Background Removal with Layer Masks

Essential Shortcuts

Space Bar – Allows you to use the mouse to pan around the screen, without the need to use the scroll-bars. Absolutely essential.

Bracket Keys [ ] – Using the bracket keys allows you to quickly increase or decrease the brush size without accessing the dialog options.

D and X – D will set the foreground colours to default Black and White, X will cycle between them.

• Ctrl+ / Ctrl- / Ctrl0 – Ctrl (Cmd) +/- will zoom in or out, and Ctrl (Cmd) 0 will fit the document to the screen. Great for checking your progress.

Background Removal with Layer Masks:
The idea is to apply a layer mask to the image, then paint out the image you want to keep using a soft or hard brush when needed. After carefully tracing the object to then remove the background using the lasso tool to select the area and fill it black (on the layer mask to make it transparent.

Layer Masks are a great way to get started as they allow you to deal with objects of varying density; such as sharp edges and soft-edges such as animal fur or hair.

My attempt:

Soft edge brush to trace outline.


Create a selection around the surrounding area and through the ‘path’ I created with the Brush – and fill that selection with Black


Dealing with elements such as hair and fur, where the surfaces are not as well defined – increase your brush size to achieve a more ‘feathered’ edge.


Original stock, and my attempt to remove the background.

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