Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member

Working with the Background Eraser tool

From: Photoshop CS5: Selections in Depth

Video: Working with the Background Eraser tool

You may not have thought of using an Eraser tool to help you make a selection, but the Background Eraser tool, which is located here in the toolbox, can come in handy when you want to isolate a complex foreground object, like these leaves and stems from the background. The way the tool works is that it samples whatever color you click on underneath the crosshair, and then it erases similar colors and tones within the circumference of the brush tip. So, if I click right here, I'm sampling blue, and I'm erasing pixels inside of that circumference that are similar in color and tone to the blue one which I clicked.

Working with the Background Eraser tool

You may not have thought of using an Eraser tool to help you make a selection, but the Background Eraser tool, which is located here in the toolbox, can come in handy when you want to isolate a complex foreground object, like these leaves and stems from the background. The way the tool works is that it samples whatever color you click on underneath the crosshair, and then it erases similar colors and tones within the circumference of the brush tip. So, if I click right here, I'm sampling blue, and I'm erasing pixels inside of that circumference that are similar in color and tone to the blue one which I clicked.

So if I click and drag, I'm continuously sampling colors from the sky and erasing similar colors and tones within the circumference of this brush. I'm going to revert to bring all that back by going to the File menu and choosing Revert. Before I actually use this tool on this image, I want to set some of its options. First, I'll go to the Sampling options. I'm going to leave Sampling set to Continuous, so that as I move the Brush tool, it's continuously sampling new colors under its crosshair.

I'll go to the Limits field, and I'm going to change that from Contiguous to Discontiguous. When Limits is set to Contiguous, the only colors that will be erased are those that are next to one another, or adjacent. So, for example, if I leave that at Contiguous, and I come into this area, and I make the brush tip bigger by pressing the Right Bracket key, the only pixels that are erased are those that are touching one another, so that those pixels that are outside of the branches, even if inside the circumference of the brush tip, will not be erased.

Now, if I change that to Discontiguous, and I click within an area, even the pixels outside of that area are erased if they're inside the brush circumference and within the range of tolerance. If the tool doesn't erase all of the pixels within the diameter of the brush, I can increase the Tolerance field here to change the range of erasable colors and tones. Finally, if there's a color that I want to be sure not to erase by mistake, like the orange in these leaves, I can set that as the foreground color, by temporarily selecting the Eyedropper tool, pressing the I key and holding it on my keyboard and clicking on that color to set that as the foreground color here in the Foreground Color box.

And then I'll check Protect Foreground Color, and now I'm protecting that particular orange from being deleted by mistake. I'm going to revert one more time, choosing File > Revert, and I'm going to make a copy of the single layer in this file, because this tool actually deletes pixels permanently. So I'll right-click on the leaves layer, and I'll choose Duplicate layer and click OK. I'll make the bottom layer, the leaves layer, temporarily invisible by clicking its eye icon, and I'll make sure the leaves copy layer is selected.

Now, I'm going to come into the image, and I'm going to click on blue, and as I do, I'm eliminating the blue background within the circumference of the brush. So, it's fairly quick to eliminate all of the blue background in between the leaves and stems. Now, I'm not going to make you wait while I do that all around this image, but I want you to understand how the tool works. I'll go ahead and delete the rest of the pixels in between, and around the branches. Now that I'm done using the Background Eraser tool to eliminate the background from in between the leaves and stems here, I'm going to use the resulting transparency on the leaves copy layer to make a selection.

The transparency is represented by this gray-and-white checkerboard that you see here. To load a selection from that transparency, I'll go to the leaves layer, I'll hold down the Command key on the Mac or the Ctrl key on a PC, and I'll click on the thumbnail on the leaves copy layer, and that creates this selection around the leaves and stems. Now, I'm going to make the leaves copy layer invisible by clicking its eye icon, and I'll make the leaves layer visible by clicking its visibility field, and I'm going to select the leaves layer, because what I want to do next is to use this selection to create a layer mask on the leaves layer that will hide the sky without deleting it, as I had to do on a leaves copy layer.

