Are you looking to alter the background in Photoshop? Maybe you’d like to make a cloudy day beautiful? You could also add a flat background for your corporate headshot. It’s easy to do, and you’ll be happy to learn that it is.
Adobe Photoshop is known for its ability to modify the background of any image. You can even use the application to pick difficult areas such as hair and match colors from different images.
How to change the background of a photo in Photoshop
A selection that separates the background and foreground is the best way to make a background change in Photoshop.
There are many ways to achieve the same result in Photoshop. This tutorial will use the Quick Selection Tool, but the Pen Tool would also work.
Let’s see what we can create. The photo to the left will be our starting point, while the photo to the right will be our last.
We are using images from Pexels.com. This is one of the most popular royalty-free image websites. This is a great site to practice your skills. Our main image can be downloaded here.
Step 1: Choose the Foreground Object
Grab the Quick Select Tool in the toolbar or hit on the keyboard (one of many helpful keyboard shortcuts found in Photoshop). Click and drag with a stiff brush to the desired area. Photoshop will use the contrast levels of the image to determine which parts you wish to include.
You’ll notice that areas with high contrast or hard edges are chosen cleanly. However, low contrast and soft edges require more work.
You might find it easier in some images to choose the background. The selection can be reversed by pressing Shift+ Ctrl+ I on Windows or Shift+ Cmd + Mac.
Step 2: Fine-Tune Your Selection
Zoom in on the image to fine-tune the selection. To do this, press the left square bracket. Continue clicking and dragging until you add the foreground object to the selection.
To remove any items from the selection, press the Alt button and then click and drag the areas you wish to.
Your selection should be made up of all solid objects. However, you don’t have to worry about picking individual hair strands. This will be sorted out shortly.
Step 3: Choose and mask
Click Select and mask in the options bar. You can refine your selection and make it a mask on the screen that opens.
To change the way you see your selection, go to the Property panel and click on the View Mod option. The overlay can be a good option since you can choose a color that contrasts well with your image. You may also want to use the F key as you work. Different backgrounds will highlight any issues with your selection.
Step 4: Fine-tune the Selection
You can now refine the selection. You will find various tools in the toolbar to assist you.
- Quick Selection tool. This is the same as step one. It can be used quickly to add or remove larger areas from your selection.
- Refine edge brush tool. Use it over hair or other soft edges.
- Brush Tool. This tool can be used over edges that are more difficult.
- Lasso/Polygonal Lasso tool. Manually draw areas that you want to add or subtract from your selection.
Zoom in on your image to see the edges. It’s not necessary to touch the entire selection. You’re mainly looking for areas that have been incorrectly or completely missed.
We’ll use the Brush tool in our image to smoothen the edges of the body and wall. To add to the selection, simply paint in or hold alt to paint.
Next, use the Refine Edge to fix any hair or soft edges. In the right-hand panel under Edge detection, click the box marked smart radius. This allows Photoshop to distinguish between hard and soft edges.
You can also increase the Radius slightly. To see the effects, you’ll need to do it by eye. Press P to toggle between before/after.
Use a soft, rounded Refine Edge brush to brush the outer edges of your hair. The selection should be expanding. If you are unhappy with your choices, hold down the alt key and use paint to undo them.
Step 5: Reset the settings
Select and Mask include many options listed under global refinements. They are not necessary for our image but they can be used for reference.
- Smooth. Smooths a selection’s edge, eliminating any jagged lines. This is a good choice for selecting items with a clear edge.
- Feather. Adds a feather to soften the edges of a selection.
- Contrast. Increases contrast at the edges of a selection.
- Shift Edge. Changes the order of your selection by a certain number of pixels.
Step 6: Remove Color Fringing
After you are satisfied with your selection, click on the Output Setting in the right-hand panel. To remove any color fringe from your selection, tick Decontaminate Colours.
Select New Layer with Layer Mask in Output and then click OK. Now you will return to your main image with your selection added as an additional layer. You are now ready to add a background.
Step 7: Paste Your New Background
Next, copy the image with your new background. It should be placed on a layer below the one containing your foreground.
The Hand tool can position the layer where you like. You can also resize it using the Free Transformer tool ( CTRL +T, Cmd+T). To shrink the image, grab the handles at the corners and sides. To maintain the same aspect ratio, hold the Shift keys.
Step 8: Match the colors
It should now look pretty good. Last, you need to adjust the colors in the foreground so that they match the background.
Make sure you select the foreground layer. Go to Image > Edits > Match Color.
Open the Source window and choose the image you want to work on. Select Layer to choose the layer to fix. You can match your background to your foreground, or vice versa.
Check the Neutralizebox to remove color casts from the layer. Next, adjust the Lightness and Intensity options so that your background and foreground match. If you wish to reduce the effect, the Fade slider can be used. To toggle between the before- and after states, use the Preview button.
Step 9: Done!
You can click OK to finish. To preserve layer information, save your file as a PSD. Your file will remain editable with the original, background, and foreground layers on separate layers. These Adobe Photoshop workflow suggestions will help you improve your image editing skills.
The mask can be edited to change what is visible in the foreground. You can also reposition the background, or experiment with new ones.
You will need to save your image in another format in order to share it. To do this, go to Save as and select JPEG. Your PSD should not be deleted, it’s still there as a backup.
What if you don’t have Photoshop?
It’s simple to modify the background of an image in Photoshop. It’s easy to add people or remove imperfections from images. You can also achieve similar results in other serious graphics programs.
If you don’t wish to spend money on Photoshop, there are many free alternatives. GIMP is a great starting point. It’s available on Windows, Mac, and Linux. You have many other options.