Background Eraser Composites

April 13, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

There are several ways to approach composite images. All methods require you to plan a little ahead so that you know how you will plan to handle images in post production as you are shooting them. The method that I wish to discuss in this post involves using the Background eraser tool in Photoshop.


The shoot

I shot the model against a clean green background. I choose green because I knew I wanted to composite a floral background.

Basic photoshop setup

  • I loaded a digital floral background into to a layer in photoshop
  • I added the image of the model on with the green background, the same size as the floral image. (You can use the free transform tool or resize your images, depending upon your preference)
  • I duplicated the model image (control) (command J)
  • I placed the floral image in between the copies of my model. Since the floral image served as a background layer, I needed to rename it. (see above layers panel).

The Composite

  • I chose the background eraser tool (This is a brush, so I made it large and soft)
  • On the top tool bar there are three eye dropper tools, The first tool is for continuous sampling, the second is to sample once, and the third is to sample background swatch. I choose sampling once which means that once you select an area under the brush, it will only sample once that color as long as you keep your mouse key depressed. 
  • I selected the top layer, which happened to be the model on a green background
  • I choose a tolerance of 80 (top toolbar), which is relatively high. I wanted to sample only the shade of green from the background and no other similar colors.
  • I left the setting discontiguous setting at default. This allows sampling of green (in my case) in areas not necessarily connected to one another.
  • As I moved the brush over the image, the background appeared with the green vanishing. If you look at your layers palate, the top layer background will now appear white. There was not much green in my model, so I could be fairly free in moving the brush through her hair and along her shoulders. The result is what you see above.


This technique was successful in this case because of the following:

  • I chose a plain background without a pattern
  • It is lit very evenly.
  • The background did not have colors similar to my model
  • What is really special about this process, is that you can clearly see strands of hair were not affected by the composite.

If you try this technique, you may have to experiment with settings such as tolerance but with a little planning it can work very well. Here is a short video link describing the process in a slightly different type of image. Although the speaker uses a grey background, I would not suggest that color if photographing people. Depending how the model and/or the background is lit, this technique may not work well.

Some people may ask, why not use the magic wand tool? Well, that may be an option although you will not likely have the control with this magic wand tool as you have with this technique. 

Have fun and give it a try!