Learn how to quickly and easily give your image a new background.
Two women dancing barefoot in front of a sand dune in blue dresses

Find a new background

Replacing a background is something you’ll do often in Photoshop. You might change the background to a different color or style than the original, or place your subject in a different scene by swapping background images. Changing the background of an image can be completely transformative, giving it a whole new meaning.

Choose the best selection tool for the job

Replacing a background usually starts with a selection. Photoshop has lots of selection tools to choose from. There are tools for making geometric selections, tools for drawing freeform selections, and tools for making a selection automatically. There’s even a Remove Background quick action button in the Properties panel that does the work for you!

As you work with Photoshop, you’ll start to see which selection tools are best for which situations. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • If your photo features one subject, try using Select Subject to automatically select that subject. 
  • If there are multiple subjects, use the Object Selection tool to zero in on the one you want to select.
Two part image of a woman on a blue background and a room with various blue objects
  • If the area you want to select has a well-defined edge, try dragging with the Quick Selection tool.
  • If you’re selecting a solid color background, try the Magic Wand tool.
  • If you select too much, use the Subtract from Selection option available with many selection tools.
  • To fine-tune a selection made with any selection tool, jump into the Select and Mask workspace, which has dedicated brushes and controls for refining a selection.

Select the background or the subject

Whether to select the background or the subject depends on the image. A good approach is to select the area that looks easiest to isolate. For example, a plain blue sky in the background will be easier to select than a complex subject in the foreground. If you do select the background rather than the subject, invert the selection so that the subject is selected before you fine-tune and mask in the next step.

A bridge photographed from underneath

Fine-tune the selection

Your initial selection probably won’t be perfect. Photoshop has a dedicated Select and Mask workspace for fine-tuning selections. In that workspace, you can make your selection fit the image more precisely and smooth out any rough selection edges.

Woman holding a chihuahua dog selected to isolate and change the background color

You can output the refined selection in the form of a layer mask that hides the background without deleting it. The advantage of a layer mask is that it protects the original layer, whereas selecting and deleting parts of the layer itself does not.

Add a new background

Drag a new background into your image and position it under the image layer in the Layers panel. The new background will appear wherever there is black on the image layer’s mask. Experiment with different backgrounds—solid colors, color gradients, patterns, and images—to get the look you want.

Woman holding a chihuahua dog with a pink and white striped background
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