How To Change Background Color in Photoshop (Complete Process)


In this tutorial, you will learn how to how to change the background color in Photoshop (fast & easy)!

No matter your skill level, you’ll be able to follow along and apply this powerful technique to your photos.

Tutorial Image

Click here to download the image of the woman on Roller Skates.

Make a Selection

Isolate the subject from the background by creating a selection.

One of the most useful ways of creating a selection is by using the Quick Selection tool.

Click-and-drag the tool all over the subject for Photoshop to automatically find the edges. 

PRO TIP: Hold Alt (Windows) or Option (macOS) as you click-and-drag on selected areas to deselect them.

Make a Selection Using Machine Learning Technology

If you’re using the latest Photoshop, you can easily create a selection of the subject with a few clicks!

Choose Select > Subject and let Adobe Sensei identify the subject in the image and create a selection out of it. 

Refine the Selection with Quick Mask Mode

Once your selection is set, press the Q key on your keyboard to enter the Quick Mask mode which applies a red overlay over areas that are not selected .

You can then select the Brush tool from the Toolbar and set the Foreground color to white (#ffffff) and paint to add to the selection.

On the contrary, you can set the Foreground color to black(#000000) and paint to subtract from the selection.

PRO TIP: Press the X key on your keyboard to swap the Background and  Foreground color. 

When you’re happy with the mask, press the Q key to exit the Quick Mask mode.

Refine the Selection Edges with Select and Mask

With the Quick Selection tool active, head over to the Options bar and click on the Select and Mask button to continue fine-tuning the mask.

Set the View option as Black & White so you can easily see the contrast between the background and the subject.

Then, use the Global RefinementsSmooth and Contrast slider to improve the edges of the selection.

Refine the hair with Select and Mask

The Global Refinements adjustments weren’t applied to the hair since you can achieve a better result using a different technique.

Go back to Select and Mask.

Switch the View to Overlay.

Use the Refine Edge tool to brush over the edges of the hair. You may notice how it only reveals the individual hair strands but masks out the background.

Change the background with a Solid Color Fill 

Click on the New Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and select Solid Color.

On the Color Picker window, you can select any color that you want for the background. 

Then, press OK to exit the window. 

Select the Layer Mask thumbnail and press Ctrl I (Windows) or Command I (macOS) to invert the effect and apply the Solid Color Fill layer on the background instead of the subject.

You can also achieve the same effect if you go to the Properties panel and click on the Invert button.

With the color finally applied to the background, you may lose the background’s shadows and texture.

To change that, set the Blending Mode of the layer to Multiply as it retains the original shadows of the image.

The floor is affected by the blue Solid Color Fill layer, unmask by using the Rectangular Marquee tool and selecting the area of the floor.

With the Layer Mask thumbnail selected, fill the active selection with black. 

One way of doing it is choosing Edit > Fill

Then, set the Contents > Black.

The second way of doing it is by setting black(#000000) as your Background color and pressing Ctrl Backspace (Windows) or Command Backspace (macOS)

With that part of the image unmasked, you can deselect by pressing Ctrl D (Windows) or Command D (macOS).

Take this time to fine-tune elements in the mask such as the shoelaces, hair strands, or small parts of the garment using the Brush tool and painting with black(#000000) unmask them.

Reversely, paint with white(#ffffff) to reveal the Solid Color Fill layer. 

Why Not Use the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer Instead?

Unfortunately, using the Hue/Saturation only allows you to control one slider to control the color in the image.

In contrast, the Solid Color Fill layer enables you to change the color on a wide array by double-clicking the layer thumbnail to bring out the Color Picker window.

Create a Group to contain all the color change layers

Go to the Layers panel and click on the New Group icon to and name the group as “Color Change.”

Then, drag the Solid Color Fill layer towards the group.

For the Color Change group to have the same Layer Mask as the Color Fill layer has, click-and-drag the Layer Mask thumbnail onto the group and then release your mouse.

This will separate the two, and you need this so that only one Layer Mask controls that group’s contents.

Create a Levels adjustment to control the color brightness  

Click on the New Adjustment Layer icon and select Levels.

Then, click-and-drag the Solid Color Fill layer above the Levels layer.

Right-click on the Levels layer and select Delete Layer Mask

With the Levels adjustment layer, you gain full control of the luminosity in the image using 5 points.

If you want to make the shadows darker but retain the color, create a New Layer outside the group, and use the Eyedropper tool click on the current background color, and set it as the Foreground color.

Then, select the Brush tool and paint on the New Layer to use it as a reference.

Go back Levels adjustment layer and on the Properties panel, make the shadows darker by dragging the middle point to the right.

This should make your painted color on the New Layer stand in contrast with the darker background color. 

Drag the white point to the left to brighten the background color until it matches the new layer’s sampled color. That helps you retain the same color but with darker shadows. 

Then, delete the New Layer as it is now unnecessary. 

Dodge and Burn the Mask to refine hair edges 

Hair is the most difficult to mask, and it becomes evident when you switch to a darker color, and it reveals the mask’s inconsistency.

On the Toolbar, use the Dodge tool to paint parts of the hair to make the background color come through. 

And whenever you want to change the color of the background, just double-click on the Color Fill layer thumbnail to change bring out the Color Picker window to select a new color!

And that’s how you can change the background color in Photoshop in manner that is efficient and realistic!

Final Image

Drag The Slider To See Before & After

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