How to Make a Background Transparent in Photoshop

By Dan Ravens

Adobe Photoshop is a leading photo-editing software for personal computers. Photoshop has several means to make a background transparent: Background Eraser, Clipping Path or Extraction Filter. Background Eraser is easiest, as it requires the least familiarity with Photoshop tools and adjustments. Clipping Paths are also easy and create precise borders around an image for placement of the image in another software program. With Extraction, Photoshop erases the background to transparency. The edge pixels lose their color components, so the extracted object can blend naturally with a new background.

Background Eraser

Step 1

Open a graphics file in Photoshop.

Step 2

Select the layer to erase from the Layers palette. Open the "Layers" palette from the "Windows" drop-down menu at the top of the page.

Step 3

Select the layer containing the background.

Step 4

Select the "Background Eraser" tool. The Background Eraser tool allows editing of the background layer.

Step 5

Click the brush sample in the options bar and choose brush options.

Step 6

Drag the mouse through the area to be erased. The Background Eraser tool pointer appears as a brush shape with a cross hair signifying the tool's center hot spot.

Clipping Path

Step 1

Open a graphics file in Photoshop.

Step 2

Open the Layers palette.

Step 3

Select a shape tool or a pen tool from the "Tools" palette, and click the "Paths" button in the options bar.

Step 4

Set tool-specific options and draw the path around the part of the image to be preserved.

Step 5

Save the path as a "Work Path."

Step 6

Edit and fine-tune the Work Path. When finished, save it as a "Clipping Path."

Extraction Filter

Step 1

Select the layer that contains the background for deletion. If this is the background layer, the background layer becomes a normal layer after extraction.

Step 2

Choose "Filter" > "Extract" and select the options for the tools that appear.

Step 3

Choose "Smart Highlighting" to easily create an outline of an edge that is well defined. Smart Highlighting helps keep the highlight on the edge.

Step 4

Define Extraction options: "Textured Image," "Smooth," "Force Foreground" or "Alpha Channel" (from the "Channel" menu).

Step 5

Adjust the highlighting by zooming in for a closer view. To erase the highlight, choose the "Eraser" tool and drag the eraser over the highlight.

Step 6

Click "OK" to apply the extraction. All pixels on the layer outside the extracted object are made transparent.

Tips & Warnings

  • Background Eraser may not make the background 100 percent transparent. Use the Eraser tool to ensure transparency.
  • Always make a copy of the layer to be edited to maintain an unaltered original version of the layer.