How To Remove Backgrounds in Photoshop 5.5

Replacing a sky in Photoshop
The are as many ways to change a photo's background as there are Photoshop users.

 Tom Green

Though this piece uses Photoshop 5.5, many of the tools and techniques presented are still in the realm of “Best Practice”. The current version of Photoshop CC 2015 has an expanded range of tools that present you with the opportunity to remove backgrounds in a variety of different ways. This is especially true of the Healing Tools which include:

  • Spot Healing Brush
  • Healing Brush Tool
  • Patch Tool
  • Content-Aware Move Tool

Though there are innumerable methods of replacing backgrounds, you also might want to check out how to replace a bad sky using Photoshop CC 2015.

Photoshop offers a wide variety of tools for removing backgrounds. We'll walk you through a few of our favorite methods for pulling objects out of their backgrounds with Photoshop. Click on a thumbnail below for step-by-step instructions on removing the background with Photoshop 5.5.

Technique is everything and the absolute key to knocking out and replacing a background is the use a variety of techniques. The choice of tool and technique is more driven by geometry and color. Here are some tips around replacing a background:

  • Always convert the image to a Smart Object. What you are doing is called destructive editing. Once you remove something, you are essentially stuck with it. Converting the image to a Smart Object preserves the original image which means if you aren't satisfied with the final result you can always return to the original image.​
  • Look for sharp color changes between the area to be replaced and they are that remains.If there is is a strong change, you can use either the Magic Wand or Quick Selection tool. Both make selections based on color.
  • If the foreground is geometric- think buildings - the Magnetic Lasso tool will be a godsend.
  • Pay attention to edges. The "feathering" and blending tools and features will smooth the transition between the two images.
  • Use Layers. By placing the foreground and background on separate Layers, you can control the transition between the two layers and make edits without worrying about affecting the content.
  • Does the background even need to be replaced? There are a host of Blend Modes and Imaging tools in Photoshop that may do the job instead of a wholesale replacement.
  • Learn to use the Modifier keys for selections - Shift and Option/Alt - to refine the edges of the selection.

Still, you can't beat the Best Practices when it comes to imaging in Photoshop. What follows is a collection of tools and techniques that will get you started:

  • Background Eraser Tool: This technique uses the background eraser tool in Photoshop 5.5. Total time to remove the background from this image was under 3 minutes.
  • Channel Mask: This technique uses channels to create a mask. Total time to remove the background from this image was under 2 minutes.
  • Magnetic Lasso Tool: This technique uses the magnetic lasso tool and quick mask mode in Photoshop 5. Total time to remove the background from this image was about 10 minutes.
  • Pen Tool: This technique uses the pen tool to create a path around the image and converts the path to a selection. Total time to remove the background from this image was about 15 minutes.
  • Combination of Techniques: This technique uses a combination of techniques to remove the background. Total time for this image was about 20 minutes.