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Using The Background Eraser Tool

This tutorial will help refresh your memory as to how one can best extract/merge objects together within the shortest period of time using one of the most basic Photoshop tool many tend to overlook- the Background Eraser!

The main function of the Background Eraser tool is to turn an image’s color pixels to transparent so you can easily remove unnecessary objects from the image. With precise setting, you can maintain the edges of the foreground object while erasing the background.

When this Background Eraser’s pointer drag through the area you want to erase, pixels within the circle and similar color value as the pixel under the hot spot(shown as cross symbol) will be erased. If the circle overlaps your foreground object, and it doesn’t contain any pixels similar to the hot spot pixel, the foreground object will remain.

This is a faster way to extract objects out as compare with the traditional Channel Mask. But it is also very difficult to modify the color pixel once you have erased the background. It is therefore crucial to determine the right setting before you start erasing unwanted color pixels. Or you can choose to duplicate another layer for back up purposes in case you need to retouch the foreground pixel in later stage.

Let’s have a look at the Background Eraser tool options as stated below:

Brush Preset Picker Set the presets of the brush, such as size, diameter, hardness, and spacing. Choosing the right setting at the beginning is crucial as it can influence the entire result.

Limits Select Contiguous to erase areas that contain the “hot spot” color and are connected to one another. Discontiguous erases any pixels within the circle that are similar to the hot spot color. Use Find Edges to erase the background along the edges of the foreground.

Tolerance Defines how similar in color to the hot spot. A low tolerance limits erasure to areas that are very similar to the hot spot color. A high tolerance erases a broader range of colors. Always test the tolerance amount before you attempt to remove all background color and pixel. If you know how to precisely set the parameters of the Background Eraser, it can be a very powerful tool.

Step 1

To begin with, open all the images of your favorite scenery or landscape and move it to a 300 Resolution file size with Width: 1680 pixels and Height: 1050 pixels (depending on your own screen resolution). Next, move these individual images into its respective folders (as shown above) to ease handling the images in later stage.

Step 2

Main Scene Image ID: 3950438 © David Acosta

Scene 1 Image ID: 3695345 © creepers888

Scene 2 Image ID: 813392 © Mike Norton

Scene 3 Image ID: 4912404 © Jianfei Su

Scene 4 Image ID: 4912420 © Jianfei Su

Scene 5 Image ID: 4912409 © Jianfei Su

Scene 6 Image ID: 4550281 © Jianfei Su

Although we have a couple of images at hand, we only need to focus on the main scene for now. Try not to drag all the images into the layout at the same time because this might be confusing even to yourself. First and foremost, drag the “Main Scene” picture into the layout and then decide how big you want the composition to be. After that, drag in Scene 1 to Scene 6. You’ll now see the basic composition of my scenery picture.

Step 3

Select the Background Eraser tool from the tool palette or press Shift + E a few times until you see the Background Eraser Icon.

Step 4

Click all the Eye Icon (Indicates layers visibility) to invisible, leaving only the “Main” folder in the Layers’ panel. Duplicate an extra layer of it and named it as “Background Erase”. The original image can be called “Back Up” (to be used if anything goes wrong during the erasing process). This is a very important step in any image manipulation process.

When you are done, click the Eye Icon off in the “Back Up” layer and only show “Background Erase” layer. For this image, my Background Eraser setting would be Brush: 80px, Limits: Find Edges, Tolerance: 15%. When the Background Eraser’s pointer drags through the area you want to erase, pixels within the circle will be erased. The setting basically depends on the difficulty of the foreground and its edges. Every scenery image will need a different Background Eraser setting.

Step 5

In Step 4, I tried to erase the foreground’s edges. The rest of the wasted pixel can be eliminated using the normal Eraser Tool. With accurate execution, you can easily maintain the edges of the foreground object while removing unwanted background. Once done, the Main Scene image should look something like this.

Step 6

Repeat the above techniques for Scene 1 to 6. Erase the scenes’ background one by one. In no time, you will be able to see the entire structure of the artwork as shown here. Step 7

Face Sculptures 1 Image ID: 3091086 © Ivonne Wierink

Face Sculptures 2 Image ID: 3125327 © Ivonne Wierink

Clouds & Front Ground Image ID: 5304403 © Arvydas Kniukšta

Bird Image ID: 3229240 © Maryna Maschewsky

Building Image ID: 2584797 © Dario Bajurin

Gradually add in other elements using the Background Eraser tool. I’ve added in some face sculptures to strengthen the mystic feel of the scenery and a front ground to create more depth of field and a better perspective angle to the scene. The bird is an element I’ve added to make this image look more lively and the cloudy sky is a suitable element for this enchanted land.

Step 8

In order to make this scenery more unified, we can use the following techniques to join the different image edges together. Press E to select Eraser Tool and set the Brush type toSpatter. This brush will provide a better solution when you are trying to join two different objects with lots of details together. Using a normal brush will result in the object edges being too smooth and looking fake. It is therefore recommended to change the brush size regularly as this can help create irregular pattern for the object’s edge and result in a more natural effect.

For the face sculptures, use a Spatter Brush to touch up the edges of the object. If you understand the Layer Mask technique by now, you should know how to change the opacity amount to create a realistic effect of merging the face sculptures’ pattern with the Main Scene’s mountain texture.

Step 9

As the scenery is a combination of different images, we can expect to see different color hues throughout the image (Notice that the green forest area on both sides are different compared to the center). Thus, the next step is to adjust all the colors to a similar light source effect.

Do note that we can’t specifically use the same technique to adjust all the images. For example, Scene 5’s color is very bright and contain a high saturation of green color as compared to Scene 4. I’ll need to solve it in two separate steps.

First and foremost, I’ll need to go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation or press Ctrl + U. The first level is to edit the Master Saturation (Ctrl + ~) amount to -40, Yellows Saturation (Ctrl + 2) to -20, Greens Saturation (Ctrl + 3) to -40 and Blues Saturation (Ctrl + 5) to -15.

Next, go to Image > Adjustments > Selective Color to give the red rocks more yellow. Choose Red and set its Magenta level to -55 and Yellow to +50.

Scene 5 should look more similar to the surrounding scenery by now.

There are many color-corrective options available other than the two I’ve mentioned above. Just let your observation judge and select an appropriate method to modify accordingly.

Step 10

Once you have adjusted all the layers, the artwork should be more synchronized and comfortable.

Step 11

When you are finally done with all the adjustments and are satisfied with the outcome, Flatten all layers in the Layers’ panel. Then use the Color Balance option (Ctrl + B) or Curves(Ctrl + M) to enhance the entire scenery effect. If you have Photoshop plug-in filters, you should be able to complete the coloring task easier.

Step 12

Dinasour 1 Image ID: 266608 © Scott Sanders

Dinasour 2 Image ID: 327571 © Elena Ray

Dinasour 3 Image ID: 366556 © Ritu Jethani

Dinasour 4 Image ID: 610451 © Andreas Meyer

Dinasour 5 Image ID: 844967 © Andreas Meyer

Dinasour 6 Image ID: 991328 © Michal Adamczyk

Dinasour 7 Image ID: 3617551 © pista23

Dinasour 8 Image ID: 5310880 © Ralf KRaft

Dinasour 9 Image ID: 5400274 © Ralf KRaft

Dinosaur Land Image ID: 2983674 © Mariusz Jurgielewicz

If you are not fully satisfied with the above silent landscape, you can add in more elements to enhance the illustration and make it more exciting, like a land of the dinosaurs!

This is it. Hope you can make use of this Background Eraser tool while working on similar jobs next time.

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