The Truth About Photoshop’s Background Eraser Tool

The Background Eraser tool is an old feature that hasn’t been updated in a long while.

If you’re curious to see how it works, then follow along and learn how to use the Background Eraser tool in Photoshop!

How To Use The Background Eraser Tool in Photoshop

You can select the Background Eraser Tool from the Toolbar.

Click-and-drag on the image’s background to start removing the background. Its algorithm works by deleting the pixels similar to the ones you click on. 

The Background Eraser tool completely deletes the pixels instead of hiding them, so duplicate the image layer whenever you work with this tool.

On the Options bar, there are three sampling options:

Continuous – the tool continuously samples as you click-and-drag.

Once – the tool only samples once.

Background Swatch – the tool samples the background color swatch.


Discontiguous allows you to delete pixels in between fine details such as fur or hair strands. The other options are: Contiguous and Find Edges.

Tolerance determines how close to the sampled color to take into account when deleting the background pixels.

The lower the number, the closer the colors are to the sampled pixels, and the higher the number, the wider range it takes from the sample color.

As you may progress through using the Background Eraser Tool to delete the background, you may start to notice the difficulty, especially if your background color is similar to the colors found in your subject.

In this case, it starts to erase parts of her hand, and since it deletes pixels, you ought to be careful in areas where the background’s sample color and the similar subject colors meet.

Create a Solid Color fill layer and set the color to black.

With that, you’ll see the result of the Background Eraser tool, such as the uneven shoulders and the fingers where parts of it have been erased.

While you can fine-tune the rest of the image, you cannot retrieve the deleted pixels unless you remove them from the layer’s duplicate. 

There are ways of converting your result to a mask, but it involves time-consuming steps that will not get you a good result.

You can skip all of those steps by using the more precise tools that Photoshop has to offer.

Please note that the Background Eraser tool officially became a part of Photoshop 5.5 in 1999–over 21 years ago–therefore, the tool itself is outdated compared to its AI (Artificial Intelligence)-assisted counterparts.

How To Use The Quick Selection Tool and The Refine Edge Dialog

Even if you’re still using Photoshop CS6, you will still end up with a better selection result than using the Background Eraser tool. 

On the Toolbar, select the Quick Selection tool and use it to click-and-drag all over your subject to create a selection.

PRO TIP! Use the [ or ] keys to reduce or enlarge the size of your brush!

At the bottom of the Layers panel, click on the Layer Mask icon to create a Layer Mask with the selection.

Compared to the Background Eraser Tool, the Quick Selection tool and the Layer Mask process is easier, faster, and with better results.

Although Photoshop CS6 doesn’t have the Select and Mask workspace, it still has the Refine Edge dialog box that you can access on the Options bar.

If you have the latest version of Photoshop, you can see it by choosing Select > hold the Shift key as you click on the Select and Mask

That step brings out the Refine Mask window, where you can use the sliders to fine-tune the mask’s edge.

How To Use the Remove Background action and Select and Mask

With the latest Photoshop version, you have Adobe Sensei, an Artificial Intelligence to aid you in creating fast and accurate selections with one click of a button.

Select your image layer.

Under Quick Actions in the Properties panel, click on the Remove Background button, which automatically detects your subject, removes the background, and applies a Layer Mask.

Double-click the Layer Mask thumbnail to go to the Select and Mask workspace.

Here, you can further refine your mask’s edges through the Smooth, Feather, Contrast, and Shift Edge sliders.

The Refine Edge tool also helps to refine the intricate hair strands just by clicking-and-dragging by the edges. 

Then, press OK to apply the changes. 

And here’s the result! It was a journey to achieve the current look, so the Background Eraser tool in Photoshop is definitely worth looking into.

If you want more accurate results, be sure to check out this tutorial on the two-step process for better cut-outs!

Final Image

Drag The Slider To See Before & After

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