This article was written in 2009 and remains one of our most popular posts. If you’re keen to learn more about web design techniques, you may find this recent article on lorempixel of great interest.

Background Eraser Tool

If you want to remove a background from an image you’re working on, there are many ways to do this using Photoshop. You could select the object you’re interested in, copy and paste it to a new layer. Another way to do it is to use the Background Eraser tool. This tool samples the color at the center of the brush and then deletes pixels of a similar color as you “paint.”

1. Start by opening an image that you want to remove the background from.


2. Select the Background Eraser tool from the toolbox. It may be hidden beneath the Eraser tool.


3. On the tool options bar at the top of the screen choose a round, hard brush. The size of the brush will vary depending on the image you’re working on. I’m working with quite a large image so I’ve picked a brush size of 100 pixels.

Again, on the tool options bar, set the Sampling to Continuous, the limits to Find Edges and the Tolerance to a low number of about 25 20%. A low tolerance limits erasure to areas that are very similar to the sampled color. A high tolerance erases a broader range of colors.


4. Bring the pointer near to the edge of the person or object that you want to remove the background from. You will see a circle with small crosshairs in the center. The crosshairs show the “hotspot” and deletes that color wherever it appears inside the brush. It also performs color extraction at the edges of any foreground objects, so that color halos are not visible if the foreground object is later pasted into another image.


5. Click and drag to start erasing. There is no problem if you bring the circle over the edges between the background and the object (that’s why it’s so cool) but it’s very important that you don’t drag the cross hairs over the edges.


As you click and drag you’ll see the checkerboard pattern appear in the areas you have erased.

Continue erasing around the object. In some places you will need to reduce the size of the brush to ensure that you don’t accidentally erase part of the object. (For example between the head and arms of this image).


Once you’ve done the “hard bit” and have erased an area the whole way around the object, then set a very large brush size finish off the rest of the background.

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Tags: Photoshop Tutorials & Articles
Jennifer Farley is a designer, illustrator and design instructor based in Ireland. She writes about design and illustration on her blog at Laughing Lion Design.

  • ShayneTilley

    I’m not a designer, but I’ve lost my fair share of hours zooming in and tracing to remove a background. I had no idea that feature existed! Thanks for saving me a few hours in the future :).

  • Jeremy

    Very handy tool. But it won’t work with all images. Best to have a few techniques up your sleeve if this tool doesn’t work for your image. Quick mask, Pen tool, lasso, magic wand. Tolerance adjustments sometimes make all the difference.

  • Adil K


    Thanks for another great article. The designer seems less angry at me now that I can do the basic graphic tasks on my own without bugging him :)

    One question though, will you be focusing one week on common tasks that developers should know how to do themselves in Photoshop? This will help take a lot of load off the designer.

  • Emil

    Thank you! That was so straight forward and simple. Not being a designer, I never knew the best way to handle this.

  • irshad

    It is realy magical tool…thanks

  • biswa

    It’s a really nice tips.Waiting for next tips.

  • Ali Baba

    Great article however the image for demonstration is really not that complicated. You could use lasso tool to remove it. Try clean something harder.

  • afridy

    Thanks, useful.

  • Madhan Ramamoorthy

    Really Nice !!! Big Thanks

  • TomBradshaw

    WOW that’s really cool, I’ve been using the lasso tool to do this since I can remember. I’ll definately give this a go though!

  • ServerStorm

    Thanks Jennifer!

    Countless hours doing much more painstakingly approaches that could have be eliminated using this technique. Simple yet powerful.


  • Girish

    Thanks a lot… gives good result in less time

  • kira8080

    This technique never gave me good results, except with the simplest of images.

  • Joeyknuckles

    I wish Photoshop had a “red dress” eraser ;)

  • Pradeep

    wow nice i never saw this option..

  • jonpeirce

    This is simple and very helpful. I’ve been trying to figure out how to use Gimp when I could’ve just did this simple process with Photoshop.


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  • JM

    So when I go to save it as a jpg, how do I get it to save with a tranparent background? It keeps saving it with a white background again. :(

    • ronsman

      Basic rule of thumb: .jpg does not support transparency. Try saving it as .png.

  • Sean

    This helped me so much, honestly…Thank You!!

  • mark stroud

    Thanks, building website is one thing but image manipulation is another save be both time and money editing a clients logo for them. fell like a designer now Did not even know that about the .jpg and png.

  • Raw steel

    Thanks for this technique, it made my job a lot easier…

  • Yasmine Muhammad

    Thank you so much, i didnt even know that background eraser tool existed. Things will be easier for me on Photoshop from now on, i can feel it in the air. Thank you again!

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