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Thomas Tips: How to Remove a Background of an Image with Photoshop [Video Tutorial]

Our Lead Designer Thomas demonstrates how to quickly remove an image’s background without permanently deleting any portion of it by using layer masking. An example of non-destructive editing. The little boy in the video? That’s Thomas! (when he was younger)

Video Transcription:

[0:00] – This video is going to show you how to quickly remove a background without permanently deleting any portion of it by using layer masking. I’m going to be working within Photoshop CS4.

[0:14] – We are going to start by selecting the image that we want to keep in view. Anything that we don’t select is later going to be masked or hidden from view. Not deleted, just temporarily hidden.

[0:25] – So to get started we are going to use the quick selection tool in the toolbar. That can be found up here at the top. You might also see the magic wand tool, but if you click on it, it will open up this step menu and allow you to get to the quick selection tool. With the quick selection tool, we’re quickly going to just highlight the area that we want to keep. And see, I got a little too much there. To get rid of that I can hit the alt key and that’s going to allow me to kind of delete the excessive area that I don’t really need. Again, we don’t need to be too precise with this because we are going to be able to play with it with the layer masking a little later.

[1:07] – So now with the pretty rough selection, all we need to do is come over to the layer palette, down here at the bottom, there’s a button that’s called add layer mask. So I am going to click on that, and you’ll see that’s quickly going to remove the background for us. Super easy. You’ll also notice, here at the bottom of the toolbar our foreground and background colors have changed to black and white. This is part of the masking as well. As we’ll see, black is going to allow us to hide portions of the image, or mask them, and white is going to allow us to reveal them or show them if deleted something that we didn’t mean to.

[1:47] – As an example here, I’m on the black, you just go to the paintbrush up at the top. Again with the paintbrush, you can change it to whatever size you want, change the hardness of it, which I’ll show you a little more about later. And now we can come here and just clean it up a little bit if there are areas we didn’t want to show, we can come in here and just touch that up a little bit. And if you make a mistake, like you whoops, I cut off part of his head, I can just come here, click on the double arrows to change it to white in the foreground. Make sure you are still on the paintbrush. And then you can just come back and reveal it again. That’s what is so great about layer masking. You’re never permanently deleting anything. You are just hiding or revealing as you choose to

[2:36] – So as you can see I’ve also added just an extra background so you can see what it would look like super imposed on something else. And you can also tell that it doesn’t look that clear, it looks really fake and cut out. One thing that you can do to make this a little more seamless is go back to the black in the foreground, which is going to hide again, make sure you are on the paintbrush, and then we’re going to change the hardness of the paintbrush, down to maybe fifteen or so. What this is going to allow us to do is to sort of just blend the edges a little bit. Again I’m not being super careful, I just want to demonstrate the principle to you. But you can see how, it looks a lot better, especially here along the arm once I go down the side. Again, if you spend a little more time, it will look a lot cleaner. This is just very quick and dirty for you. So, let me clean up the hood a little bit. So sort of like that, it just looks like it belongs a little more.

[3:45] – One other quick tip I have for you is, if you want to apply a filter to this, you want to make sure to come up to the layer palette and click on the thumbnail image here on the left. If you are here on the right, this is the mask thumbnail. So, let’s see what happens if I try applying a filter when I’m on the layer mask. See, it covers everything and that’s not what we want. So, instead, again make sure you are over here on the thumbnail, the image thumbnail and now when we do the filter, it will be applied only to the little boy that we had cut out.

[4:28] – So there you have it, that’s layer masking and a way that you can do some, as we say, non-destructive editing in Photoshop. Great way for getting things done quick and looking good. Hope you find it useful. Thanks.

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