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:
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.
Your “before” should look something like this:
(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).
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.
Step 3: Open Levels
Select the top layer and go to Image > Adjustments > 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.
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:
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:
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:
Your new layer mask looks like this:
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.)
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).
Set its Opacity to 100%.
(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.
Step 9: Change to Black
Make Black the brush color (click the tiny “swap” arrows if black is not on top already)
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:
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:
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.
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.