Six Ways to Remove Backgrounds in Photoshop in 2021

With many advances to Photoshop over the last several years, removing the background from an image has never been easier or quicker. Knowing the best method to use for the type of image you’re working with is key to getting the best results with the best technique available.

Here are six ways to remove backgrounds from your photos using Photoshop CC, along with when to use each technique to achieve the best results.

All images used in this article were found on Unsplash.

1. Remove a Background in Photoshop with the Object Selection Tool

Perhaps one of the coolest features to have come to Photoshop is the new Object Selection tool, which is new to Photoshop 2022. The Object Selection tool utilizes Adobe Sensi AI technology to do basically all the work for you in selecting the subject in your photos.

Open your photo in Photoshop and select the Object Selection tool in the toolbar on the left (in the same menu as Quick Selection Tool). From here, simply hover your cursor over your subject and wait for it to turn blue. (Move your cursor in tiny circles if it doesn’t immediately turn blue.) In an instant, your subject is ready to be selected and worked with.

To remove the background from here, press the shift key while selecting all of the objects you’d like to keep in the photo. This will auto-select each object for you (showing you the marching ants around each object). Go to Select > Inverse so that it inverts the selection (meaning that your background is now selected instead of your objects).

Depending on what you’re wanting the background to be (in my case, I just want it to be transparent), you’ll likely need to unlock your image so it’s no longer considered a background. Click the lock on the right side of the layer that has your image to unlock that layer. This should change the layer name to “Layer 0” if you have no other layers. To remove the background, click the Eraser Tool (making sure your brush is a large size) and start erasing the background.

You don’t have to worry about Photoshop losing the selections. If you ever need to reselect your objects, simply repeat the process of selecting the Object Selection tool and hover over your objects again.

If you want to learn how to edit the resulting mask from Photoshop’s Object Selection tool (in case it didn’t get everything in the initial selection) click here to read more about Object Selection tool.

Photo credit: Chris Hardy on Unsplash

2. Remove a Background in Photoshop with Quick Action

Best to use when: you’re doing it for you, you need it fast, and you’re not necessarily looking for perfection. Best to use with high contrast between subject and background, and when the subject has fairly simplistic lines.

By far the quickest method discussed here is the built-in Photoshop Quick Action for removing backgrounds in Photoshop. This was introduced in Photoshop 2021 (in the Creative Cloud subscription) and provides a very fast way to remove backgrounds.

With speed, however, comes less accuracy. Using Photoshop Quick Action will do most of the work for you, but the results may fall short of your expectations, depending on your image. If that’s the case, you can use any of the methods described here to polish up the result.

Quick Action Steps:

With your image open in Photoshop, right click your Background layer and click Duplicate Layer. In the dialog box that pops up, name your layer (calling it whatever you like) and click OK. Click the eye icon to the left of the original layer to turn that layer off.

Make sure your Properties panel is open by going to Window > Properties. (If it was already checked, there’s no need to click it; if it isn’t checked, click it to open it up on the right-hand side by default.)

In your Layers panel, click your new layer. In the Properties panel (by default this should be above your Layers panel), click the Remove Background button under Quick Action.

The quick action has now removed the background, leaving your layer with a mask around the subject.

From here, you can make refinements by going into the mask and adjusting as needed (such as around the dog’s feet at the bottom left of the image). While outside the scope of this article, if you need help with working with masks, check out this Adobe tutorial.

Photo credit: Karsten Wingert on Unsplash

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