Exploring Photoshop: Removing backgrounds the easy way

One of the challenges I’ve always experienced when editing my product images, is removing the background. Depending on the technique you use to remove the main image from the background, sometimes it can end up looking like the dog had chewed around the edges of it. Then add to this the challenges of photographing fabric projects because of all the threads and embellishments.

One day recently while I was browsing the web I found the solution for removing backgrounds that produced a very smooth-edged result! And of course I can’t link to the tutorial because I don’t know where I found it, but this is how it’s done and it’s SO easy.

Please Note: This tutorial is presented using Photoshop Elements, however the instruction should be similar in Photoshop CC.

This is a photo I took using a black background. Once I had taken the photo I realized that there was all sorts of dust and flecks on the background that weren’t visible to my naked eye so it was necessary to remove the background.

Exploring Photoshop: Removing backgrounds the easy way

You can see close up that the background is well, rather dreadful.

Exploring Photoshop: Removing backgrounds the easy way

So here’s how to remove it. Select your favorite “selection” tool, either the magnetic lasso or the quick selection tool.

Exploring Photoshop: Removing backgrounds the easy way

Zoom in real close to the image so you can see what you’re doing and select the outline of the image. You want to get the selection as good as possible. I’m using the quick selection tool for this. In the photo you can just make out the little marching ants around the outline.

Exploring Photoshop: Removing backgrounds the easy way

Once you’ve selected the outline, go to the file menu and choose Select, Modify, then either Expand or Contract depending on which is the best way for you to cut out the image. For this outline I’m using Contract because I want to remove some of that fuzzy outline and cut in closer to the image.

Exploring Photoshop: Removing backgrounds the easy way

Choose the number of pixels you want to contract by; you usually don’t need too much. I’ve chosen 2.

Exploring Photoshop: Removing backgrounds the easy way

Next go to Select, Feather

Exploring Photoshop: Removing backgrounds the easy way

… and select the amount of feather to smooth out the edges. I’ve chosen 3.

Exploring Photoshop: Removing backgrounds the easy way

Then go to Edit, Copy. Then Edit, Paste. Or Ctrl C then Ctrl V on your keyboard.

Exploring Photoshop: Removing backgrounds the easy way

This now puts a copy of your cutout image in a new layer on top of your original.

Exploring Photoshop: Removing backgrounds the easy way

If you hide the original image, you can easily see that the edges have been feathered and softened.

Exploring Photoshop: Removing backgrounds the easy way

And when you place this on a new background – it looks FABULOUS!

Exploring Photoshop: Removing backgrounds the easy way

I love learning new things, especially when they work out so well!

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11 thoughts on “Exploring Photoshop: Removing backgrounds the easy way”

    1. Linda Matthews

      Thanks Riin – I’ve also tried this with a yarn image and it works great! You shouldn’t have any problems ๐Ÿ™‚

  1. Linda, this does look fantastic! Thanks for sharing the info. Good luck on sales of your book…it looks great!

  2. I love the picture!!! I use GIMP rather than Photoshop but I think the same information applies. Thanks for the tutorial. I’m looking forward to your new book. Good luck on the sales.

    1. Linda Matthews

      Thanks Gretchen. The process should be similar using any program similar to Photoshop although the file commands would probably be different. But I’ve used these steps on all sorts of different photos and it always works! Amazing!

  3. What a great tutorial…I am anxious to try it myself as I always have trouble getting it to look right. As you said it always looked like the dog chewed the edges.

  4. Linda Matthews

    Thanks all, I’ve tried this technique on various types of fiber related images which are difficult to clean up because of all the fuzzy edges, and it always works! It’s amazing!

  5. Thank you for the cool tips on expand and feather. I have never used them before. So simple and what a lovely difference this makes! After I tried your steps above, since I already had the object (a sunflower) selected, I made a brush from it too and had a great time “painting” sunflowers. There is always so much to learn in Photoshop Elements!

    1. Linda Matthews

      There is so much to learn in Photoshop. When I finally let go of the frustration of digging through those useless “help” files and use google instead to find answers, I found there’s so many interesting ways of doing things. It’s kinda fun ๐Ÿ™‚

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