Photo Retouching: Background Extraction and Color Manipulation

One of the most common uses of Photoshop is to extract images from their backgrounds, so that they can be introduced into various other projects. There are many ways to accomplish this task, whether through use of the pen tool, magic wand or magic lasso, however there is a tool that is both effective and easy to use which will erase  This tutorial aims to educate the reader about the Background Eraser Tool, as well as how to manipulate colors and lighting in Photoshop.

This tutorial was completed using Photoshop CS4 although previous Creative Suite versions should also work appropriately.

Programs you will need:
Adobe Photoshop CS4

Files Used

Step 1

Open the parrot image in Photoshop.

Step 2

Go to the toolbar and find the eraser tool. Click and hold on the icon until a set of three erasers appear. Click on the Background Eraser Tool.


Step 3

Choose a preferred brush size. A 70 px size brush was used in this tutorial. Also, make certain that the limits are set to Find Edges, the Sampling is Continuous, and the Tolerance at about 15%.


Step 4

Begin to erase around the edges of the parrot. Keep the small “plus sign” in the center of the tool in the background area, to avoid erasing parts of the parrot. The erased parts will look bumpy and circular, but erasing the edges as close as possible is the goal here. This process could take a while depending on experience, so be patient and eventually you will get the hang of it.


Step 5

Once there is a nicely sized border around the parrot, delete the rest of the background. You can use marquees, the magic wand tool, or eraser tool to accomplish this.


Step 6

The parrot’s plumage is very nice, but the next goal is to really exaggerate the colors and make them stand out. Go to Image > Adjustments > Vibrance and change the settings to +100 on Vibrance and +20 on Saturation. This will allow the subtile colors in the photo to stand out. This can best be seen on the top of the parrot’s beak, with the blue color now becoming more prominent.



Step 7

Now that the colors have been brought out, many different colored variants for the parrot may be applied. Go to Image > Adjustments > Selective Color and play with the settings there. Below are a few examples of what can be achieved, and the methods used to achieve them.

p7 p8

p10 p9

p11 p12

p13 p14

There are thousands of combinations that can be achieved through this process. Whichever color(s) that the parrot becomes is up to you!

If you have any questions or comments about this tutorial, feel free to e-mail me at Thanks for reading!

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12 Responses to Photo Retouching: Background Extraction and Color Manipulation

  1. Ted Rex says:

    Great tutorial, easy to follow. I posted a link to this page on my daily design blog:


  2. Thanks for the link Ted.

  3. Stone Deft says:

    Nice one. I always apply a subtle blur using the blur tool on the edges of my extracted pictures to hide jagged and sharp pixels.

    cheers keep it coming !

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  11. Eric says:

    Nice tutorial, really useful this background eraser tool.

  12. Armel AERTS says:

    Easy and useful basic technique training. Well written.