Removing a white background to create a transparent PNG in Photoshop

In this tutorial you will learn how to remove the white area or background from a black and white line drawing of a Scarecrow.

Step 1.

Open up the image which you’d like to remove the background from. You can download a version of the scarecrow used in this tutorial from here.

Step 2.

First create a new layer by clicking on the new layer icon to the left of the bin in the layers palette.

Layers Palette

Layers Palette

Step 3.

Click onto the new layer and hold and drag it beneath the image layer.

Layers Palette

Layers Palette

Step 4.

Choose the paint bucket tool from the tool bar and with the new background layer selected fill the area with a bright colour of your choice. This is just an aid to assist in the removal of the white areas.

Paint Bucket Tool

Paint Bucket Tool

Step 5.

The layers area should now resemble the palette below.

Layers Palette

Layers Palette

Step 6.

Click onto the image layer and choose the wand tool, or simply press the letter W whilst in Photoshop. Change the tolerance in the Application bar to 40 and click anywhere in the white area.

Magic Wand Tool

Magic Wand Tool

Step 7.

Then go to Select > Similar and press delete / backspace on the keyboard.

Select SImilar

Select SImilar

Step 8.

You can then repeat the process to delete any further white areas, use the eraser on a small setting or if there are only tiny areas left as shown below just turn the last few white areas to black.

Magic wand effect

Magic wand effect

To do this, double click on the image layer in the layers pallette to bring up the layer style panel. You can also open this panel by right clicking on the layer and choosing > blending options.

Layer Styles

Layer Styles

Step 9.

Click on color overlay from the left hand menu and then click on the colur swatch to change the layer colour back to black.

Layer Style

Layer Style

Step 10.

If you wish to use this image with a different coloured background you can now simply repeat the color overlay process with the background layer selected. To create a transparent background you can turn off the background layer by clicking on the eye on the layer in the layers pallette.

Layer palette eye

Layer palette eye

Step 11.

By saving as a PNG at this point the image will retain the file with a transparent background. To save as a PNG go to File > Save for Web

Save for Web

Save for Web

Choose PNG 24 from the drop down menu top right and save your image.

Select PNG

Select PNG

The Final Image.

Transparent Background

Transparent Background

hannah

Author: hannah

Hannah works as a website designer for a digital agency based in the UK. She has over 15 years experience using Photoshop and has been using it daily since 2005. Google+

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29 Comments

  1. What I would really like to know how to do is to take a black and white (grey scale) photograph and make it transparent. I have some drop shadows on white backgrounds which I would love to have as transparent layers. How would I make a photo transparent?

  2. Very useful, will be using this method alot more from now often, thanks

  3. Awesome tutorial! Just what I was looking for. I’ll be using this method often. Thanks so much for writing it!

  4. Excellent; most helpful; I have struggled with this (now, simple) problem for some time…thank you and thank you again!

  5. I have an image as you show above – with a checker board background in PS but whenever I try to use this image – like in a power-point program it always comes with a white box around it no matter what I have done to remove it .

  6. hannah

    You’re welcome, I’m glad you found it useful :)

  7. hannah

    To use a file with a transparent background on the web you will need to save the file out as a png with a transparent background. To use it in print and some other editing programs you will need to create a clipping path around the image and save the file as a .eps. Hope that helps.

  8. Very helpful and worked great. Thank you!

  9. hannah

    thanks for you’re comment :)

  10. Hannah, I understand you are the author of this post.
    Very good post and thank you for this helpful tip. Instructions are very clear, and easy to follow.
    This works well with non shiny products. But when you have a pen as an image, with lots of shiny parts, when you select the white background it will select also the shiny parts. What`s the solution here, please?

  11. hannah

    Hi Eugen, Thanks for your comments. For an image such as a pen you could try this method with a low tolerance on the magic wand tool and instead of choosing ‘select > similar’, press shift and continue clicking on the areas you want to delete. If that still picks up areas within the pen then I would suggest to use a combination of the eraser tool and wand – the eraser to carefully draw a line around the pen and then the wand on a high tolerance to select the background. I hope that helps. Thanks Hannah.

  12. Thanks. Awesome Tutorial ^^

  13. hannah

    You are welcome :) Thanks for your comment

  14. I cannot get the “similar” to show up highlighted after following all the previous steps.

  15. hannah

    Hi, if ‘similar’ is not showing up, it could be that the magic wand has already managed to pick up everything in that colour. Could that be the case? If so, and all the areas are selected already, you should be able to continue and skip that part. Thanks Hannah.

  16. The best tutorial ever. simple and Very effective esp with low res images

  17. hannah

    Thanks for your comments :)

  18. Very helpful! Thank you!

  19. Do you have a post about using it? :) I mean like merging it wit another image. I’m having a real trouble with it and I can’t seem to find to write word to google

  20. hannah

    Hi Tommy, you should be able to drag the image that you are left with onto another document to merge it with another picture. It depends how you want to merge them together as to which process you would use..

  21. Thx very much.. very good tutorial for beginners.. hands up..

  22. Very helpful! Many thanks.

  23. Works great! Thanks so much.

  24. This tutorial was very very helpful – I’m not well-versed in photoshop and your instructions made this process simple. Thank you so much!

  25. hannah

    You are welcome Carolyn, thanks for the feedback.

  26. Thank you very much for your great and clear help.

  27. Use channels! It’s way faster and gives a much better result. METHOD: Select the layer, right-click and choose Layer from Background, apply Quick Mask, mark the image, Edit -> Copy, go to Windows -> Channels, turn off all the channels, turn on the Quick Mask channel, select the Quick Mask channel, Edit -> Paste, Image -> Adjustments -> Invert, turn on all the channels, turn off the Quick Mask channel. Look, no details lost! :)

  28. Awesome. Just what I was looking for. Thanks!

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