How to Make an Image Background Transparent in Photoshop

“I don’t need that background!” 

There are many reasons why you might want to make a background transparent. Perhaps you want to use the subject in another image or to create some sort of digital design. 

Regardless, making the background transparent is super simple. Sometimes it can get time-consuming depending on your image, but the process itself is easy.  

Hey there! I’m Cara and I’ve run into this a lot, especially when creating product photography images. Let me show you how easy it is to make a background transparent. 

Note: the screenshots below are taken from the Windows version of Adobe Photoshop, if you’re using the Mac version, the navigations may look slightly different.

Method 1: Use The Remove Background Tool

This first method is by far the easiest and fastest, but it will only work on certain images. Images with clean backgrounds and lots of contrast between the background and the subject will work best. 

I’ll demonstrate with this clean image.

Open your image in Photoshop. When your image opens, the background layer is automatically locked. You won’t be able to remove the background from a locked layer. Unlock it by clicking on the icon that looks like a padlock on the right side of the layer in the layers panel. 

Then find the Properties panel. Depending on your Photoshop layout, the properties panel may appear on the right above the layers panel.

If you don’t see it, go to Window in the menu bar. Scroll down, click Properties, and the panel will appear. 

Under Quick Actions, you’ll see a button that says Remove Background. You might have to hit the arrow next to Quick Actions for the options to appear. If the Remove Background button doesn’t appear, check to make sure you unlocked the background layer. 

When you hit the button, the background disappears like magic! 

Method 2: Remove Background with the Magic Wand Tool

The Remove Background button is pretty awesome, but it won’t always work. For example, in this image, I want to remove the dark part and keep the pinecones (no idea why they’re purple) and the tree. 

When I tried the Remove Background tool, I got less than exciting results.

When this happens, you need to tell Photoshop which part of the image to cut by making a selection. For many images, you can use the Magic Wand Tool. 

Find it in the toolbar under the default Object Selection Tool. 

The Magic Wand tool works by detecting colors in the image. It selects the pixels in the image that match the pixels you choose. To learn more about how it works, check out our Magic Wand tutorial here.

With one click in the dark background, I made this selection. 

You can also click within the subject to select the subject instead. This works better if the subject is a uniform color and the background is multicolored or busy. When you select the subject, you’ll have to invert the selection otherwise you’ll delete the subject. 

Invert the selection by hitting Shift + Ctrl + I or Shift + Command + I with the selection active. 

However you get there, once you have the background selected, hit the Backspace button to delete the background. Make sure the layer is unlocked otherwise nothing will happen. 

Method 3: Remove Background with the Quick Selection Tool

What if you have a multi-colored subject and a multi-colored background? The Magic Wand tool might not be as helpful in this case. 

The process for removing the background remains the same, but you’ll have to use a different selection tool. 

For this image, I used the Quick Selection tool. You’ll find it in the same section as the Magic Wand tool in the toolbar.

Just drag around the area you want to select and Photoshop will snap to the edges as much as possible. 

Again, invert the selection by hitting Shift + Ctrl + I or Shift + Command + I. Then hit Backspace. In this case, I’ll have to clean up the selection a tiny bit with the Eraser tool on the bird’s forehead, but the heavy lifting is done. 

There you have it! Removing the background from an image is super easy. It can get time-consuming if the subject is difficult to select, but that’s the only hard bit!

Did you enjoy learning this tidbit? Check out more of our tutorials like how to focus stack an image for more fun!

About Cara Koch
Cara fell in love with photography circa 2014 and has been exploring all corners of the imagery world ever since. When she felt limited by Lightroom, she dove headfirst into Photoshop to learn how to create the images she wanted.

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