Replacing Background in Photoshop

Change the Background of a Photo to White and Then Drop in a New Image

Photoshop on Laptop Tablet and Smartphone

Replacing Background in Photoshop: Once you have mastered this simple technique, a whole new world of digital imaging opens up. The image above, for example, really isn't that difficult to achieve, but that comes later.

On occasion, you may like to shoot more creative stock shots. Therefore, you may want to mess with the background of an image or replace it with something else entirely. Believe me, this is what a lot of the more successful stock photographers do.

There are a few ways to accomplish this and I have outlined one of those ways below. (Note: it is a 17 minute video). For those of you who prefer to read tutorials, I have scripted the same method below the video. I hope this helps but please bear in mind this was made in or before 2012 in Photoshop CS3. There are now new ways to do this more accurately but check it out anyway. It still applies and can be done in Photoshop CC : )

Click to play

Ok, let's start with an image that has a relatively messy background that we want to clean up in order to drop a new background into.

Choose image

Replacing Background in Photoshop Fig.1

If the image needs cropping, it is best to do so at this stage. This will save yourself added work when removing the background.

Next you need to select the pen tool and then click the "paths" option from the top menu. This is shown in the image below and will allow you to be more accurate with your selection.

Replacing Background in Photoshop Fig.2

Now you have this tool selected, you can zoom in as much as you can. Zoom in keeping enough detail so that you can see what you are doing. Don't think that you need to stick to 100% when working like this. Work with whatever magnification that you are happy with.

Start at one of the edges and left click. This will set the first point and then start to work your way around the edges of the object. If you like, have a practice on a smaller section first to get an understanding of how it works.

Start selecting

Replacing Background in Photoshop Fig.3

Once you have selected the entire area and just before you "close the selection" by clicking on the very first selection point, your image should look like this. Click for larger image. On mobile? Tap inside and outside the image.

Replacing Background in Photoshop Fig.4

By clicking on that first selection, you are closing the loop and making your selection. As you hover your cursor over the first point, you should see a small circle appear that confirms this will happen.

Replacing Background in Photoshop Fig.5

Once you click that, the selection points will disappear. You will be left with a very fine, almost invisible, line or selection.

You now need to create the running ants around your selection, this makes the selection workable. To do this, you simply select the rectangular marquee tool. Right click anywhere inside the image, and select "make selection" and then choose an appropriate feather radius. I normally choose one (1) for sharp edges.

You will then see your selection converted into the familiar "running ants"

Marquee Tool - Right Click in Image - Select "Make Selection" - Feather 1px = Running Ants
Replacing Background in Photoshop Fig.6

Next, we need to determine the background colour that we would like. Have a think about this because if you choose a colour that is similar to the image you intend to drop in, you will have less correction work to do later. White tends to show up any feathered edges quite a bit. However, I normally choose that anyway so for now, choose white as your background colour.

Replacing Background in Photoshop Fig.7

Next, press delete on your keyboard and that will bring up a dialogue box. Select "background colour" and that should use the white colour you just chose.

Click Ok

Your image should now look something like this with the selection now removed and replaced with pure white:

Replacing Background in Photoshop Fig.8

You may well have additional areas that need working on as in the image above. You can either do this once your first selection is closed off to create multiple selections. Or you can do them one at a time.

As you can see in the image above, there are areas that need cloning out such as the speakers. Or what is left of them. Plus various other bits so work on those until you have a clean image that is ready to have the background added.

Once that is done, we need to select only the new, white background. One easy way to do that is to use the marquee selection tool. Start by clicking once on the main part of the white background, this should make your first selection with running ants.

If you were to make a second selection at this point, the first would disappear. So, to add to your first selection without losing it, hold down the SHIFT key whilst making additional selections. Double click and even zoom in whilst working where you can. This will help the selection to get into the "nooks and crannies".

Drop in the new photo

Once this is done, you should have all of the white background selected. Time to drop in the new photo. When choosing an image, make sure it is approximately the same dimensions as the one you just worked on. Otherwise it will not fit correctly. You can always re-size once in but it saves time to have the same sized images.

Replacing Background in Photoshop Fig.9

Select the new image once opened in Photoshop and press Control A (CTRL-A). This will select the entire image and put running ants around it. Now press control C (CTRL-C), this will copy the image.

Now select the other image, the one you have worked on with the background selected, and go to: EDIT - PASTE SPECIAL - PASTE INTO

On older versions of Photoshop, this may just say "paste into". A keyboard shortcut is: ALT - SHIFT - CTRL - V

Once you do this, the copied image should be pasted into the background you have selected. It will look something like this:

Young Boy Playing Piano in Image Composite with Wedding Couple

Nearly done

At the moment, as it is, you will now have two layers so you can make adjustments. Select the "move" tool by pressing V on your keyboard (it is also normally the top tool in your palette). Click anywhere on the background image and whilst clicking, move it around until it fits just right.

Going on what I said earlier about image sizes, it sometimes helps to have a larger image used for the background. This will allow you more accuracy and room to move the image about. Once in place, viola! You now have a new background in place. You may find that some of the edges have remnants of the white (or whatever colour you chose) background. To remove these you may need to do some cloning:

Using Clone Tool in Photoshop to Refine Edges

So, that is one, relatively simple way to remove an old background and replace it with a new one. Try this with skies, sunsets or anything that you please. Have some fun with it. Please share this with your friends if you found it useful.

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