Photoshop Tutorial: Create a Solid White Background

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10-minute tutorial on how to make a solid white background in Photoshop.  We mean solid white – 255 255 255 white!  This background’s gonna blind people at the beach. 😉

If you’ve ever attempted to create a solid white background behind your product, you’ve probably run into this problem:  making the background bright white makes the object too bright in the process, like so:

photoshop solid white background blown out

Separating your subject from the background is easy when your product is dark and hard-edged, so for this tutorial, I picked pretty much the worst subject I could think of: a fuzzy, soft-edged, off-white blanket.

This easy tutorial will show you how to get a solid white background without making your product look like it’s about to go nuclear.

What You’ll Need

A photo of your product on a near-white background.  Use white posterboard, a sheet, or foam core board to achieve this look.

Read our guide to taking great white background product photos.

Your “before” should look something like this:

photoshop solid white background before

 

(This photo was taken on white posterboard indoors.  I told you I tried to make this the worst possible example. :P)

Step 1: Open Layers Window

Open your Layers window (if it’s not already open).

photoshop solid white background open layers palette

Step 2: Duplicate Layer

Drag your photo layer to the New button to Duplicate it.  You now have two identical copies of your photo in a stack.  It’s a good idea to duplicate layers before you work on them.  It’s like a safety net: if you really mess things up, you can always go back to the original. 

photoshop_duplicateLayer

Step 3: Open Levels

Select the top layer and go to Image > Adjustments > Levels

photoshop solid white background open levels

Step 4: Make it White

Adjust the sliders until the image’s background is pure white with very faint shadows.  

Without getting too technical, Levels adjusts what Photoshop considers the darkest, middle-est, and brightest parts of your image.  By pulling the white slider towards the left, you’re telling Photoshop to consider a wider range of pixels to be “pure white”.  Pull the grey slider to the left, too.  This tells Photoshop to lighten the midtones as well.

photoshop_adjust_tutorial_adjust_levels

Why include faint shadows?  It’ll make the bottom edge look nicer, trust me.  A faint suggestion of shadow is usually better than absolutely no shadow. 

Don’t worry about what happens to the product itself (it’s going to get majorly blown out in this layer, and that’s fine).  You should now have something like this:

photoshop solid white background blown out layer

See that little bit of shadow to the left?  I like that, but you can make yours even brighter if you want to get rid of it (but at that point you might as well just fill the layer with solid white!).

Step 5: Duplicate your Starting Image (Again)

Drag it to the top of the stack, like so:

photoshop solid white background duplicate layer

Step 5: Add a Layer Mask

Select the top layer (the one you made brighter in the Levels adjustment) and click the Add Layer Mask button at the bottom of the Layers palette.  Like so:

photoshop_solid_white_bg_new_layer_mask

Your new layer mask looks like this:

photoshop_solid_white_bg_new_layer_mask_looks_like

Step 6: Select Brush tool

Switch to Brush Tool.  Press B or click on the Brush Tool in the Tools palette.  (If you cannot find your Tools palette, it might be turned off.  Go to Window > Tools to turn it on.)

photoshop_tutorial_brush_tool

Step 7: Select the “Hard Round” brush style 

Your brush palette may look different than mine.  The Hard Round brush is usually early in the list.  It’s got soft edges, but it’s not the airbrush (the airbrush edges are too soft).

photoshop_solid_white_bg_brush_selection

Set its Opacity to 100%.

photoshop_solid_white_bg_brush_opacity

(We’ll worry about its color in a later step.)

Step 8: Click the Layer Mask Itself

In the Layers window, click on the Layer Mask itself

This is the easiest step to make a mistake on.  Click inside the white square. The Layer Mask gets a thin box around it when selected.

photoshop_solid_white_bg_new_layer_mask_looks_like

Step 9: Change to Black

Make Black the brush color (click the tiny “swap” arrows if black is not on top already) 

photoshop_tutorial_swap_colors

Step 10: Airbrush Away the Background

Use the paint brush over the background. Carefully paint out the background around your object.

This step requires some precision.  You should see the area you paint lighten while everything else stays dark.  Since your opacity is set low, you’ll have to “build up” the black on the layer mask by releasing and then clicking again and dragging some more.  It’s better to build up than it is to paint at 100% – this will let you build up darkness and brightness only where you need it.

The layer mask icon shows your progress:

photoshop_solid_white_bg_layer_mask

Basically, what you are doing here is telling Photoshop which parts of the top image to use (the parts in the “white” portion of the mask) and which parts to make transparent (the “black” parts of the mask).  The layer below (the near-white version of your photo) shows through wherever you paint black.

If you make a mistake or go too dark, press X to swap to white and paint over the area.  Flip between white and black by pressing X anytime as you paint. Depending on the complexity of your object, this process might take several minutes or longer.  Here’s an up-close look at my progress:

photoshop solid white background paint layer mask to reveal white background

End Result

The background is fully removed except for a faint suggestion of a shadow to the left of the blanket roll.  I carefully painted around the ribbon and folds.

photoshop solid white background complete after

Is this technique appropriate for every product? Nope. 🙂  It’s completely up to you whether you go for a stark-white background or a more natural-looking setting.


Hello there! I'm Mandi, a lifelong crafter with a passion for helping others use technology. DIYCraftPhotography shows artisans how to photograph and publicize their handmade goodies. Thank you for visiting!

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Comments

  1. Jennifer Craig says:

    What photoshop are you using in this tutorial…..more info please. I have windows 8.

  2. Thank you, I’m going to have to try this for my jewelry photos!

  3. anynymous admirator says:

    Hi. I really want to thank you soooo much for this!
    I was looking for something quick and simple. I have to upload a lot f products on a daily basis and I don’t have the time neither the energy to “cut out” every simgle product.
    this is PETFECT I tried it and I was Sooooo impressed with the result! just thank you!! you changed my life lol

  4. Thank you so much for this! Fairly simple and easy to follow! Helped me so much with some products for a stockist’s website!

  5. am i missing something? what happens in between step ten and the finished result that gives it its finished look? how do you get off the screen with all the black? am i the only one who’s confused about whats going on here?

  6. This is a good tutorial for beginner, but this absolutely like Mandi said this doesn’t always apply to all photograph. It does depend on how you photographed your item and the photo quality itself.

    Well, if you don’t want to get stressed by these stuff. Maybe my company could be a solution for you.