Digital Photography Tips, Tutorials and Resources
Want to use one of your stunning photos in your website design, but don’t want that pesky background getting in the way? Maybe you’re designing something for a client, and you need to remove the backdrop for the finished product to look right. Whatever the reason, you’re left asking yourself: “How can I make a background transparent in my photo?”
Fortunately, there are plenty of options out there for photographers looking to edit the background out of their images. In today’s post we’re going to look at:
- How to make a transparent background in Powerpoint
- How to make a transparent background in Photoshop
Use PointPoint to Create a Transparent Background
Not much of an Adobe expert? Don’t worry. You can learn how to make a background transparent using Microsoft PowerPoint. You’ll need to be using at least the Office 2010 version to ensure you get the right results.
Also, remember that PowerPoint isn’t quite as advanced as Photoshop, so it may not be ideal for complicated images.
- Place your image into Powerpoint by copy/pasting it or clicking on the File tab and loading the photo from your computer.
- Under the File tab, you’ll find an option called Remove Background
- Powerpoint will attempt to remove the background itself, but you’ll need to use the options on the toolbar to click the areas you want to keep and remove from your cropped image.
- Zoom into the image, and you’ll see a selection of plus and minus signs around the picture. These allow you to choose the areas you want to remove. Click on any additional fields that don’t fit in your photo.
- Click somewhere outside of the image when you’re done.
- Save the picture as a .PNG to preserve the transparent background.
How to Make a Transparent Background in Photoshop
Do you have a photo where you need to separate the subject and the background? With Photoshop, it is easy to create a transparent background or remove it entirely.
There are a number of great tools to use for making selections and creating different layers in Photoshop. Whether you want to make a background transparent, separate the subject from the background for targeted edits, or put the subject on a solid color background, Photoshop has a number of helpful tools.
Some of the best tools to use include:
- The Magic Wand
- The Quick Selection Tool
- The Select Subject Menu
- The Lasso Tool
- Color Range Selections
With these tools, you’ll have an easy time selecting the subject. This is an essential first step to separating the subject and the background. For this tutorial, you’ll want to have Photoshop, which is available as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud.
Many of these same techniques can be used in other photo editors that offer layer tools, so check out our guide to the top free Photoshop alternatives.
The following tools are listed in terms of increasing complexity, but make sure to try them all out! Some techniques work better for certain subjects than others, but all can do a good job at removing the background from an image.
Any change to the background of an image, like background removal, starts with selecting the subject. Once the subject has been selected, you can change the background any way you want.
If you want to turn the background into a solid color, like white, that is easy to do with a separate subject. Once you’ve read through the different options for selecting a subject, check out some of the suggestions for ways to edit the background at the end of the article.
The Magic Wand
The magic wand tool selects similarly colored regions. You can activate the tool by holding shift + clicking W until the magic wand icon appears.
If you have a subject that has a strong contrast against the background, along with a similar color across the subject, it may only take one or two clicks to make a selection, using the magic wand tool. Some examples of the best subject for this tool include a tennis ball against a blue sky or a bright, full moon against the night’s sky.
For this example, I’ll be using an image of the moon against the night’s sky. Because there is a strong contrast between the color of the moon and the background, the magic wand tool should have an easy time selecting the subject.
Just in case, there is one change to the tool’s settings you’ll want to make: setting the tool to add to the selection. By selecting this option, any additional clicks will continue to add to the selection. Without this selected, you’d only have 1 chance to make the selection entirely before it resets.
As you can see above, the first click selected most of the brighter areas of the moon, as indicated by the areas surrounded by dashed lines. It left the darker areas because they were substantially different from the bright area I clicked.
Fortunately, I already set the tool to add to the selection, so I just have to click the dark areas to add them to the selected area.
After another click in the dark area, the moon is now entirely selected, with no other part of the image selected. You can now copy the moon into another photo, change the background, or make an adjustment that targets just the moon.
Turn the Background Transparent
I’ll now remove the background. With the moon still selected, I’ll go to Select >> Inverse. This flips the selection, leaving everything but the moon selected.
Now, you can delete the background by pressing the delete key on your keyboard. This deletes everything in the picture, except for your subject. You can see the background is now transparent because of the gray and white squares – this is how Photoshop indicates nothing is there.
The Quick Selection Tool
Sometimes, the magic wand tool isn’t the right choice because the subject is complex or has multiple colors. In this example image of a horse, the hair and markings could make it difficult to select with 1 click using the magic wand tool. Instead, try the quick selection tool.
The quick selection tool works like the magic wand tool by selecting similar looking areas. But this tool operates more like a brush than a single sample tool. It is important to turn on Auto-Enhance, which automatically refines the edges of your selection.
You can select the tool with a keyboard shortcut, by holding shift + clicking W until the quick selection icon appears.
With the tool selected, I clicked and dragged my cursor across the horse, trying to stay in the center of the body and limbs. Towards the legs and head, you can see where some additional areas were selected besides the horse. This is easy to clean up.
If the tool has selected an area that isn’t part of the subject, like the ground or a bush, you can use the same tool to deselect that area. In the tool menu, click the minus icon, or hold the alt key while using the tool. This means any area clicked will be removed from the selection.
After a few brush strokes in the unneeded areas, my refined selection now looks like this.
