The most common photo editing required for advertising and other purposes is to remove or replace the background. For advertising, it is very often the first thing needed. The various media of advertising like newspapers, magazines, fashion magazines, catalog, posters, flyers, etc. need to do this before doing other types of photo manipulations. For a long time, a rapid increase of sell through e-commerce websites is taking place. As a result, requirement for product photo background removal or replacement is increasing very fast.

Most of the time just replacing background is not enough. Photographic corrections like brightness, contrast, levels, etc. etc. is required to be adjusted. If you are not going to do the image manipulation yourself, be sure to make confirm whether the image manipulation company is going to do this, as well. If you choose a professional graphic design firm you may get some corrections for free. Because a reputed firm will try to produce the best outputs for the price.

Today we are going to learn how we can remove the background, and then add a new background.

A lot of work? But I am going to make it easy by explaining the process step by step.

For this tutorial we are going to use the following image. You can save the image to your computer to go along with me. Click right mouse button on the image and selecting “Save image as…” from the menu.

A man is sitting outside

We will change the background of this image.

1. Open the image

Shortcut for a Photoshop document is to press Ctrl + O. Alternatively, you can click on File -> Open.

2. Zooming the Image

We will zoom the image to 300%. Press Ctrl + Spacebar + click on the bottom left corner of the image to zoom in. Press Ctrl + Alt + Spacebar + click to zoom out. There are many alternatives of zooming operations. Like pressing Alt + Upward mouse scroll to zoom in, and Alt + Downward mouse scroll to zoom out. If you are comfortable with other method, like pressing Ctrl and ‘+’ simultaneously to zoom in, and Ctrl and ‘-’ to zoom out, you can use that method.

Now we will select the man’s figure with the pen tool. Select the pen tool from the toolbox.

3. How to use the pen tool efficiently

People are often afraid of using the pen tool. With some patience and practice get started with the pen tool. And with the time and practice you should become more faster and a pro of the pen tool.

Here we are going to make it easy the essential techniques of using the pen tool, which should led you in using it like a profession with the time and practice.

When we work with the pen tool we put some “anchor points”, and give the required curves between the two anchor points using the “handles”. Very often we do not need curves, we need cones. All these we are going to see now. We will learn the shortcut and efficient ways of working with the anchor points and handles. There are other ways of working with the combinations of “pen tool” and “selection tool”. To get our hands fluent in pen tool you can practice making various shapes and/or tracing/cutting easy and simple objects from images.

First, we have to select the pen tool from the toolbox

Background Remove Using Pen tool step 1

Now, let’s have a look on the following image.

Background remove using pen tool step 2

An anchor point is just a point or dot on the screen. To make curves we need the anchor points to have handles. To put just an anchor point, click on the place of the image you want to put it. You got an anchor point. Now if you click on another place above and without releasing the mouse drag rightward (or leftward for a reverse directional curved line) we will get two handles associated with the 2nd anchor point. And you see, we’ve got a curved line in between the anchor points. We can change the curve by moving the handles, and making the handles bigger or smaller. To move a handle, or to make it bigger or smaller, click on the handle while pressing the Ctrl key and move the handle to any direction. If you move the left handle of the above image the curve will change according to your movement of the handle.

Background remove using pen tool step 3 Background remove using pen tool step 4

Suppose now we want to make a straight line downward. For this, click on the 2nd anchor point (with handles) while pressing the Alt key. This will remove the right side handle.

Background remove using pen tool step 5

Now we will click on the bottom area to make a straight line to the shape. If we hold down the shift key while clicking, the line will be perfectly vertical. So, we will hold down the shift key to get a perfect vertical line.

Background remove using pen tool step 6

To finish the shape of the path we will click back to the 1st anchor point. When we will place the pen pointer on the 1st anchor point a very small circle will appear just under the pen tool pointer.

       4. Select the man’s figure using the pen tool

To make the path around the figure of the man in the image, we will follow the above described methods and tips of using the pen tool

Background remove using pen tool step 7

        5. Refine the edges of hair region

We have selected the hair region roughly, because we will include the hairs in more detail now. For this, we will go for the refine edge method. To make a selection of our path press Ctrl + Enter. To refine the edges, in our case, to select the outer areas of the hair we’ve already selected, go to the menu – Select -> Refine Edge menu option. When the refine edge pop up menu comes up.

With the refine edge brush select the unselected hair outside of the selection.

Background remove using pen tool and refine edge step 8


Refine edge dialog box.

With the refine edge brush rub over the unselected hairs on the edge. This will select those hairs.

Background remove using pen tool and refine edge step 9

Rubbing on the hair edge pic – 1.

Background remove using pen tool and refine edge step 10

Rubbing on the hair edge pic – 2.

Background remove using pen tool and refine edge step 11

Rubbing on the hair edge pic – 3

Background remove using pen tool and refine edge step 12

Rubbing on the hair edge pic – 4, (finishing this process).

After we are happy with selecting the necessary hairs, we got to press OK button of the Refine Edge dialog box. This will select the figure of the person we want to get in a new background.

       6. Placing the object (the man) in new background

Press Ctrl + C to copy the selection.

Open the image we want to be the new background.

Background removing and replacing step 13

The new background we are going to use.

Press Ctrl + V to paste the man’s figure without the old background. This will paste the figure on a new layer.

Background removing and replacing step 14

A new layer created with the man’s figure.

We need to place the figure to the right place. Press the “V” key or select the move tool from the toolbox. Move the layer with the mouse to place the figure to the appropriate place. We can use the arrow keys to place the man perfectly in place.

Background removing and replacing step 15

The man in a new background.

Yes, the background is removed. We’ve done a pretty good job. But to make the picture more realistic, if we examine closely, we can see that the original picture was taken in some sunlight condition. That is why the man’s figure brought some sunlight with it. The new background environment is cloudy. It means we can do more manipulation to the image if you like. I will share those and other photo retouching techniques in my next tutorials. Keep photoshopping – keep smiling.

Learn More Resource: how to make background transparent in photoshop