With these meth­ods, you can cut out not only the back­ground, but also any oth­er object from the pho­to.


От Yara

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