How to Create a Transparent Background in Photoshop

Creating transparent backgrounds in Photoshop is an easy process that can take any busy image and make it crisp and clear. Here is a two part tutorial – the first part is for a “quick” fix transparent background, and the second part is for a more lengthy but more accurate way.

Version of Photoshop Used in Tutorial: CS5

Part One – Quick Transparent Backgrounds with the Magic Wand.

1. Start with an image, any one will work though one with a contrasting background is always best. I’ve chosen an image here of a bright colored daisy on a contrasting green background. As you can see I have already opened this file in Photoshop.

2. Next, duplicate your background image and hide the original layer.

Once these basic steps are complete it is time to edit. Make sure your duplicate layer is selected in the layers panel.

3. Select the “Magic Wand” tool from your tool bar.

4. Using the “Magic Wand” tool, Shift+Click in all the areas that you would like to delete. This will select everything you are hoping to get rid of. As you can see, I have selected all of the green area. You will know an area is selected when it has the "marching ants" surrounding it.

5. With your image still selected, go to Select > Modify > Feather (or Shift+F9).

Make sure the feather is set to 1 and click OK

6. Delete your selection by hitting the delete button on your keyboard. The area you selected will disappear. The only area left is your main image, in my case a daisy.

In order to save the image with a transparent background, you cannot save it as a JPG. Try saving as a PNG file, as this keeps the quality but allows for transparent pixels.

You can notice that in this quick method, your background was erased, but some areas are not perfect. Using an image with a high contrast background does help, but the magic eraser is not an infallible tool. If you plan to print an image on a large scale, or need a more detailed approach, try Part Two instead.

Part Two – Detailed Transparent Backgrounds with the Lasso

1. Follow steps 1-3 in Part One.

2. Select the Polygonal Lasso Tool from the toolbar.

3. Make sure the feather is set to "1".

4. Zoom in at least 200-300%, and begin to slowly select the area around your image. Continue until the entire image is selected. The grey line in the image below is what you will see as you click around your image.

5. Once you have your image entirely selected, Right Click within the selection and select "Layer via copy"

Alternately, you can invert your selection (Shift+Ctrl+I or Select > Inverse) and press the delete key on your keyboard.

Your completed image should look similar to the one below. As in Part One, save as a PNG file.

By following these steps you will have images with transparent backgrounds and well contoured edges. Don’t forget to test all of the different methods to find the quickest approach for you.


Matt Robison's picture

Easy to follow. Thanks!

Andrea's picture

Great, and very easy to understand. Thank you!

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