How to remove or change an image background in Photoshop

Updated: 06/30/2020 by Computer Hope
Removing background from image

Adobe Photoshop is a powerful tool for manipulating images in various ways. A common edit made to photos is the removal or substitution of the background. This change isolates the subject of the image to incorporate it into a larger project, or to choose a better background.

Below are steps for selecting the foreground, and removing or swapping the background in Photoshop.

Creating a selection

Before removing your background, you must first define the subject of your image using selection tools. There are several ways to select objects in Photoshop, each offering advantages in different situations. The following is a review of each tool and how it is used to select objects.

Magic Wand tool

The magic wand tool automatically selects regions of an image based on a target color or range of colors. It works best when the image background or foreground is a single color, or there's a lot of contrast between them.

To use the magic wand tool:

  1. In the toolbar, press and hold the mouse button on the Quick Selection tool Quick selection tool to reveal additional icons.
  2. In the pop-up menu, select the Magic Wand tool Magic Wand tool icon.
  3. In the Tool Properties panel at the top of the screen, adjust the Tolerance to define how close the color needs to match.
  4. Click the area of color you want to select in your image.

Quick Selection tool

The quick selection tool automatically predicts what you are attempting to select based on color and contrast.

To use the quick selection tool:

  1. Click the Quick Selection tool Quick Selection tool icon on the toolbar.
  2. Adjust your brush size using the square bracket keys [ ].
  3. Click and drag your cursor around the edges of your subject.
  4. Fill in your selection by dragging your brush around in the confines of the subject.

Lasso tool

The lasso tool is a manual selection tool for more intricate selections. It creates a closed shape by connecting the starting and ending points of your manually-drawn line.

To use the lasso tool:

  1. Select the Lasso tool Lasso tool icon from the toolbar.
  2. Zoom in on your image to the desired area by pressing and holding the Ctrl key and using the + and - keys, or, you may use the scroll wheel.
  3. Begin your selection by clicking and dragging with the mouse.
  4. Draw your line until it encloses the subject.
  5. Once your object is selected, close your shape by releasing the mouse button.

Marquee tool

The shape marquee tools are used for selecting geometrical shapes in your image.

To use the marquee tools:

  1. Select the Marquee tool Marquee tool icon from the toolbar.
  2. If you would like an elliptical marquee, place the cursor on the icon, then press and hold the mouse button until additional icons appear.
  3. Once your desired shape is selected, position your mouse in the corner of your desired selection.
  4. Click and drag your mouse to the opposite corner.
  5. Release the mouse button to complete the selection.

Refining your selection

Once your object is selected, refine the selection to ensure that you are deleting the correct part of the image. These options require you to use select one of the tools above in the toolbar.

Feather Radius
  • If you selected the foreground, invert your selection by right-clicking inside your selection, and then selecting Select Inverse.
  • Feather your selection to soften the edges of your object. To feather your image, right-click inside your selection and select Feather. Change the Feather Radius value to adjust the edges softness.

Replacing your background

When you are happy with your selection, you can remove or replace the background.

  1. Make sure your image is rasterized by right-clicking it on the Layers menu, and then select Rasterize Layer.
  2. Press the Delete or Backspace key to delete the selected pixels.
  3. To add another background, drag the image into Photoshop and place it on a layer below the foreground.