How To Remove a Background In Photoshop [For Beginners!]

Learn this easy-to-follow 3-step method to remove a background from a photo in Photoshop!

In this tutorial for beginners, I’ll share with you the exact professional techniques I use to remove backgrounds in Photoshop for the movie and TV posters I work on.

Getting precise edges and maintaining editing flexibility are crucial in my professional practice. I aim to teach these pro-level techniques in a straightforward, three-step formula.

I’ll show you how to solve common problems when removing backgrounds and share some of my professional Photoshop brushes.

Step 1: Select the Main Subject

Step one in my Photoshop Background Removal method is to select the main subject.

In Photoshop, you can remove the background, including the Remove Background button in the Taskbar.

It works fine, but instead, I prefer to go into Select > Select and Mask.

The Select and Mask Workspace helps you create precise selections and masks without the distractions from the entire Photoshop interface. It gives you more control and leads to better results.

By default, the View Mode is Onion Skinning, with the transparency set to 50%, allowing you to see the selected areas against the original image.

You can use the Quick Selection Tool to select a specific object, like an article of clothing.

If you want to select the entire person, then the Quick Selection Tool might not be the best Tool for the job.

Instead, you can use the Subject button. But before you click on it, go into the dropdown and choose “Cloud.” The Cloud option sends the image to the Adobe servers to process it and generate a better selection.

The downside of using this feature is that you need an internet connection. If you don’t have one, choose the “Device” option to process the image on your computer.

Once you create your selection, you can fine-tune it with the Quick Selection Tool or Brush Tool.

Step 2: Refine Hard Edges

Switch to Black-and-white view mode to enhance the visibility of edges.

Notice how the edges appear jagged and somewhat blurry.

In most cases, I only apply two adjustments. First, I use the Smooth slider to smoothen the edges.

Then, I use the Contrast slider to sharpen the edges.

These are global adjustments, and they will affect your entire selection. Again, don’t worry if the hair is not looking good. We will focus on it in the next step.

In some cases, you may need to Feather or blur the edges.

The Shift Edge slider allows you to contract or expand the selection to help reduce edge halos.

Step 3: Select Hair or Intricate Detail

Now that we have great solid edges around our main subject, we can move on to step three in this formula: Selecting hair!

But in your image, this could be fur, shaggy clothing, or pretty much anything that is not a hard, sharp edge.

In my opinion, you get better results when you separate the two.

The adjustments we previously made using the Global Refinement sliders work great for her body, But they don’t work well at all for hair.

In most cases, you must work with hair and other intricate details in a separate adjustment.

From the Output Settings, choose Layer Mask from the dropdown menu and press OK.

Photoshop will remove the background from this image using a Layer Mask.

Layer Masks are non-destructive way to hide or reveal content.

The Selected Mask Workspace can also edit a Layer Mask.

If you double-click on the Layer Mask Thumbnail, it opens the Select and Mask workspace.

The Mask looks precisely the same as it did before. But the Global Refinement sliders are no longer affecting it.

So, we can work on the hair without worrying about over-smoothing or damaging those fine edges. Enable the Edge Brush Tool.

It uses Photoshop’s edge detection algorithms to capture fine details that standard selection tools might miss.

As you brush along the edges of your subject’s hair, the tool analyzes the content, differentiating between the foreground and the background.

Also, you can try the Refine Hair button to use artificial intelligence to attempt to locate the hair in the photo and apply the same adjustment as the Refine Edge Brush Tool over the areas it finds.

When you’re done, press OK, and Photoshop will apply this adjustment to the previous Layer Mask.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

After applying these three steps, you may have a perfectly cut-out background.

But, in some cases, you may need to do a little more work to get realistic results when removing backgrounds in Photoshop.

Listed below are the most common issues and how to solve them.

1. Incomplete Masks or Over-Masking

Incomplete masks or over-masking is probably the most common issue you will have.

It simply means that parts of the background were not entirely removed, resulting in remnants of the original background appearing around the subject. Or the opposite, where the Mask removes parts of the subject itself. You can fix either of these issues with the Brush Tool.

Paint with black to hide remnants of the original background. Or paint with white to reveal hidden areas.

2. Painting in Detail

One of the biggest secrets pros have is that if things are too challenging to select, we just ignore them and mask them away. We then use a custom brush to paint the detail back in.

Make sure to download the ABR file from the link below to access the Photoshop brushes for this tutorial. It includes amazing custom brushes for Flyaway hair, Single Hair Strands, and Fuzzy Fur brushes.

Once you download the file, double-click on the ABR file to install the brushes to Photoshop. When you open the Brushes panel you will see the new folder containing the brushes.

Here’s an example of using the Flyaway Hair Brush to paint the missing edge detail.

3. Depth of Field

Sometimes, you will work with subjects with varying degrees of blurriness around their edges due to the photo’s depth of field.

A global blurry or sharp edge will not work in these cases. Instead, enable the Blur Tool and blur the edges of the Mask to match the original photo.

4. White Outlines

If, after masking your main subject, you still have a strong outline around it.

Click on the Mask > Filter > Other > Minimum.

From here, select “Rounded” to give you more control, then drag the slider until the edges disappear.

5. Color Spill

When removing a colored background, some of that color may reflect onto the subject, causing a color cast around the edges. This is a common problem when working with Green Screens.

To fix this problem, create a new layer above your main subject.

Then, press Ctrl Alt G (Windows) or Command Option G (MacOS) to create a Clipping Mask.

This means that the layer below will control the visible areas of the top layer.
That’s what the arrow represents.

Then, change the Blending Mode to Color.

With the Brush Tool, hold Alt (Windows) or Option (macOS) to enable the Eyedropper Tool.

Click to select a similar color, then paint on the edges to remove the color spills.

You can adjust the layer opacity to reduce the intensity.

Congratulations! You now know the art of background removal in Photoshop using a professional’s three-step formula.

Remember to download the brushes and follow the tutorial for a seamless experience. Don’t forget to like, subscribe, and share your newfound skills. Happy editing!

To learn how to place a person in a different background, then make sure you check out my compositing secrets tutorial!

If you enjoyed this tutorial, make sure to follow PTC on YouTube!

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Carla Cafolla

thank you