Here is a quick background removal photo retouching tip. Imagine you the photo retoucher have received 200 images sent to you by your client. And they are expecting them back, like yesterday. Here is a Photoshop masking tip. A quick background removal using the magic wand tool. As retouchers we are always looking for shortcuts to help with photo editing. Because as we all know: time is money.

One of the most time consuming retouching jobs is using the pen tool to mask out a catalogue photo to place on a white/neutral background.  Quite often called background removal or image clipping. If your photos have been photographed in a studio. By a professional photographer. Using a light colour background and are of a decent size – not a thumbnail. Here is my quick background removal photo retouching tip.

quick background removal

digital photo retouching and editing tutorial

Quick background removal tip

Open the retouch in Photoshop, duplicate the layer. So you have a before and after comparison to use as a reference. Sandwiched between the two layers. Add a layer and fill it with the desired background mask colour, usually white.

Select the magic wand tool and highlight the top layer you want to retouch. This is where you need to be a bit experimental. The default tolerance of the magic wand is 32 (you will find that setting in the tool bar above). Click in the grey part that you want to retouch.

Check what the “marching ants” ants are doing. Are they selecting all the grey?  Almost all or are they selecting part of the image that you don’t want to retouched and removed?

If they are selecting the grey and part of the image, then deselect, reduce the tolerance to say 20 and try again. the trick is to select most of or almost all the unwanted part of the photo.

Make sure that the add to selection box is highlighted. Situated on the top left next to “sample size”. Then add to the selection by clicking in the parts you want removed that have not yet been selected. Once you have a neat set of marching ants surrounding the part of the retouch you want to keep, you are halfway done. with the selection still active click delete. You will see the grey background disappear and the layer below (white) will take its place.

Background Removal photo retouching tip

photo retouching and editing tutorial

The only problem now is, you will see the edges are quite ragged, some of the box lid has been chewed away. The trick is: before you click delete. With the marching ants still selected, click “modify“, in the dropdown menu, click smooth.

I usually smooth by around two pixels. This softens the hard lines the marching ants have taken. Click “modify” and feather, I usually feather from around 0.5 to 2 pixels. The last two adjustments are dependant on the pixel size of the retouched photo in question. And how the marching ants are behaving.

Try a few variations, check the results, by zooming in. once you have your formula for you batch of retouches, you can save hours of toil using the pen tool. This photoshop tip is very dependent on the photos supplied. I always have a quick look using the magic wand tool. Check the result and decide whether to use the traditional pen tool, or the magic wand. Always check your results. You might have taken off too much.

Quick background removal photo retouching tip

the completed clipped image

I hope this photoshop masking tip was useful. Follow my blog for more photo editing tips.