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How to Change the background in Photoshop, quick, easy tutorial

How to replace a background in Photoshop Tutorial

Learn the quickest and best way to cut out a photo and put it on a different background in Photoshop. This Photoshop tutorial uses Select and mask in Photoshop CC.

In this case, I shot the model, Callan against a seamless background made of gray Savage paper. I recommend using a simple background if you know you are going to cut out the photo. If you have a complex background, use this tutorial, on cutting out difficult images. 

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© Colin Smith Photography

Step 1

Choose the quick selection tool


Step 2

Click on Select Subject in the top (if CC 2019 or newer), otherwise select with the quick selection tool

Select subject in Photoshop


Step 3, refine the selection

Use the quick select brush to add to the selection by using a small brush and clicking on areas to add to the selection. To deselect areas, hold down the alt/option key and use the quick select brush.

Quick selection tool refining selection with Quick selection tool


Step 4

Click on Select and Mask

Select and mask

Note the view and Opacity settings I have chosen to show the cutout on a white background.

Select and Mask in Photoshop CC

Step 5

Turn on Show edges

show edges in refine edge

Adjust the radius until you see a thin outline.

making selection in Photoshop

Turn off “Show Edges”

hide the selection edges


Step 6

Use the refine brush around the hair refine brush tutorial

refining long wavy hair in photoshop cut out tutorial


Step 7

Choose New Layer with Layer Mask from the options

Click OK

output settings for select and mask

the photoshop cutout

Step 8

Open the image with the new background

new background Airforce Academy
@ Colin Smith Photography

Step 9

Go back to your cutout image

Make sure you have the layer selected and not the mask.

Select layer, not mask

Drag into the menu tab for the new background (don’t let go yet) wait for the window to open

combining images in Photoshop

Drop the photo on the new background. (If you are stuck on this step, see this tutorial)

person on new background

Step 10

Press Ctrl/Cmd+T for free transform

Photoshop free transform

Position, Scale and rotate the layer to fit the background.

The final image on a new background showing layers in Photoshop

Try it against some other backgrounds if you like.

Alternative background #1  Alternative background #2


Xtra Credit

Check out these tutorials to help you get a good match on your 2 images, this is called a composite. (Hit the search magnifying glass at the top of the site to search for more free Photoshop tutorials on Compositing.)


Thanks for checking out this simple tutorial.

Leave a comment and let me know what you’d like to learn next.

Don’t forget to join out mailing list for me free tutorials each week.


Great to see you here at the CAFE!



Here are some more tutorials on Cutting out images in Photoshop


25 responses to “How to Change the background in Photoshop, quick, easy tutorial”

  1. Hi Colin,

    I already knew how to do this, but my biggest area I need to practise, is to match the lighting and shadows after cutting out an image and matching the shadows and lighting to make the image appear inbedded into the background.

  2. Oh, by the way, I know how to apply a drop shadow and use the dodge and burn tools, just wondered if there were other ways to give the figures natural lighting and shadow that match with the background.

  3. Absolutely love your tutorials. Thanks so much. Is there a way to download your tutorials so I can put
    them on my desktop for easy reference?

  4. Biggest challenge for me: compositing, especially for use in Premiere Pro or After Effects. Also, the refine edge brush is a real hassle when making selections from a non-solid background.

  5. I’ve had a few occasions recently of having to separate a subject from a similarly toned background. (A very narrow) Color Range does a so-so job (quick selection won’t really work). Is there some other selection technique I’m missing (these were scanned B+W negatives, so selecting the best channel wasn’t an option)?

    • yes, I have lots of tuts on cutting out and masking here at the CAFE. Browse through them, or go to the search box at the top of the page

  6. I only have PS5. extracting hair, feathers, as I do quite a bit of Bird photography and need to change BG’s, and semi transparent items is a nightmare. Obviusly, cleaner the background the easier but one still ends up with problems. Is there a simple way to overcome this. Have tried various techniques from other tutorials but still struggle.

  7. Great stuff Colin, thanks. Biggest problem I have is after I’ve cut out my subject and put it into a new background, it always looks like it’s been added on and not part of the photograph.

  8. Thanks Colin! I have been trying to do this technique but it was not possible until I saw the tutorial. Usually I had to remove backgrounds and I been wasted a lot of time, now I can do that easy, clean an fast!!!

  9. My biggest problem is switching from CS3 to CC 2019 – trying to catch up with the new way to use the tools. I am thankful to you for helping me with that successfully. …but it is slow.

  10. Colin,
    After copying every word in a different tutorial by PS, turns out that in v21.1.2. there are no options in Output Settings like ‘layer mask.’ So what do I do now? Thanks. I am so close to doing this and now this glitch!

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