The Step-by-Step Guide to Removing the Background in Photoshop

Rokaiya Yeasmin Munni | March 14, 2014

Banner of hair masking tutorial

Whether you’re an ecommerce retailer, a photographer shooting product photos for an online store, or a person just learning graphic design and image-editing software, knowing how to remove the background from your photos is a skill you’ll use countless times.

When it comes to the image of a person, the hair can cause frustration and added time when done incorrectly. So that’s what we’re here for!

In this Photoshop tutorial, you will learn the image masking technique and how to use the eraser tool, making your life a whole lot easier. Once you master one of the more difficult background removal processes, you’ll be able to tackle any photo or image.


Start by removing some of the background by opening the layer palette (Windows>Layers).


Select layer from window


If it is locked, double click to unlock it. When the pop up window appear, hit OK.

Double click on layer to unlock


Next, choose the Eraser tool from Photoshop’s Tool Panel and begin removing the background.

Eraser tool

Delete white area by eraser tool


Be careful to go around the woman’s head as close to her hair as possible but without touching her hair with the Eraser Tool. See the image as an example.

Deleted most of the white background by eraser tool


Next, add a new layer by clicking the upper right corner of the Layer window, name the new layer, and click OK.

Creating new layer


At the bottom of the Layers window, click the Adjustments icon, and choose Solid Color.

Select solid color from icon option


We suggest choosing a dark color so it’s easier to see if any white bits remain in background.

Select dark blue color


Next, we’ll remove all the white around the hair.

Get rid of all white

Related content: Learn the Photoshop Image Swap & Blend Technique in Just 10 Easy Steps


Return to the Tools window and choose the Background Eraser tool.

Background eraser tool


For the brush Size, we recommend 100 but you can choose a smaller size. Then click Sample 1, the right eyedropper.

Size option of background eraser tool


Set the Limits to Discontinuous.

Select Discontiguous


And then set Tolerance to 50% and confirm that the Protect Foreground Color box is checked.

Tolerance 50%


Holding down the mouse button you can begin to replace the white background with the dark color you chose.

Erasing white bit by background eraser tool


Continue this process all the way around the hair.

Contiously erasing white bit by background eraser tool


Once you’re done all that should remain of the white background is a tiny white outline around the edge of the hair.

Erased all white bit


You now have the option to change the background color to anything you like by double clicking on the background color thumbnail so the color window appears.

Color changing option


By choosing a lighter color, the white edging around the hair will be less obvious.

Selected light color


The opposite goes when choosing darker colors.

Selected dark color


Okay, you’re almost done. Go back to the Tool panel and select the Burn tool.

Select burn tool


Double click the background Layer and for the Range, choose Midtones and for Exposure choose 100%.

Select Midtones and Exposure 100%


Use the tool to go over all the edges of the hair, darkening them up to remove any remaining white.

Reduced white edge using burn tool


You’re done! From here, you’re free to change the background to any color you choose.

Chose another dark color

While we’ve presented this using Photoshop CS5, the process remains the same for other versions. Feel free to check out our other tutorial, showing you how to remove the background from product image in Photoshop.

Even if you’re a Photoshop pro, there’s only so much time in the day.  Clipping Path India’s Photoshop experts can save you time, optimizing and delivering your images in just 24 hours. Get your free quote today!

Rokaiya Yeasmin Munni

As manager and head of digital marketing at Clipping Path India, Rokaiya wants to help retailers and photographers use marketing strategies and tactics that will elevate their business. She has an 18-year background in graphic design, content management and digital marketing.

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