Have a great photo but don’t like the background? Change it! With a little patience and practice, a pair of images and an image editing program that offers layers you can.
This is a basic tutorial, which works best when backgrounds are fairly simple and the edges of a subject are relatively well-defined. Below you’ll find a summary of more advanced techniques, as well as links to related tutorials.
Changing the background of a digital image
- Open your image and then click on an edge selection tool such as the Magnetic Lasso found in programs such as Adobe Photoshop or Elements.
- Carefully outline the edges of the subject. You may have to use the add and subtract icon to get a more precise outline.
- After the image is selected, inverse the selection. Select > Inverse.
- Next, open the image you plan to use for the background — in this illustration, a beach shoreline. The image will open in a new window.
- Select all, then Copy. Select menu > All
- Edit menu > Copy. The sunset image will be placed on the clipboard.
- Make the first window active by clicking on it; then use the paste into menu to place the clipboard image into the selected area. Edit > Paste into.
- If desired, move the image around with the Move tool selected until the background image is place as you like it.
- Save image layers as a JPEG file.
Other methods to extract an object from its background
Those who process their photos with editing programs such as Photoshop can use more advanced techniques and tools to remove a background. These techniques may require a lot of time and skill, but the results are very effective for photos with more complex backgrounds, or where precision is a priority. The tools include:
The Magic Eraser
The Magic Eraser tool erases pixels of a particular color by making them trasparent. A high Tolerance setting will erase a broad range of color values. Only similar color values to the pixel you click will be erased when the Tolerance setting is set low. Click, don’t drag, your mouse cursor when using this tool. [Magic Eraser tutorial]
Quick Mask Mode
In Quick Mask Mode use tools such as the paint brush and eraser to paint over every detail in the image that you don’t want. You can also use selection tools, then fill the selection. When you switch back to Standard Mode, every area that has been painted or filled will be removed. [Quick Mask Mode tutorial]
A more sophisticated way to isolate a foreground object is to use the Extract filter, which allows you to extract an object from its background by drawing an outline around it that also overlaps the background. It is useful ror extracting intricate objects that lack defined edges, such as hair, from their backgrounds. The Extract filter works best when you zoom in on an object however you need to have a very steady hand. If you don’t have steady hands, consider using a pen tablet.