How to Change the Background of a Photo in Photoshop

How to mask effects in ON1 Photo RAW

How to mask effects in ON1 Photo RAW

Add a single filter This is the easiest way to see how effect filter masks work. I’ll have a look at masking presets a little later on, but for now let’s start with one filter at a time. In the Effects panel, click the Add Filter button and choose a filter. I want to brighten up the car, so I’ll select the Curves filter.

Make an adjustment, create a mask So if I raise the center of the curve, the car is brightened, but so is the whole image. Just as you would expect. So how do I fix that? With this small mask button in the Curves filter’s title bar. Clicking this button creates a mask for this filter, ready for me to edit.

Mask options As soon as you create a mask, the button changes to a small thumbnail rendition of the mask. At the moment it’s a blank white, so not masking is being applied. You’ll see there are a number of buttons for modifying and working with the mask. I have two options – I can ‘paint out’ the areas where I don’t want the effect applied (the background, here) or I can click the Invert button to mask the whole picture and just paint in the areas I want to adjust.

Invert the mask, select Paint In It makes more sense to me to click the Invert button so that the curves adjustment is hidden, then choose the Paint In mode on the top toolbar, to ‘paint’ the curves adjustment over the car.

Paint over the car So using the freehand masking brush tool, I’ve painted over the car. As you paint the mask, you’ll see the adjustment appear where you’ve painted. I haven’t been too precise about the mask – it took just a minute at most – because the car’s outlines and tones are pretty forgiving of any ‘overpaint’.

You can view the mask to clean it up You can concentrate so much on the outlines of a mask that you miss bits in the middle – but if you click the View button in the mask panel, you’ll see it rendered as a grayscale image, and any holes or missing areas can be seen and fixed very quickly.

Copy the mask That’s fine if I just want to apply one filter to the car, but what if I want to apply another, and with the same mask? The first step is to make sure the mask is selected and then click the Copy Mask button.

Add a new filter Now I can click the Add Filter button again, and this time I will use the Dynamic Contrast filter, which I think will really bring out the glossy paint, chrome work and details in this car.

Paste in the mask and adjust With the new filter selected, I can click its mask button and then click the Paste Mask button to paste in the mask I created for the Curves filter. Now I can make my adjustments to the Dynamic Contrast settings, and they will apply to the same masked area (the car) as the Curves adjustments.

Masking effects all together: Choose a preset If you think you will want to apply a bunch of filters with the same basic mask, there is a quicker way to do it. I can demonstrate this with one of ON1 Photo RAW’s Retro presets. I really like the R18 preset for this photo.

Create a combined effects mask Each ON1 Photo RAW preset applies a number of different filters, and copying and pasting the same mask between all of them could take a while. So what I can do instead is click the mask button for the whole filter stack, just above the top filter. This creates a new, blank mask that affects the whole filter stack, not just one individual filter. This time, I’ll mask out the background with the mask brush set to Paint Out mode.

The masked background Now I’ve done that, you’ll see that the preset has been masked in the background and only applies to the car. You’ll also see that the filter stack mask thumbnail shows the mask I’ve created, just like before. The difference is that this mask applies to all the filters equally.

Effects vs filter masks Some presets add a filter with a custom mask already applied. This one has a circular mask for the Color Enhancer filter. This will not override the combined effects mask at the top of the stack (circled). This will always take precedence, so the Color Enhancer mask will only have an effect where the combined effects mask allows that filter (and the rest in the stack) to be visible. The downside with a combined effects mask, then, is that you don’t get to control filter masks individually. The upside is that with this combined effects mask, I can add any filter I like to change the appearance of the car, without having to create a mask every time to shield the background.

How to Change the background in Photoshop, quick, easy tutorial

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How to replace a background in Photoshop Tutorial

Learn the quickest and best way to cut out a photo and put it on a different background in Photoshop. This Photoshop tutorial uses Select and mask in Photoshop CC.

In this case, I shot the model, Callan against a seamless background made of gray Savage paper. I recommend using a simple background if you know you are going to cut out the photo. If you have a complex background, use this tutorial, on cutting out difficult images.

