Dec 03, 2014

How to Create and Replace a Custom Background in Photoshop

Custom Backgrounds

From cutting subjects out to switching backgrounds to any pattern of your choosing, this is one episode you don’t want to miss!

Magic Wand

First, the subject needs to be cut out from the background. A great tool for this is the Magic Wand tool! Start selecting, and hold Shift to add to that selection when needed. A helpful aspect of this tool is that you can change the tolerance; if you’re selecting too much, lower the tolerance.

The hair is a little trickier than the rest of the body, and we must refine the edge of the selection. Go to  Select ->Refine Edge. Choose the best view to help you out; in this case, we use the overlay view. Click on the refine edge tool, and paint over the edges of the hair. Doing this will momentarily “erase” the mask from those edges, but will then select only what is similar to the remaining mask. In other words, it should perfectly select out only the hair.

  • We are going to use this selection to create a layer mask, and we want that mask to apply to all of our future layers. So, put the layer into a group, and put the layer mask onto that group rather than the layer itself. Now, any layers you add to the group will have the same mask applied to them, and you won’t have to worry about creating a new mask of your subject over and over.

Step and Repeat

To see how this process works, start by creating any shape and filling it with black. Next, turn it into a selection (hold Cmd and click on the layer).

Step: Opt + Cmd + T to select the pattern. Move it to where you’d like and click enter.

Repeat: Hold Shift + Opt + Cmd + T. This will repeat the duplication that you just completed.

Custom Patterns

Dark patterns on a light background are best for making custom patterns. Go to Edit – Define Pattern. Name it and click OK. Nothing will happen until you go back to the image of your subject and apply it there. Create a new fill layer and select Use: pattern. Select your new pattern in the custom pattern drop down. You can choose different options in the scripted pattern section as well.

Helpful hints:

  • Photographing your subject on a solid colored background is key for this!
  • To turn any layer into a selection, just hold Ctrl/Cmd and click on the thumbnail of the layer.
  • Multiply is a great blend mode if you want your pattern to show up but include shadows as well.


user image You
(will not be published)

      • user image

        super tuto
        i don’t understand something : after refine edge you come back with a selection and create a new layer. isn’t this selection copied on the empty new layer beofre you create the group with the layer mask so you have two masks ?
        and when you paint red to show, is red limited by the mask on the new layer or by the mask of the group ?

        best regards

  • user image

    I have 2 questions.While refining my subject and adding a background I still have a bit of a white cast around her hair. I used the quick selection tool instead of the magic wand. But dont think that should matter. lmk. My other question is. When placing a pattern in the background and selecting one of the scripted patterns and pressing ok. I never get the next dialog box that u see in this vid. Im using cs6. Does it matter if im in 32 or 64 bit? If not should I reset ps defaults??

    • user image

      Here is my example of the problem I am having. If I decide to fill the layer with black this is what I get. But this HALO does not show up too much if not at all when using lighter colors. Sometime I want to use black. But can be a real drag.

  • user image

    Refine Edge – I’m usually cutting things out with a complex background, landscape. When I use refine-edge it reduces the opacity of the cut out selection, or it adds artifacts causing a significant amount of clean-up work.
    Watched many videos about how to use refine edge, no one but me seems to have this problem, can you explain what I’m doing wrong? I’m using CS6 on a PC -Windows 7 pro

  • user image

    I am using CS6 and the menu that opens for you when you chose “spiral” etc is not available for me. Is the customization menu only available under CC?

  • user image

    I am you Fan, And you are soo good in Phlearn …
    you are my teacher in photoshop!!!!
    God Blessed

  • user image
    chad cortez

    wow,, Im a Beginner and I learned a lot,,thank u very much… He’s my friend on that picture

  • user image

    im using a photoshop CC 2014 and there’s no tools like that magic wand what is the alternative tool for that. thank you.

  • user image

    wow suppeerb..! i never use it before cos random i see how it works.
    million thanks

  • user image
    Elizabeth Williams

    I’ve watched so many videos – trying to do a crash course in photoshop for my portfolio – and I have to say YOU are STREETS ahead of other teachers in the game – you communicate clearly, effectively at a great pace and with a contagious enthusiasm!
    You’re amazing – keep it up.
    Elizabeth Williams