How to Remove Almost Any Image From a White Background In Two Quick Steps

Cutting an object out from a white background can be a pain. Photoshop’s automated tools give uneven results in a lot of case. However, we do have a technique that, while not perfect, gives great results more than 90% of the time. More importantly, it’s nice and quick.

Setting Up the Document

Open the image from which you want to remove the white background from in Photoshop. I’m using this product photo of a Tissot Le Locle watch which was our sister site, Review Geek’s, pick for best affordable automatic gold watch.

Double click on the Background layer to unlock it.

Next, go to Layer > Duplicate Layer, and then click “OK” or use the keyboard shortcut Control-J (Command-J on a Mac).

Click on the little eye icon to turn visibility off for the top layer, in my case it’s “Layer 0 Copy” and everything is set up.

One optional step is to add a colored background to make things a little easier to see. I’m going to do it just to make the screenshots clearer.

Go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color, click “OK,” and then select a nice bright color. I’m going with this fetching pink.

Drag the Fill Layer to the bottom of the Layer stack, so it’s underneath everything, and you’re ready to go.

Creating the Outline

The first step is to get rid of all the white in the image. To do this we’re going to use Blend If, one of Photoshop’s more advanced features. Just follow the instructions and you’ll be fine.

Double-click on the original layer (Layer 0 in our example), to bring up the Layer Styles dialog.

The only thing we’re interested in here is the Blend If sliders.

Click on the white arrow on the right hand side of the top slider—“This Layer”—and drag it to the left. Instantly, a lot of the white will vanish.

This is obviously a rough correction, so we need to use a bit more finesse. Drag the arrow until there’s only a thin white border around the object you’re cutting out. Don’t worry about any pink showing up on it, we’ll fix that in the next step.

Next, hold down Alt or Option, click on the arrow, and keep dragging to the left. This will split the arrow.

Play around with the split arrows until even the thin white border has pretty much disappeared. Again, don’t worry about how things look on the inside of the object.

When you’re happy that almost all the white is removed from the background, click OK. Here’s what the watch looks like now. The white’s all gone from the background, but the center of the watch is showing quite a bit of pink.

Masking in the Middle

Select the layer you duplicated at the start and turn visibility back on by clicking in the box where the eye icon was.

Next, go to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All. This will add a black layer mask to the layer.

If you’re confused about layer masks, check out our full guide. The basics are that any black on a layer mask conceals, while any white on a layer mask reveals. Since we’ve added a totally black mask, the duplicated layer is now hidden, but we can paint white on the mask using the Brush tool (or any other tool you like) to reveal things. This is how we’re going to fix up the inside of the object.

RELATED: What Are Layers and Masks in Photoshop?

Select the Brush tool (the keyboard shortcut is B). Make sure that Hardness is set to about 80% and that Opacity and Flow are at 100%. Also press D to reset the brush to its default colors; this means we’ll be automatically be painting with white.

Resize the brush using the [ and ] keys and then just start painting on any area of the inside that’s pink. Since we’ve already got a good outline, you can be pretty heavy handed with the stuff in the middle. Make the brush smaller and smaller as you get closer to the edges so you don’t stray over the lines. If you make a mistake, press X to switch to painting with black and paint over where you’ve messed up; press X again to go back to white.

Once you’re done, you should have something that looks like this.

Set the background to whatever you want and then save your image . If you want to keep the background transparent, make sure to save it as a PNG file.

Finishing Up

This is a quick and dirty method but it works. You can spend more time and use some of Photoshop’s more technical tools to create marginally better masks, but it’s rarely worth it.

This method isn’t perfect. I deliberately chose an object that’s a bit difficult for the demonstration. Things that are close to white in color or shiny around the edges like the watch require more care to get right. If you’re cutting something out with hard black edges, you can do it in seconds.

Harry Guinness writes occasionally when he’s not busy skiing, sailing, partying, lifting weights, or otherwise dodging responsibility. His main areas of interest are himself, gin, and crazy people with interesting stories to tell. When people won’t pay him to write ill-thought-out opinion pieces, he covers photography, technology, and culture. You can follow him on Twitter.