(Click to subscribe to our youtube channel for more tutorials).

© Colin Smith Photography

Step 1

Choose the quick selection tool

Step 2

Click on Select Subject in the top (if CC 2019 or newer), otherwise select with the quick selection tool

Step 3, refine the selection

Use the quick select brush to add to the selection by using a small brush and clicking on areas to add to the selection. To deselect areas, hold down the alt/option key and use the quick select brush.

Step 4

Click on Select and Mask

Note the view and Opacity settings I have chosen to show the cutout on a white background.

Step 5

Turn on Show edges

Adjust the radius until you see a thin outline.

Turn off “Show Edges”

Step 6

Use the refine brush around the hair

Step 7

Choose New Layer with Layer Mask from the options

Click OK

Step 8

Open the image with the new background

Step 9

Go back to your cutout image

Make sure you have the layer selected and not the mask.

Drag into the menu tab for the new background (don’t let go yet) wait for the window to open

Drop the photo on the new background. (If you are stuck on this step, see this tutorial)

Step 10

Press Ctrl/Cmd+T for free transform

Position, Scale and rotate the layer to fit the background.

Try it against some other backgrounds if you like.

Xtra Credit

Check out these tutorials to help you get a good match on your 2 images, this is called a composite. (Hit the search magnifying glass at the top of the site to search for more free Photoshop tutorials on Compositing.)

Thanks for checking out this simple tutorial.

Leave a comment and let me know what you’d like to learn next.

Don’t forget to join out mailing list for me free tutorials each week.

Great to see you here at the CAFE!


Here are some more tutorials on Cutting out images in Photoshop

How to Change the Background of a Photo in Photoshop

Want to change the background of a photo in Photoshop? Here's a full guide on how to replace the background with a new image.

Do you want to change the background of a photo in Photoshop? Perhaps you want to replace a cloudy sky to turn your shot into a beautiful sunny day? Or add a flat background to your corporate headshot? If so, you'll be pleased to know it's actually quite easy.

Being able to change the background of a picture is one of Adobe Photoshop's best features. The application even includes tools to select tricky areas like hair and match the colors from different images. Let's get started.

How to Change the Background of a Photo in Photoshop

The best approach to making a background change in Photoshop is to create a selection that separates the foreground and the background.

As with everything in Photoshop, there are several different ways to achieve the same results. In this tutorial, we'll be using the Quick Selection tool, but it would work just as effectively with the Pen tool. Photoshop also has AI tools to assist with this now, but it's worth learning the manual method to give you full control over how the results turn out.

Here's what we're going to create. We'll start with the photo on the left, and finish with the one on the right.

We're using images from one of the best royalty-free image sites. It's a great place to find content to practice with. You can download our main image and follow along with any background of your choosing.

Step 1: Select the Foreground Object

Grab the Quick Selection Tool from the toolbar, or hit W on your keyboard (one of many useful keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop). With a hardish brush, click and drag inside the area you want to select. Photoshop will try to guess which parts you want to include based on the contrast levels in the image.

As a result, you'll find that areas with high contrast and hard edges are selected cleanly, but low contrast and soft edges will require more work.

In some images, you might find it easier to select the background instead. You can then invert the selection by pressing Shift + Ctrl + I on Windows, or Shift + Cmd + I on Mac.

Step 2: Fine-Tune Your Selection

To fine-tune your selection, zoom into the image and make your brush size smaller by pressing the left square bracket. Now, continue clicking and dragging to add parts of the foreground object to your selection.

If you need to remove anything from the selection, hold down the Alt key and click and drag in those areas.

Ideally, your selection should contain all solid objects, but you don't need to obsess over selecting individual strands of hair, for example. We'll sort that out in a moment.

Step 3: Select and Mask

In the options bar at the top of the screen, click Select and Mask. The screen that opens enables you to refine the selection and convert it into a mask.

In the Properties panel, click the View Mode option to change how you will see your selection. Overlay is a good choice, as you can pick a color that contrasts with your image. But as you work, you may want to hit the F key to cycle through the views—different backgrounds will highlight any problems with your selection.

