Quickly Remove Backgrounds in Photoshop Using the Magic Eraser

sshot-64

One of the most common questions I get from inexperienced Photo editors is “How do I remove the background from my picture?” There are probably dozens of ways in any version of Photoshop to do this, and each has its challenges. This technique is most likely the simplest.

The image above is very ideal for this technique. Yours may not be, but you can still use this technique to remove your background. You can download this image on Wikipedia to try it yourself before you dive in and use your own photos, which are probably more complicated. If they are, you may want to check out my more advanced tutorial on Removing Complex Backgrounds from Images. If not, this How-To will help you remove those simpler backgrounds.

sshot-209 sshot-65

Diving right in, right click on your “Background” layer in your Layers Palette. Pick “Layer from Background…” to unlock your Background layer.

sshot-66

Photoshop won’t let you have a file without at least one layer in it, but it will allow you to have one without a locked “background” layer. “Background” becomes “Layer 0.” Simply press OK at this prompt.

sshot-69

If your Layers Palette looks like this, it’s time to erase out your background.

sshot-75sshot-216

Click and hold on the Eraser Tool until you get the contextual menu. You’ll be picking the “Magic Eraser.”

sshot-79

The Control Palette is at the top of your screen. You’ll need to set your tool to have these settings before the next step.

sshot-84

Simply click on any color and the Magic Eraser fills it with transparency as if it was the Paint Bucket Tool.

sshot-85

Notice that this gives a slight halo effect where the anti-aliasing can’t take care of all of the blue sky in our background. Oftentimes, your images will come out the same. There are more advanced ways to cut out images in Photoshop and many of them exist to deal with this craft issue.

sshot-88

Press  L to choose the Lasso tool. Use it to draw a rough shape around your newly cut out object like I’ve done with this bird.

sshot-90

Press ctrl shift J to perform a “New Layer Via Cut.” This will remove whatever was in your lassoed area and automatically move it to a new layer. You can safely delete “Layer 0,” having removed the only part of the image you care about.

sshot-91

I click on the adjustment layer to add a “Color Fill” style Adjustment Layer. I put this behind my “Layer 1” to test the halo around the bird and get an idea how good my cutout is.

sshot-93

I decide that it’s pretty decent, despite some haloing around some of the darker areas. Again, this image is a fairly perfect one for removing the background with the Magic Eraser. If your background is more complex for the Magic Eraser, see my tutorial on removing complex backgrounds.

Image by Fir0002 via Wikipedia. Image protected under GNU license.

Eric Z Goodnight is an Illustrator and Stetson-wearing wild man. During the day, he manages IT and product development for screenprinted apparel manufacturing; by night he creates geek art posters, writes JavaScript, and records weekly podcasts about comics.