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How to Make White Transparent in Photoshop

by Alec Druggan on Sep 17, 2019

There are many reasons that you may need to make white transparent in Photoshop CC. If you need to use an image for graphic design work or for a website, having a transparent file is a must. How can you make white transparent in photoshop? Additionally, why make white transparent in photoshop?

While Photoshop CC will be used for this tutorial, you can also use this tutorial for earlier versions of Photoshop, such as CS6. The majority of the tools used here are the same as earlier editions for this purpose.

You can download Photoshop for only $9.99/month with Adobe’s Creative Cloud Plan. This package includes Lightroom, another top-tier photo editing software. Make sure to get Photoshop before you continue with this tutorial.

Making white transparent is a rather simple process. If you want to make a background transparent, take a look at this more extensive tutorial.

So, what is the easiest way to make white transparent in Photoshop? There are several different steps you will need to know about making white pixels transparent in your image and background. Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:

  • Why make white transparent in Photoshop?
  • Steps to making white transparent in Photoshop
  • Best tutorial for making white transparent in Photoshop

If instead, you are looking to make a background pure white, have a look here.

Why Make White Transparent in Photoshop?

One of the most important use cases for Adobe Photoshop is the conversion between different file types. File types like TIFF or PNG support transparent pixels. These file types are commonly used in graphic or web design.

Learning how you can apply these file types for your creative process will save you a lot of heartache. If you are constantly using the most efficient programs for jobs, like Adobe Illustrator, you’re going to need to know how to make white transparent.

Why Would You Want to Make White Pixels Transparent in Photoshop?

The reason somebody would use Photoshop to make pixels transparent is because the process is quite easy. Once you have practiced the process several times, it might be the easiest thing you know how to do in Photoshop. Transparent areas in images allow you to create layers and cutouts that you may have previously had a hard time with.

Furthermore, you may want to use some of the file types mentioned above for specific use cases. Need an image cutout for a presentation? Instead of a JPEG image with a color between different areas of the image, you can have a perfect cutout of something in your presentation which shows the background when necessary. 

How Do You Remove a White Background in Photoshop?

As mentioned above, for general and busier backgrounds, you can refer to our tutorial on making whole backgrounds transparent. There are some easy steps to removing specifically white backgrounds however.

For example, you could use the Magic Wand Tool. To use the Magic Wand Tool, press keyboard shortcut W. If this selects your Quick Selection Tool, quickly switch tools with keyboard shortcut Shift + W.

The Magic Wand Tool is a subset of the Quick Selection Tool. This tool allows you to create simple selections, using Adobe Photoshop’s powerful engine to create these. Quick Selection Tool and Magic Wand Tool are both great for these fast selections of similarly colored or saturated areas of pixels. 

Magic Wand Tool upper toolbar options with "Tolerance" set to 32 and underlined in red.

Because you are only selecting white pixels, lower the tolerance of the tool to around 20.

The way that tolerance works is that a higher tolerance allows for more difference in color in the selection. Lowering this tolerance variable for a single shade of white pixels is the way to go. If you have more variation in temperature or value across white pixels, keep it higher.

Now simply delete or erase your selection. Do this by using the Eraser Tool, with keyboard shortcut E, or pressing the Delete key. If a fill menu pops up, make sure that you are working on an unlocked Photoshop layer.

For more usability and gradient work, use a Layer Mask instead. A Layer Mask will allow you much more control in this process. With Layer Masks, you can easily revert deleted parts of selections.

To use a Layer Mask, create one on the layer you intend to remove the white pixels on. Then create your selection with the Magic Wand Tool. Finally, rather than erasing, use the Brush Tool and keyboard shortcut B to paint on black to hide and white to reveal pixels in your selection. 

How Could Making White Transparent Benefit Your Images?

As previously discussed, making white pixels transparent will allow further creative facets with your images. Tools like the Quick Selection Tool and the Magic Wand Tool can easily make white pixels or your background transparent. 

