There are many ways to remove a background in Photoshop, depending on the image and the background. In this post I will discuss 3 different ways to do this with examples. There is a tool for almost any style image and background.

Quick Selection tool.

The quick selection tool is straightforward to use. Select the Quick selection tool from the tool panel and started making a selection of either the subject or the background.

Don’t worry about being too accurate, we can make a cleaner selection when we apply a layer mask. For now just select the areas you want to remove. Don’t forget if some of the subject gets selected, you can use the + and – to add or remove selected areas.

When you have made your selection, select the layer and press the mask button at the bottom of the layers panel. This will remove the subject, select the mask next to the layer and press CTRL + I or Command + I on a Mac to invert the mask. Now the background will be removed.

If like in the example the selection isn’t accurate, select the mask, choose the brush tool and apply black to hide parts of the background and white to show it.


To make an even cleaner selection, double click the mask next to the layer and the refine and mask window will open. On the right of the window, under views, select “Overlay.”  Select refine edge from the left and make the brush smaller and run over the edges of the selection. The more time you take with this, the better the selection.

You can also use feather, smooth and contrast to get a sharper edge to your selection. Play around with the settings until you see the best results.

Press OK at the bottom right when done.

Background eraser tool

Let’s open a new image. Say we want to change the background of this image to Green. Create a solid colour underneath the layer just so you can see the background being erased and the green showing underneath. If you press and hold the rubber icon in the tools panel, you will see on the drop down a tool called “Background Eraser

To begin with make sure you select “sampling once”  and “discontiguous”. I will explain what these terms mean soon.

Use the tool to start removing the background. When you keep the eraser pressed down, it continues to sample from that first pixel and removes it. This is great as you can see it won’t remove the hair. This is why we choose “sampling once”  Discontiguous means that the tool will also remove that first sampled pixel from any areas inside the hair.

There is however one major drawback to the background eraser tool. It’s very destructive. No it won’t set fire to anything or ask you outside for a fight! But the only way to undo what you have done is to undo. There is no mask for the background eraser tool.

Say you removed some background right at the start of your workflow and then decided you needed to change it. Unless it is still in the history of changes there is no going back.

Pen Tool

The pen tool is very useful, once you get the hang of using it. The Pen tool is probably the best tool to use for complicated background or subjects. Allowing you to make a slow but fine selections around any subject. I have created a post that uses the pen tool for Making complex selections in Photoshop

And check out the online Basier game. Perfect for developing your pen tool skills.

Press “P” on the keyboard to automatically change to the Pen tool, or select it from the toolbar on the left.

Make selections around your subject, taking your time. Once you have finished, right click within the chosen selection and choose “Make Selection.” The popup box will ask you for a feather amount. This just adds more smoothness to the selection. For this image I will keep 0.2. Again like with the quick selection tool, create a mask. This time the background has been removed and I didn’t need to invert the mask.

The pen tool is more time consuming but sometimes the only option available allowing you complete control over what is selected. Don’t forget always use a mask. Creating a mask is a non destructive method of removing anything from an image. If you make a mistake you can always add or remove parts of the image as many times as needed.

So there you go. 3 ways to remove a background in Photoshop. I hope it was of some help. Any questions feel free to leave a comment below or get in touch 🙂