Creating a Black Background using Photoshop

Above is the final result of this tutorial.

Here is a photo of a brown bear that I took at the Bronx Zoo. I think he came out interesting, but I think that the rocks in the background are a little distracting. I could blur them, or I could turn the background black. In this case I’ll make the background black and see how it comes out.

The first thing I do is drop the image into Photoshop:

The next thing I do is create a new layer. Hit CTRL-J on the keyboard. You’ll see in the layer palette Layer 1. I’m going to double-click on the word (Layer 1) and rename it to “Bear”. It’s always a good idea to name your layers even though in this case I’ll be using only one:

The next thing I’ll do is start painting the background black. For this I’m going to use the paint brush from the tools palette. Make sure the color black is selected and is in the foreground of the color box:

Don’t worry about making a sloppy selection. Just try to get out as much background as you can. In my selection I even chopped off the bear’s ears. No big deal. The next step will fix this problem.

The next thing you’ll do is create a mask. Just click on the mask icon at the bottom of the layers palette and you’ll see the mask box appear in the top layer labeled “Bear”:

Before you start painting back parts of the bear, it’s important to see what you’re doing. In the layers palette go to the Opacity and bring it down enough to see through the image. For this image, 60% looks good.

Next, make sure the mask is selected on the bear layer and start painting. Zoom in close to the object and take your time. Black reveals and white conceals. You have to switch back and forth by clicking on the double arrow, and you’ll see the boxes switching back and forth between white and black. Test it with the paintbrush back and forth between black and white to see the results:


  • When you’re painting back the main subject, lower the opacity of the brush itself around the edges, especially if the subject has fur.
  • Use a soft paint brush, it will allow you to make seamless brush strokes. A hard brush will give the appearance of harsh brush strokes and you don’t want that.
  • Keep going back and forth with the opacity from the layers palette to see how you’re doing.
  • Remember: Anything worth your time is worth doing right, so take your time and listen to music while you’re working. Rushing through a project will look rushed through. A project like this might seem tedious. If you get tired, take a break. And always remember, as long as you’re happy with your work then life is good.

Here’s the finished image:


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