Step 4: Refine the Selection

Now you can begin refining the selection. In the toolbar on the left side of the screen are various tools to help you with this:

Quick Selection Tool. The same as we used in step one, this can be used to quickly add (or remove) any larger areas to your selection.

The same as we used in step one, this can be used to quickly add (or remove) any larger areas to your selection. Refine Edge Brush Tool. Best used over hair and other soft edges.

Best used over hair and other soft edges. Brush Tool. Use this over harder edges.

Use this over harder edges. Lasso/Polygonal Lasso Tool. Manually draw areas to add or remove from your selection.

Zoom in to your image to check the edges of the selection. You won't need to touch much of it—you're mostly looking for areas that either haven't been selected, have been wrongly selected, or have very rough edges.

In our image, we'll start with the Brush tool to smooth the edges of the wall and body. Just paint in to add to the selection, or hold Alt and paint to remove areas.

Next, switch to the Refine Edge tool to touch up the hair, or any soft edges. Under Edge Detection in the right-hand panel, check the box marked Smart Radius. This helps Photoshop make a distinction between soft and hard edges.

Also, you can increase the Radius a little. You'll need to do this by eye to see its effects—press P to toggle between before and after.

Place a soft Refine Edge brush on the outer edge of the hair and begin brushing. You should see strands of hair starting to be added to the selection. Hold down the Alt key and paint to undo your changes if you aren't happy with them.

Step 5: Adjust the Settings

The Select and Mask options include several listed under Global Refinements. We don't need to use them for our image, but for reference they are:

Smooth. Smooths the edge of a selection, removing any jagged lines. Good for selections with a clear edge.

Smooths the edge of a selection, removing any jagged lines. Good for selections with a clear edge. Feather. Softens the edge of a selection by adding a feather.

Softens the edge of a selection by adding a feather. Contrast. Hardens the edge of a selection by increasing contrast on the edge pixels.

Hardens the edge of a selection by increasing contrast on the edge pixels. Shift Edge. Moves your entire selection in or out by a specified number of pixels.

Step 6: Remove Color Fringing

Once you're happy with your selection, go to the Output Settings in the right-hand panel. Tick Decontaminate Colors to remove any color fringe left in your selection.

In Output, choose New Layer with Layer Mask, and click OK. You will now return to your main image, with your selection added as a new layer. Now that you've removed the image background, you're ready to replace it with a new background.

Step 7: Paste Your New Background

Next, paste in the image containing your new background. Place it on a layer just below the layer containing your foreground selection.

Use the Hand tool to position the layer wherever you want, resizing it if necessary using the Free Transform tool (Ctrl +T or Cmd + T). Grab the handles on the corners or sides of the image and drag inwards to make it smaller. Hold the Shift key to keep the aspect ratio the same.

Step 8: Match the Colors

By now it should be looking pretty good. The final step is to fix the colors of the foreground to make sure they blend properly with the background.

Select the foreground layer, making sure to select the image, not the mask. Go to Image > Adjustments > Match Color.

In the window that opens, go to Source and select the image you're working on. Under Layer select which layer you want to fix—you can either match the foreground to your new background or vice versa.

Now check the Neutralize box to remove any color casts from your chosen layer, and adjust the Luminance and Intensity options until your foreground and background match. You can reduce the effect using the Fade slider if you need to. Use the Preview option to toggle between the before and after states.

Step 9: You're Done!

Click OK and you're done. Save your file in the PSD format to preserve all the layer information. With the foreground, background, and original image all on separate layers, your file remains fully editable.

You can edit the mask to add or remove from what's visible in your foreground, and you can reposition the background or even experiment with different ones entirely.

To share your image you'll need to save it in another format. Go to File > Save As and choose JPEG to do this. Don't delete your PSD, though—that's your backup!

What if You Don't Have Photoshop?

When you want to change an image background in Photoshop, it's easy. You can even quickly add someone to your images or remove blemishes from photos. But you can achieve similar things in most other serious graphics packages, too.

There are lots of free alternatives to Photoshop if you don't want to pay for it. We recommend GIMP as a good starting point, as it's available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. But that's just one of your options.

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