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Photoshop Tips : How to Select an Object from its Background

12 November 2007

Following on from my Photoshop Tips : How To Put An Object On A White Background, I thought I’d tackle the frequently asked question -
How do I select an object from a coloured background and place it onto a white (or different) background?

How to select an object from its background

In this example, I will use a photo of my son Callum, during Christmas 2004.


1) In the Photoshop Toolbar, double click on the Quick Mask Mode button, shown below. A dialogue box will open, choose the “Selected Area” option and then make sure the Opacity is at 100%.

Photoshop Toolbar

2) In the Toolbar choose the Brush Tool. In the Options Toolbar, select a brush size and shape that is appropriate for your image. Zoom In nice and close.

Then start PAINTING OVER the object you want. The area that you paint, will become the area that is “selected”. It’s a bit tricky at first, but keep practicing! And yes, it’s very tedious.

Painting a select mask in Photoshop

Tip: Press the letter “E key” and you can switch your tool to the Eraser Tool. Press the letter “B key” back to the Brush Tool.

3) When you’re finished painting the object, press the “Q key”. This brings it back from Quick Mask Mode to Normal Mode. You’ll see the famous black and white “marching ants” which shows you what is selected. Copy the image. Create a new document with a white background. Paste!

Finish Painting. Selected Marching Ants. Copy. Paste.

4) When you take a coloured object from a coloured background and paste it onto a white background, the object usually looks a bit dark. So adjust the Light Levels as I explained in my last Photoshop Tips.

Again, since so many people are asking for more Photoshop tips, at this stage I can only point you to some highly recommended books on Amazon!

Recommended Books

I learned all my Photoshop skills over the years I have been working as a graphic designer – so I’ve never actually bought or read a book on Photoshop (except the Adobe Photoshop Manual that came with the software).

However, these books are very popular, and highly recommended by others. They seem to do very detailed step by step tutorials, written in easy to understand language, lots of cool pictures, plus CDROM.

Photoshop CS2 : Essential Skills

Photoshop CS3 : Essential Skills

How to Cheat in Photoshop CS3: The art of creating photorealistic montages

Read Photoshop Tips : How To Put An Object On A White Background

Read some of my tips on : How Busy People Take Great Photos.

Read more of my tips on : How To Take A Great Photo.

More next week!