How to Remove the Background from an Image in Photoshop

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One common question that comes up among sublimation decorators is, “How do I get rid of the background on this image?” We all know that most graphic design software offers this capability. It’s just a matter of learning how to use it and practicing to get the best results.

We found this great video from Amy Hale from Sublimation & More! Learn, Create, and Inspire. Posted on her YouTube channel, this video shows how to work with a single-layer image, isolate what you want to keep and delete the rest. Keep scrolling for step-by-step instructions.

Step 1

Select the “Quick Select” tool. Then mouse over the area of the image you want to keep.

The Quick Select Tool

Make sure that the tool completely outlines your desired image. The moving, dotted line will show you the boundary.

Selected Area in Photoshop Dotted Line Around Girl


Step 2

Press Control J (or Command J on Mac). This will create a new layer that has only what you selected in the previous step. You can then delete the original layer you were working with.

New Layer After Using Quick Select


Step 3

Use the “Magic Wand”, “Background Erase” and “Erase” tools to remove the parts of the background that may have been missed by the “Quick Select” tool.

The Quick Select ToolWhere to Find Eraser Tools in Photoshop

Start by using the “Magic Wand” tool to select areas of color to be erased. Then select “Background Eraser” and move the + in the middle of the circle over the areas you want to erase. Below, you can the area selected by the Magic Wand and how the Background Eraser is being used to delete the area inside the dots, while protecting the rest of the image.

Use Magic Wand and Background Eraser Tools to Clean Up Edges of the Image

Use the “Erase” tool to delete areas missed by the other tools. Zoom in as far as you need to get to these areas.

Step 4

Once you have deleted all of the background, save your image as a PNG. In Photoshop, this is done by going to File > Export > Export As. Choose PNG in the file type dropdown and make sure “Transparency” is checked.

Step 5

Now you can get creative with your image. Open a new file in the size you want to print, like 5″x7″ or 4″x6.” Drag and drop a background file onto the canvas. Then drag and drop the image you just saved. This will create 2 layers, with the background file in back and your newly created file on top.

Add an New Background to the Image

Now, you can add in more layers with additional images. You can move the layers around to adjust which images are shown in front of or behind your main image. In the image below, the cat is layered behind the girl, but in front of the background. The spider is layered in front of all the layers and the web is drawn in with Photoshop’s “Line” tool.

Add Additional Images to your Photo

You can save your file as a PSD, which will preserve the layers for editing in the future. You can save it as a JPEG or export as a PNG. If you’re planning on using an image like this on a web page or social media, it’s best to use the “Save for Web” option under the “Export” menu.

We hope this tutorial was helpful and has given you some good ideas for making creative images for your sublimated products.

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Robin Kavanagh

Robin Kavanagh has spent five years working in the sublimation industry. Formerly the Public Relations Manager for Sawgrass and owner of a sublimated products business, Robin brings unique knowledge and experience to the readers of Sublimation Today.

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