Lesson 6: Removing Backgrounds From Product Images

In this lesson, we will look at several different methods on removing backgrounds from photographs, vendor images and more.

Introduction

As designers, we are commonly faced with the unfortunate task of removing backgrounds from images. So, I thought it would be important to run through the different techniques that I use when removing backgrounds for my interiors designs.   Whenever I am looking for images online I want to try to find images that have the most amount of contrast between the object that I want and the background.    When I say "contrast" I’m talking about mainly two things one is the difference between tonal values, dark and light. And the other is the difference between color values like red and blue.   In general, if you can’t  find an image with these type of contrasts between the object and their backgrounds you will need to revert to a manual technique, which takes a long time and let's be honest, we have more important things to do that trace a chair. So let's try to avoid this situation at all costs.   On the other hand sometimes there just is no way around it so I’m going to start with a manual technique I use when all other options fail.  This mainly includes the lasso selection tools.

Manual Methods

Lasso tools

- The Free Form Lasso Tool: Allows you to make organic selections.   - The Polygonal Lasso Tool: Allows you to make very accurate linear selections around your furniture.   - The Magnetic Lasso Tool:  Picks up on the contrast between pixels, if any, and clings to the visible edge between them. This is very similar to how the magic wand tool works.

Contrast Selection Tools

- Magic Wand Tool The magic wand tool is by far my favorite tool to use when removing backgrounds. By adjusting the tolerance in the Properties panel you can adjust how heavy handed you want to be with the selection. A higher contrast equals a heavier hand and a lower tolerance level reduces the strength of the selection.   - Refine Edge Tool The refine edge tool (found under selection>refine edge in the menu bar) gives some great options for smoothing out your selection. Adding a feather and several other options you may want to use to make your furniture selection integrate and look better inside of your design.     - Background Eraser this tool works very similar to the wand tool but rather than making a selection based on the contrast of your image it will actually erase the selected area of your background. This is a little too destructive of a tool for me. I like to have more control over what the final furniture selection will look like before deleting it.

Conclusion

There are many selection tools out there within the Photoshop toolset and I encourage you to try all of them when playing around with your interior designs. My favorite tool combination when removing the background from furniture, plants, and appliances is as follows:   1. First the magic wand tool, I try to get as much of the selection made as I can with this tool.   2. Next, I will refine or add to the selection with the polygonal and free-form lasso tools (depending on the situation)    3. Finally, I will refine the edge of my selection with the refine edge tool   4. Once my selection is good I will hit CMND-J to copy the selection to a new layer.