Photoshop background clean-up... a tutorial

I haven't written a tutorial in a while, so here it goes.

This is a technique one for a quick background clean up when you have a large space to replace. I really like this technique, especially when my background is simple. It can also work to clean up those blankets in newborn shots, or when you are cloning an item out of a photo with a fairly even background.

I'm starting with this photo....

Before we begin, I am using Photoshop CC, but this technique is the same in Photoshop Elements. You'll notice in my photo that the top right-hand corner of the photo is a different color. That is because when I took the picture my background ran out there, but I knew I'd crop this photo so I did not take the time to fix it in shot. I also knew it would be a quick fix in Photoshop.

STEP ONE: Once you have opened your photo in Photoshop/Elements, the fist step is to create a new layer. When you click the new layer button below on PPCC you will notice a new layer popup into your layers column. (I have two layers because I did not want to begin my editing process again.)

STEP TWO: With your new layer selected, you are now going to head over to the eyedropper to select a color in your photo. Click the eyedropper icon to the left of the photo on your toolbar in PSCC. Choose a spot in your image to select the color of the image. {I choose a spot on the image that is as close to the area I want to fix.} Click that spot using the eyedropper to select your chosen color.

STEP FOUR: Click your brush icon in the toolbar. I have taken a screenshot so you can see what brush I normally choose for this. I like to work with the airbrush, with the opacity set at 100%. I size the brush large enough that it does not take forever to fill in the photo.

STEP FIVE: With your new layer chosen, begin to paint on the color over the part of the image you want to fill in. Once you are done with your final edit remember to "merge visible" in your drop-down menu on your layer panel.


  • When choosing your color pallet with your eyedropper, be sure to stay out of the "black" area  when you have a lighter image. Once you play with this technique a bit you will understand more what I mean. If you choose that area, your color will be much darker and it will not match the rest of your backdrop.
  • Sometimes it takes a couple tries on clicking your image to select the right color to paint with. You can always delete the layer and start over, or back out of an edit if you do not like the color.
  • It you have a gradient background in your photo, you can still use this technique by creating several layers to paint on (steps 1 through 5). Then, you will slowly bring down the opacity and paint on with each new layer until you have blended the two colors.
  • I also use this technique to edit items out of my photos.