This time, instead of just making the background transparent, lets try putting the subject on a all-white background. This can make your photos of products look professional, without needing an expensive seamless background.
Alter the Background
To put your subject on a white background, invert the selection by going to Select >> Inverse. This flips the selection, leaving everything but the horse selected. Now, open the fill menu by clicking Edit >> Fill. From here, open the contents menu and select White, from the bottom of the list.
The quick selection tool, especially when you’ve refined the selection, can leave some stray edges. These can easily be brushed over by using the brush tool with white.
The Select Subject Menu
If you want an even easier way to select a subject, the latest edition of Photoshop CC has introduced a powerful addition to the quick select tools. This is a menu option called Select Subject. With just one click, this tool uses AI to identify and select your subject.
To activate this tool, make sure you have the latest edition of Photoshop CC installed. Then, activate the magic wand or quick select tool. At the top, you’ll see a button labelled Select Subject. Click this button, then give your computer a few seconds to work its magic.
Here are the initial results on that same picture of the horse, when using the select subject menu option:
As you can see, it did a pretty good job, but it needs just a little bit of help. For some subjects, particularly people, this tool can do a great job. For others, it needs refinement.
To improve the selection, keep the quick selection tool selected and make sure you have it set to add to the selection. Now, brush in any areas the select subject menu missed, or hold the alt key and brush out any areas that shouldn’t be selected.
You can achieve very similar results to the quick selection tool, but with even less effort. This can be a great starting place for making any selection. It works well with any of the other tools for refinement.
The Lasso Tool
Sometimes, it is just too tricky to use an automated tool to make the selection. If you have a blurry subject, either from motion or shallow depth of field, automated tools don’t know where to stop. If your subject is against a similarly colored backdrop, the automated tools can get confused and select the background as well.
For these tricky subjects, making a manual selection with the lasso tool is one of the most effective ways to remove the background.
I’ll be working with an image of a flower that has a very shallow depth of field, meaning the edges of the flower are blurry. This can make for a difficult selection with automated tools. To get around this issue, I’ll make a selection using the lasso tool.
To select the Lasso tool, press the L key until you see the lasso icon come up. For this tool, it is important to select the menu option Add to Selection, since this allows you to easily go between adding and subtracting from the selection, just by holding the Alt key.
When making a manual selection, being able to correct a mistake is important.
This tool operates simply — just draw an unbroken line around an area to add to the selection. By drawing an unbroken line while holding the Alt key, you can remove that area within the line from the selection.
Here are the results of a line quickly drawn around the flower.
Make the Background Transparent
To make the background behind the flower transparent, I’ll go to Select >> Inverse. This flips the selection, leaving everything but the flower selected.
Now, just delete the background by pressing the delete key on your keyboard. This deletes the background you selected, leaving the subject of your picture on a transparent background.
Color Range Selections
Photoshop has one last tool to help select subjects against a contrasting background, the color range tool. This tool is located in the select menu, under Select >> Color Range. It is particularly useful when you have multiple similar colored subjects against a contrasting background, like a bunch of flowers
For this next image, I’ve opened the color range menu and dragged it to the side. This makes clicking on the colors in your main image easier, since the window isn’t in the way.
Since I want to select all the blossoms, but not the background, I’ve removed the check from localized color clusters and reduced the fuzziness.
Localized color clusters means Photoshop won’t search the whole image for those colors you click, but only the area around where you click. Fuzziness controls how similar the color has to be to the one you clicked for Photoshop to select it.
Lastly, look at the black and white box in the color range tool: this shows what is going to be selected when you press OK. White areas are to be selected, while black areas aren’t.
With the tool now setup, I’ll click the eyedropper, which lets me add an initial pixel color to my selection. Then, go to the main image and click on the main color you want selected.
As you can see from the black and white area above, this has selected most of the lighter pink blossoms. It hasn’t selected the darker colored blossoms to the bottom. To fix this, click the eyedropper with a plus sign, which lets you add additional colors to your selection.
Using the plus sign eyedropper, I was able to add the additional colors necessary to my selection. Click OK when you’re happy with the color range selected. This makes the actual selection.
Create a Transparent Background
From here, you can remove the background by inverting the selection via the select menu, then pressing the delete key on your keyboard. This leaves the flower blossoms on a transparent background, without having to have selected each of them individually.
You can clean up any stray areas with the eraser.
There you go! Several great ways to remove the background from your photos using two different software!
As you can see, it is easy to select a subject and remove the background. The biggest challenge is in making an accurate selection. The quality of the results depends on making that accurate selection in your picture.
Once you’ve isolated the subject, you can leave it on a transparent background or add a solid colored background. Try copying and pasting the subject into a new image. The possibilities are endless!
If your subject is more complex, check out our tutorial on how to cut out hair in Photoshop. Once you’ve isolated your subject on a layer, there are many more adjustments you can make – to learn more, check out our guide to layers in Photoshop.
You may also enjoy these articles:
- 5 Best Photoshop Plugins for Wedding Photographers
- 6 Best Free Photoshop Plugins for Photographers
- Wedding Portrait Retouching in Photoshop: 5 Steps for Better Photos
- Colorize a Black & White Photo in Photoshop
- How to Make a Photo B&W Except One Color in Photoshop
- How to Create a Brochure Template in Photoshop