This is a better way to work because it's a nondestructive editing workflow. With the leaves layer selected, I'll go to the Add layer mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and click there to create a layer mask on the leaves layer. I'll show you that layer mask by holding the Option key on the Mac or the Alt key on the PC as I click on the layer mask, and here you can see the mask in the document window. The black areas of the mask are hiding the content of the leaves layer, in other words the sky on the leaves layer, and the white areas of the mask are revealing the content of the leaves layer, in other words the yellow leaves and the stems.

Now, I didn't do a perfect job with the background eraser because I was hurrying and so I missed a few spots here, but because this is a layer mask, I can always get my Brush tool, set my foreground color to black and paint over the spots that I didn't completely make black in the first place, like that. And because this is a layer mask, I can use any of the controls here in the Masks panel to refine it, as I've showed you how to do in other movies. But for now, I'm just going to bring back the image by holding the Option or Alt key and clicking on the layer mask thumbnail.

I'm going to create a new layer beneath the leaves layer by holding the Command key on the Mac or the Ctrl key on the PC as I click the Create New layer icon, and that makes a layer beneath the leaves layer. With that new layer selected, I'm going to fill it with white. I happen to have white as my background color, so I'll just press the X key on my keyboard, and that sets white as the foreground color, and I can fill it with the foreground color by pressing Option+Delete on the Mac or Alt+Backspace on the PC.

And now I've replaced that original kind of pale blue sky with this nice, white solid background, and it all started with the Background Eraser tool, a tool you may not have thought of as a selection tool, but one that can often help you to make selections around complex foreground elements like this.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Photoshop CS5: Selections in Depth
Photoshop CS5: Selections in Depth

47 video lessons · 22059 viewers

Jan Kabili
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 2m 40s
    1. Welcome
      1m 12s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 28s
  2. 30m 22s
    1. Changing part of an image
      5m 2s
    2. Using Content-Aware Fill
      5m 31s
    3. Compositing images
      4m 18s
    4. Correcting part of a photograph
      3m 51s
    5. Replacing a sky
      4m 46s
    6. Cropping an image
      1m 8s
    7. Building an object
      5m 46s
  3. 18m 52s
    1. Understanding selections and masks
      7m 26s
    2. Deselecting and reselecting
      2m 23s
    3. Hiding selection boundaries
      3m 15s
    4. Moving selection boundaries
      2m 14s
    5. Inverting selections
      2m 9s
    6. Selecting all
      1m 25s
  4. 17m 8s
    1. Transforming selections
      3m 16s
    2. Combining selections
      7m 31s
    3. Expanding selections
      6m 21s
  5. 41m 48s
    1. Selecting hair, pt. 1
      6m 26s
    2. Selecting hair, pt. 2
      6m 6s
    3. Removing color fringe
      5m 17s
    4. Selecting an object with hard and soft edges
      6m 55s
    5. Anti-aliasing vs. feathering
      9m 9s
    6. Working with Refine Mask
      7m 55s
  6. 16m 14s
    1. Selecting rectangles with the Rectangular Marquee tool
      6m 29s
    2. Selecting ovals with the Elliptical Marquee tool
      4m 44s
    3. Selecting straight edges with the Polygonal Lasso tool
      5m 1s
  7. 18m 9s
    1. Selecting freehand with the Lasso tool
      4m 57s
    2. Selecting precisely with the Pen tool and paths
      7m 32s
    3. Snapping to edges with the Magnetic Lasso tool
      5m 40s
  8. 28m 11s
    1. Selecting painlessly with the Quick Selection tool
      5m 33s
    2. Making the Magic Wand tool work for you
      5m 23s
    3. Selecting colors with the Color Range command
      5m 39s
    4. Changing colors with Replace Color and Hue/Saturation
      5m 16s
    5. Working with the Background Eraser tool
      6m 20s
  9. 20m 55s
    1. Selecting layer transparency
      3m 31s
    2. Selecting image luminosity
      3m 47s
    3. Increasing contrast in Camera Raw
      8m 40s
    4. Fine-tuning a color channel selection
      4m 57s
  10. 17m 1s
    1. Saving selections for reuse
      6m 2s
    2. Loading and modifying saved selections
      4m 54s
    3. Sharing selections between images
      6m 5s
  11. 13m 54s
    1. Cleaning up selections in Quick Mask
      4m 42s
    2. Filtering selections in Quick Mask
      2m 34s
    3. Painting selections in Quick Mask
      2m 10s
    4. Making Step and Repeat web buttons in Quick Mask
      4m 28s
  12. 32s
    1. Goodbye
      32s

