Photoshop CS3 Tutorial: The Erase Background Tool. Removing complex backgrounds.

The erase background tool is powerful, but good results are only possible if you understand how it works. In this tute, we will look at all the options in the tool and use them to extract backgrounds from our images.

The tool works best if the background is all a similar colour, for example, someone against a solid colour or a bright sky.

1I have deliberately chosen a difficult image, as the girl has flyaway hair that i want to keep.

2From the toolbox, select the background eraser tool

3When the tool is selected, the control palette will display the default settings. Select the 3rd button, Sampling:Foreground Swatch This will only erase the foreground colour. Set the tolerance to 25%
Make sure Protect Foreground Colour is ticked.Selecting the option Sampling:Foreground Swatch allows you to sample the background colour most prominent in your image, so the eraser will ignore contrasting colour pixels.

Choosing to Protect Foreground Colour allows you to sample a foreground colour to protect from the eraser.Screenshot 1

4Now we need to sample the background colour to erase. Select the background swatch in your toolbox, and double click to bring up the colour panel.

Screenshot 1

5Select the background colour with the eyedropper, right click to select a 51X51 average. This will make sure that the area sampled will be larger than just one pixel, so many shades of light blue will be included instead of just a singular blue pixel.
Next, select the foreground to protect (we will start with the girl’s hair) I will use a 11X11 average for this. Notice the colours on my background and foreground swatches.

Screenshot 1Screenshot 1

6Choose a nice big size for the brush. Use CTRL (CMD) and the bracket keys({}) to change the brush size.

7Think of the brush as a sort of magic wand tool, that erases selections based on the colour it clicks on. The more a colour is prersent under the “radius” of the brush, the more photoshop will think it is the background colour, and erase it.

8You can now get nearer the edge, just remember that you want more of the colour to be erased, less of the protected colours, under the brush!

9Notice that to select the more fiddly edges, I am positioning the centre of the brush on top of the light blue, not the hair.

10These settings will remain true for similar areas, as soon as we get to areas with different colurs, for example the girl’s blouse, we need to select different colours to ‘protect’ – use the eyedropper to select the new foreground colour, right click to select a 51X51 pixel average.

11 You will need to change foreground and background colours often as you work through the image.

12Now open another image, perhaps an outdoor image like a beach or busy street.
Paste the selection of the girl above it, resize to fit and get rid of any stray white areas with a soft brush eraser.

13To tidy up any stray white edges around the hair, we will darken some parts of the imageSelect the Burn Tool

14From the Range dropdown options, select highlights and an exposure of 25% or thereabouts.

15Now go over the edges of the hair to darken (burn) any stray highlights or white halos on the edges.

16The finishing touches:
Image>adjustments>levels to increase tonal contrast on the background to match the girl image. This is a quick and dirty fix, As this tute is about the background eraser tool, not levels :)
Position the girl so her eyes are aligned with the horizon, to make the perspective credible.
You’re done!

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