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Digital Photography Tips, Tutorials and Resources

How to Replace an Object’s Background in Photoshop

by Brenda Barron on Oct 18, 2018

Looking to swap out your current photo’s background? Sometimes, you can make an incredible photo even more amazing by replacing a drab background.

Learning how to replace backgrounds Photoshop gives you a way to transform any image: replacing grey skies with a stunning sunrise or a white wall with a flowing field.

So, how do you replace an object’s background in Photoshop?

The good news is that it’s easier than you’d think. Today, we’re going to look at:

  • Selecting your foreground objects
  • Selecting and masking a layer
  • Adjusting settings and color fringing
  • Adding a new background

Let’s get started.

Step 1: Select your Foreground Object

The first thing you’ll need to do when learning how to replace an object’s background in Photoshop is to choose the Quick Selection tool on the left-hand toolbar or hit the W shortcut on your keyboard. Drag the tool around the area you want to keep in the photo.

You may need to do some fine-tuning to make sure you’ve got all the right details in your selection. Make your brush size as small as possible by clicking on the left bracket and continue dragging and clicking to add additional parts of the foreground to your image. If you make a mistake and need to remove anything, hold the Alt key, then click and drag in those areas.

An image of a woman sitting on a stone wall overlooking a city, with the foreground carefully selected

Step 2: Select and Mask

Now, go to the options bar at the top of the screen and choose Select and Mask. This will open up a screen that allows you to refine your selection and turn it into a mask.

Photoshop, with the Select and Mask and Lasso tools highlighted

Using the Properties panel, click on Vie Mode to change how your choice appears. Overlay is a helpful option as you can choose a color that contrasts with the image, making it easier to see issues with your selection. Once any errors are more visible, you can start refining again with tools like:

  • The Lasso tool
  • Brush tool
  • Refine edge brush tool
  • Quick selection tool

Zoom into your image to check every detail carefully. You can start with the brush tool to get the small issues out of the way, then switch to the Refine Edge tool to touch up soft edges and hair. Select the Smart Radius option in the Edge direction panel to help Photoshop distinguish hard edges from soft ones.

The Smart Radius box being checked withing the Edge Detection settings in Photoshop

Step 3: Adjusting the Settings and Color Fringing

When you’re using the Select and Mask option to replace an object’s background in Photoshop, you’ll find various options listed under the Global Refinements space. You can use these to adjust the settings of your image. For instance:

  • Shift Edge moves your entire image by a few pixels
  • Contract hardens the edge of your image
  • Feather softens the edge of the selection
  • Smooth removes jagged lines from the selection.

Once you’re happy with the selection you’ve chosen, go into the Output Settings tab in the right panel and select Decontaminate colors to remove any left-over color fringe in your selection. Choose a new layer and mask and click Ok, then return to your image with your choice as a separate layer.

The Decontaminate Colors checkbox within Photoshop's Output Settings

Step 4: Add Your New Background

Now it’s time to add your new background to the picture. Add the image to a layer below the image that contains your foreground selection.

You can access the Hand tool to position the layer where you prefer, then resize it using the Free Transform tool.

To ensure the image looks perfect, make sure that you fix the colors in the foreground selection to mix well with the background. You can do this by choosing the foreground image then clicking on Image > Adjustments > Match Color.

The drop-down box containing the Match Color option in Photoshop

When a new window appears, go into Source and select the picture you’re working on, and select the Layer you want to fix. You can decide then whether you want your background to match the foreground or vice versa.

You can adjust your Intensity and Luminance sliders until you feel that the background and foreground look perfect together.

Select the Neutralize tab to remove color casts from your chosen layer. Click OK when you’re done, and you’ll have the perfect new Photoshop image!

There you have it! Everything you need to know about how to replace an object’s background on Photoshop! For more tips and tricks on how to use Photoshop, remember to follow us on Twitter and Facebook or check out our other blogs!

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