Furthermore, removing white pixels from your image can benefit you creatively. Instead of having typical whites in your image, using an offwhite color palette can add a different mood to your images. Rather than affecting the white balance of your entire image, you can easily target that of just the white pixels. 

Steps to Making White Transparent in Photoshop

There are several steps to making white transparent in Photoshop. Thankfully, I can show you the easiest ways to make white transparent in photoshop. Together, we can answer the question: how do you make white transparent in Photoshop?

How Do You Make White Transparent in Photoshop?

There are several ways to make white pixels transparent in Adobe Photoshop. Simple things like the Eraser Tool can be used. Instead,  we are going to go into more depth on how you can make white pixels transparent even in more difficult selections.

First, select an image that you want to work on. This is the image that I will be experimenting with:

For this image, I want to have an image slowly come from the middle of the photograph. To achieve this effect, I will set the photo above as the top layer in Photoshop, and then place following image beneath it:

To accomplish this, I need to correctly layer these two images in photoshop. I begin by importing my photos into the same workspace, and then resizing the above image as the top layer until I see where it fits best. 

However, this could obviously be done with a simple layer mask, but I will be using more extensive methods to best show you how to achieve this across a variety of different circumstances. This guide shows how you could do this job using only the Eraser Tool.

This shows a sample layer mask for this image:

Layer 1 with a Layer Mask

Finally, this is what the stacked images look like before I change their layers. Notice that the dark image is now the same size as the blank card in the first image:

Now, I can move my top layer beneath my bottom layer. Notice how above the image is over the entire paper. Using this method I can have only the area I want showing.

To place it perfectly, consider using the Blending Mode screen in the Blending Mode drop-down menu and moving the image from there.

Move the layer beneath your bottom layer in the Layers Panel. If the bottom layer is still a background layer, unlock this layer by clicking the lock icon. 

This is what your layers should look like at this point:

Two unlocked layers in Photoshop's Layers Panel

Finally, create a selection of the top layer where you want the white pixels to become transparent. For images where it is just white, you can use Select >> Color Range in the drop-down menu. To access it more quickly than the drop-down menu, simply click Select and then use keyboard shortcut C.

Moreover, Select >> Color Range allows you to select the range of color you want with the eyedropper tool. Just choose the white you want to select.

For more information on modifying, creating, and removing selections, check out this in-depth Lasso Tool tutorial. Similarly, our Pen Tool tutorial can help you make precise selections. Learning the combination of the Lasso Tool and the Pen Tool is key to mastering Adobe Photoshop fundamentals.

Lastly, invert your selection and then make it a layer mask. This is what your image should look like. All the white pixels selected are now transparent, and we are left with a fun and creative effect. 

This is my final image:

Notice that I stretched the image to make it more vertical. I intended to do this to make the lines more appealing and match the lines in the image. Pay attention to subtle details like this when editing your own work, as well as when looking at others’. 

I also modified the opacity of the bottom layer and added a 10% gray layer underneath, so as to make the blacks more realistic. Learning how opacity can affect the texture of an image is important. 

Best Tutorial for Making White Transparent in Photoshop

As always, the best tutorial for making white transparent in Photoshop depends heavily on what you are trying to accomplish. Fundamentally, learning all the fundamentals and basic tools to an advanced degree will make you a much stronger artist. Instead of having to figure out how to get to a final product, you will know how before you even sit down at a computer. 

Useful Tutorials for Making White Pixels Transparent

The tutorial mentioned above somewhat broadens this method to all backgrounds. 

If you are looking for some video tutorial options, this is a simple tutorial that will help you with this task. This YouTube tutorial is another option which does both internal parts of the image and the background. Lastly, this tutorial uses a blend mode to great impact on an image.

This tutorial Check out our tutorial to learn more about general image transparency. Using that plus learning about selections will make this process very simple. For selective color, like making an image only have on color or to erase a single color, look into this tutorial.

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