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by Wendi Elizabeth Martha Scarth


Background Eraser
Photoshop Elements


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Remove Backgrounds Using The Background Eraser (And The Eraser Tool)
Suitable for Adobe Photoshop Elements Editor
Skill Level - Intermediate

Background Eraser Tool Elements

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This tutorial demonstrates how to extract backgrounds utilising the Background Eraser and Eraser Tools, and to work along you are welcome to download the image I am working with - (St George’s Church Cullercoats, England) - HereUnzip the file and open the image onto Elements’ workspace.

Undo Note
You can step backwards at any time by clicking the top menu’s Undo Tool.

Please Note:
Elements’ Orange Horizontal Bar

Open your Start Image onto Elements’ workspace - Ctrl/Cmd then O.

To centralise your image - snap it to the top menu’s orange horizontal line by dragging it towards it.

Elements 11, 12, 13, 14 & 15 - Tool Options Palette positioned at the bottom of the workspace. Although the palettes have been redesigned the tools work in more or less the same way.

Now, from the Tools Toolbar, activate the Background Eraser Tool.

And to begin with, set the following settings into its Options Bar.

Background Eraser Tool Setting Notes
The Tolerance setting and Brush Size (Diameter) are dependant upon the needs of your photograph, and sometimes need to be altered when working with different areas. The settings I am using work well for my Start Image: however, for personal results, experiment with different Tolerance and Limits settings, and discover what works best for you.

Brush Preset Picker
Sets the Presets of the Brush, such as Size, Diameter, Hardness, and Spacing. Drag the Size pop-up sliders or enter numbers in text boxes.

Choose Contiguous to erase areas that contain the hotspot colour and are connected to one another. Discontiguous erases any pixels within the circle that are similar to the hotspot colour.

Defines how similar in colour to the hotspot a pixel must be to be affected by the Tool. A low Tolerance limits erasure to areas that are very similar to the hotspot colour. A high Tolerance erases a broader range of colours.

Background Eraser Notes And Tips
As soon as you begin applying the Background Eraser Tool, your photograph’s Layer (in the Layers Palette), will automatically change from Background to Layer 0

This creates the transparency Layer needed for this Tool to operate correctly. The Background Eraser Tool deletes background pixels as you drag your cursor over them. Important! You must remember to keep the following Crosshair over the pixels your wish to delete, and not over the areas you wish to retain. The Crosshair samples the background, and removes all similar-coloured pixels. 

Display Your Cursor’s Crosshair
From the top menu, choose Edit then choose Preferences then choose General then choose Display & Cursors. Now, mark the following Show Crosshair in Brush Tip box, then click OK.

Take a little time to familiarise yourself with the Background Eraser Tool.

You can quickly resize the Brush Size by tapping your Keyboard’s Square Bracket Keys (with caps OFF).

3/ Tutorial Continued
Now, left-click over the sky area (or part of your own photograph) and a circular area will be removed and replaced by the following chessboard transparency effect.

The Chessboard Background is Photoshop Elements’ way of displaying transparency.

Now, whilst avoiding the building, continue to left-click subsequently removing more sky; for quickness left-click and drag your cursor over the sky.

If you make a mistake, Step Backwards by clicking the top menu’s Undo Arrow.

To remove stubborn sky pixels, ensure the Crosshair (inside the circle), is directly over the area you wish to erase, then repeatedly left-click.

Continue removing sky pixels, slowly and carefully; and check your progress as you work.

If you release the left-side mouse button regularly, you can quickly rectify errors by stepping backwards a step or two.

4/ Eraser Tool Tip (
Eraser Tool Tutorial)
From the Tools Toolbar, activate the Eraser Tool.

And set the following attributes.

Now, remove large areas of sky - being very careful not to touch the building. 

Quickly Adjust The Brush Size
You can quickly resize the Brush Size by tapping your Keyboard’s Square Bracket Keys (with caps OFF).

Remember to activate the Background Eraser Tool when working close to the church, or elements you wish to retain.

After you have removed the sky, or the background elements of your photograph, you are ready for the next step.

Zoom into your image using the Zoom Tool .

And ensure the Background Eraser Tool is active; then set an Opacity of around 45%: - remember, settings are depended upon your photograph. 

Now, hover your cursor over the steeple, and ensure the cross inside the circle-guide is close to, but does not touch the steeple - or the element you wish to retain.

Then left-click. You will notice the blue sky has been removed, and the steeple remains untouched.

If you place the cross over the element you wish to keep, and left-click, the following will happen.

To rectify this error, go back a step or two, and reapply the Background Removal Tool.

Now, continue left-clicking close to the steeple (or your element) slowly removing background pixels - as illustrated below.

Navigate around your photograph, and remove the sky from the corner of the church, as illustrated below.

Continue removing the sky that surrounds the building, in exactly the same way - altering the Brush’s Size and Opacity as needed.



Pay special attention to the areas indicated below, ensuring the Brush Size (and Opacity) are adjusted as necessary: for accuracy - Zoom in further.


Remember to remove stubborn background pixels with the Eraser Tool; however, be careful with this Tool; it is not as forgiving as the Background Eraser Tool and removes all pixels, not just background pixels.

After you have removed all visible background pixels, you are ready for the next step.

7/ Create A Fill Layer Optional
To ensure your background has been completely removed, from the top menu, choose Layer then choose New Fill Layer then choose Solid Colour
Fill Layer Tutorial Here.

From the subsequent New Layer dialogue box, (accept the default settings), then click OK.

Then from the subsequent Pick a solid colour dialogue box, left-click over a contrasting colour to the background you have just removed; (in my instance, I am choosing Solid White) - then click OK.

A White Layer - or a colour of your choice, will then be placed above your extracted image.

To reveal your extracted image; from the Layers Palette, left-click and drag the Extracted Photograph’s Layer above the white Fill Layer. The white background will now highlight background pixels that were not completely removed - as illustrated below.



Now, activate the Background Eraser Tool, then Zoom into your image, and carefully remove the remaining background pixels- : remembering to experiment with the Brush Size, and Opacity. (The Eraser Tool can be helpful; however, ensure you don’t erase parts of the church).

Keeping Zooming out of your image to check your progress.


When you are satisfied that every stray background pixel has been removed, you are ready for the next step. 

10/ Delete The Fill Layer
From the Layers Palette, right-click the Colour Fill 1 layer. Then from the subsequent drop-down list, click Delete Layer

Congratulations, you have cleanly removed the background and your photo object can now be dragged onto a different background or onto an image of your choice using the Move Tool.

Preserve your image’s transparency by saving it as a
Transparent Gif. Alternatively, if you save it as a PSD File you will retain the Chessboard Transparency.

Now you are familiar with the Background Eraser Tool you can have lots of fun removing backgrounds from photographic objects.

Wendi E. M. Scarth. 
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