By Jennifer Farley

How To Use The Background Eraser Tool In Photoshop

By Jennifer Farley

One of the easiest ways to remove a background or part of a background from an image in Photoshop is to use the Background Eraser Tool. This tool is like a combination of the Quick Selection tool and the Eraser tool, working simultaneously. The Background Eraser tool samples the colour at the centre of the brush, and deletes pixels of a similar colour as you drag around your image. Here’s how to use it.

1. Start by opening an image that you want to remove the background from. In this example, I want to extract the girl, deleting the background wall to transparency.


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


On the tool options bar at the top of the screen choose a large round, hard brush. I’m working with quite a large image so I’ve picked a brush size of 100 pixels.


Still on the tool options bar, set the Sampling to Continuous, the limits to Find Edges and the Tolerance to a low number such as 20-25%. A low tolerance means that only areas that are very similar to the sampled colour will be erased. A high tolerance erases a broader range of colours.


3. Bring the pointer near to the edge of the person or object that you want to remove the background from. You’ll see a circle with small crosshairs in the centre. The crosshairs show the “hotspot”, or centre of the eraser, and the tool deletes that colour wherever it appears inside the brush. The other piece of magic it weaves is to perform a colour extraction at the edges of any foreground objects. This means that there will be no tell-tale colour halos visible if the foreground object is later pasted into another image.


4. Click and drag to start erasing. There is no problem if you bring the edge of the circle over the edges between the background and the object (that’s why this tool is 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.

5. Continue erasing around the object. You might find that in some places you will need to reduce down the size of the brush to ensure that you don’t accidentally erase part of the object (for example, around the phone in this image).


6. Once you’ve erased an area the whole way around the object, then switch to the Eraser tool.


7. Choose a very large brush size; you can now quickly and easily get rid of the rest of the background.


Once you’ve erased the background, it’s easy to either put in a new one or to take the remainder of your image and paste it into another image.

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  • @nationwideclass

    I would also hold down control, click the image in your layers, get the image transparency, then modify, contract by 2-4 pixel to remove the rest of the orange, etc.

  • 7spoint7

    Beautiful Jennifer. Thanks

  • omnibreak

    Really nice technique, not one i’ve used before. But sill the same niggle with all the other methods i’ve used. You still get that background halo on the remain image. I know its caused by the ambient lighting and reflection and stuff, but can be really annoying if the new image is a completly different colour to the original background.

    If somone has a tutorial or method to get rid of the halo then that would be great. :D

  • Now if I could figure out how to do this in Gimp, I’d be all set!

  • Jennifer:

    Great tutorial. Thanks. I just tried this on a photo of an historic house. It goes without saying, I suppose, that the Background Eraser Tool works best where the top of the house meets the sky, and the color of the sky is fairly uniform. But when I tried this next to the gutter, where the color of the gutter is similar to the trees, the results were uneven. I have to be more careful there.

    For this reason, I think it is best to click on trouble areas then let up on the mouse. Then move to the next area and click again and then let up. Clicking and dragging just doesn’t work in problem areas.

    By the way, Jennifer, you must be a cool person if you put Lion in the name of your company. What could be better than that?


  • One problem with the halo is that it needs to be there, or else the image looks weird.

    However, if the halo doesn’t match, it also looks weird. So the trick is to change the halo to make it suit whatever background you end up using. If you’re going to leave it transparent, a halo that fades to transparent would work.

    I don’t know of any actual tutorials or shortcuts, but a combination of the selection tools and the blur/smear/etc. tools will help you get a more natural look.

  • Hi FastLion! Yes all the best design companies have Lion in their name!

    You’re right about changing from dragging, to multiple clicking. You’ll find with many of the Photoshop tools that you need to set different options from image to image.

  • Beautiful ….. Thanks….

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