Photoshop Tutorial: How to Remove Backgrounds

Learn how to use the Pen tool to remove the background of a photo and create silhouettes on Photoshop, with Klarens Malluta

The Pen tool is mightier than the sword but you have to know how to use it. One of its most common and useful functions is to divide elements of an image into separate pieces, such as the foreground and background of a photo.

Klarens Malluta (klarens.malluta) is a self-taught digital artist who has worked with clients from across the world. In this tutorial, he demonstrates how to cut a background from an image and create a silhouette from a photo using the Pen tool in Photoshop.

1. Prepare your tools

Select the Pen tool and ensure it is set to the Path option. Click to place your first node just off of the side of the image. Zoom in on your image to make it easier to draw an accurate line around the element you want to extract from your background.

2. Draw the line

Clicking your cursor in another place will create another node and a straight line which connects both points. The line will then connect to any further nodes you make. This is how you will create your line.

If you want to curve the line at any point you can click and hold, dragging the cursor to shift the angle of the bend. To return to a straight line, click on the last node while holding the Alt key and drag a new line from that point.

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3. Drawing details

You will often find that a rough outline is more than sufficient when using the Pen tool on elements that are not the focal point of your image. However, when you are working on key elements of the image, make sure to be more accurate as this is where people’s eyes will be drawn.

To close the path you have drawn, you will need to return to the first node. The simplest and least destructive way to do this is usually by drawing around the outside of the image. Then, you can delete your background.

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4. Silhouette

Once you have deleted your background, you may still see elements that were not included in your initial path. Follow the same process you did before to refine any remaining detailed areas.
Then, you can add another adjustment layer. Go to Layer and create a Clipping Mask. Open the Hue settings and reduce Lightness to -100 to create a silhouette.

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If you liked this tutorial, check out Klarens Malluta’s online course, Psychedelic Animation with Photoshop and After Effects to learn more about how to explore your imagination and design futuristic abstract animations full of color.

You may also like:

- Digital Fantasy Portraits with Photoshop, a course by Karmen Loh (Bearbrickjia)
- Digital Painting for Characters: Color and Light, a course by Joel Santana
- Lighting Principles for Digital Painting, a course by Samuel Smith

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