Start learning today

Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.

Become a member
Sometimes @lynda teaches me how to use a program and sometimes Lynda.com changes my life forever. @JosefShutter
@lynda lynda.com is an absolute life saver when it comes to learning todays software. Definitely recommend it! #higherlearning @Michael_Caraway
@lynda The best thing online! Your database of courses is great! To the mark and very helpful. Thanks! @ru22more
Got to create something yesterday I never thought I could do. #thanks @lynda @Ngventurella
I really do love @lynda as a learning platform. Never stop learning and developing, it’s probably our greatest gift as a species! @soundslikedavid
@lynda just subscribed to lynda.com all I can say its brilliant join now trust me @ButchSamurai
@lynda is an awesome resource. The membership is priceless if you take advantage of it. @diabetic_techie
One of the best decision I made this year. Buy a 1yr subscription to @lynda @cybercaptive
guys lynda.com (@lynda) is the best. So far I’ve learned Java, principles of OO programming, and now learning about MS project @lucasmitchell
Signed back up to @lynda dot com. I’ve missed it!! Proper geeking out right now! #timetolearn #geek @JayGodbold
Share a link to this course

What are exercise files?

Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course. Save time by downloading the author's files instead of setting up your own files, and learn by following along with the instructor.

Can I take this course without the exercise files?

Yes! If you decide you would like the exercise files later, you can upgrade to a premium account any time.

Become a member Download sample files See plans and pricing

Please wait... please wait ...
Upgrade to get access to exercise files.

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Learn by watching, listening, and doing, Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along Premium memberships include access to all exercise files in the library.


Exercise files

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

For additional information on downloading and using exercise files, watch our instructional video or read the instructions in the FAQ.

This course includes free exercise files, so you can practice while you watch the course. To access all the exercise files in our library, become a Premium Member.

Join now "Already a member? Log in

Are you sure you want to mark all the videos in this course as unwatched?

This will not affect your course history, your reports, or your certificates of completion for this course.


Mark all as unwatched Cancel

Congratulations

You have completed Photoshop CS5: Selections in Depth.

Return to your organization's learning portal to continue training, or close this page.


OK
Become a member to add this course to a playlist

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses—and create as many playlists as you like.

Get started

Already a member?

Become a member to like this course.

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses.

Get started

Already a member?

Exercise files

Learn by watching, listening, and doing! Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along. Exercise files are available with all Premium memberships. Learn more

Get started

Already a Premium member?

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Ask a question

Thanks for contacting us.
You’ll hear from our Customer Service team within 24 hours.

Please enter the text shown below:

The classic layout automatically defaults to the latest Flash Player.

To choose a different player, hold the cursor over your name at the top right of any lynda.com page and choose Site preferencesfrom the dropdown menu.

Continue to classic layout Stay on new layout
Exercise files

Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.

Mark videos as unwatched

Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.

Control your viewing experience

Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.

Interactive transcripts

Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.

Are you sure you want to delete this note?

No

Your file was successfully uploaded.

Thanks for signing up.

We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.


Sign up and receive emails about lynda.com and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

Keep up with news, tips, and latest courses with emails from lynda.com.

Sign up and receive emails about lynda.com and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

   
submit Lightbox submit clicked
Terms and conditions of use

We've updated our terms and conditions (now called terms of service).Go
Review and accept our updated terms of service.