How to Make a Background White in Photoshop CS5: A Step-by-Step Guide

Making a background white in Photoshop CS5 is a straightforward process. It involves selecting the background, creating a layer mask, inverting the selection, and then painting the background white. After completing these steps, the background of your image will be transformed into a clean, white canvas.

Once you’ve made the background white, your subject will stand out more, and the image will have a cleaner, more professional look. This is particularly useful for product photos, headshots, or any image where you want to eliminate distractions and focus attention on the main subject.


Photoshop CS5 is a powerful tool that offers endless possibilities for photo editing. Among its many capabilities is the ability to change the background color of an image to white, which is particularly useful for photographers, graphic designers, and anyone looking to create a clean and professional look for their images.

But why is this important, you might ask? Well, a white background is almost like a blank canvas; it’s versatile and makes the subject of the photo pop. It’s no wonder it’s the go-to choice for e-commerce product photos, headshots, and many other types of images. Whether you’re looking to sell products online, create marketing materials, or simply improve your photo editing skills, learning how to make a background white in Photoshop CS5 is an essential technique that can help you achieve your goals.

Step by Step Tutorial: How to Make a Background White in Photoshop CS5

Before we dive into the step-by-step process, let’s quickly talk about what you’ll achieve by following these steps. You’ll learn how to isolate the background from the subject, create a layer mask, and fill the background with white, resulting in a crisp, clean backdrop for your image.

Step 1: Open Your Image in Photoshop CS5

Open the image you want to edit in Photoshop CS5.

Opening your image is the first and arguably the easiest step. Simply launch Photoshop CS5, go to ‘File’ in the top menu, and select ‘Open’ to choose your image. Once you have your image up, you’re ready to get started.

Step 2: Select the Background

Use the Magic Wand Tool or Quick Selection Tool to select the background.

Once your image is open, you need to select the background. You can use the Magic Wand Tool if the background is a solid color and different from the subject. If the background is more complex, the Quick Selection Tool is a better choice. Click and drag over the background to select it.

Step 3: Refine the Edge of the Selection

Click on ‘Refine Edge’ to adjust the selection and ensure it’s accurate.

After selecting the background, you’ll want to refine the edges of your selection, especially around the subject. Click on ‘Refine Edge’ in the options bar and adjust the sliders to perfect the selection. Pay special attention to areas with hair or fine details.

Step 4: Create a Layer Mask

With the background selected, create a layer mask.

Creating a layer mask allows you to hide the background without permanently deleting it. With the background still selected, click on the ‘Add layer mask’ icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. This will mask the background, making it transparent.

Step 5: Invert the Selection

Invert the layer mask to reveal the subject and hide the background.

Now that you have a layer mask, invert it by selecting the mask thumbnail in the Layers panel and pressing Ctrl+I (Cmd+I on Mac). This will switch the visible and hidden areas, revealing your subject against a transparent background.

Step 6: Paint the Background White

Create a new layer, move it below the subject layer, and fill it with white.

Finally, create a new layer by clicking the ‘New Layer’ icon. Drag this layer below your subject layer in the Layers panel. Select the Paint Bucket Tool, set the foreground color to white, and click on the new layer to fill it with white. Voila! You now have a white background.


Professional LookA white background gives photos a clean, professional appearance, making the subject stand out.
Focus on SubjectWithout any background distractions, the viewer’s attention is drawn directly to the subject.
VersatilityWhite backgrounds are versatile and suitable for various applications, from e-commerce to portraiture.


Time-ConsumingSelecting and refining the background can be a time-consuming process, especially for complex images.
Requires PrecisionAchieving a clean selection around the subject requires precision, which can be challenging for beginners.
Potential for ErrorMistakes in selection or masking can result in an unnatural-looking final image.

Additional Information

While the steps outlined above will generally get you a white background, there are some additional tips to keep in mind. For instance, if your subject has a lot of fine detail, like hair or fur, you might want to use the ‘Refine Hair’ option in the ‘Refine Edge’ dialog to ensure those details aren’t lost. Also, if you’re dealing with a subject that’s very similar in color to the background, you might need to use a combination of selection tools to get an accurate selection.

Another useful tip is to zoom in on the areas where the subject meets the background as you work on your selection. This will help you see and refine the edges more precisely. And don’t forget, practice makes perfect! The more you practice these techniques, the faster and more efficient you’ll become at making backgrounds white in Photoshop CS5.


  1. Open your image in Photoshop CS5.
  2. Select the background using the appropriate selection tool.
  3. Refine the edge of the selection for accuracy.
  4. Create a layer mask to hide the background.
  5. Invert the layer mask to make the subject visible.
  6. Paint the new layer white to create the white background.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if the Magic Wand Tool selects part of the subject instead of just the background?

If the Magic Wand Tool selects part of the subject, try reducing the tolerance level in the options bar or use the Quick Selection Tool for more control.

Can I make the background a different color instead of white?

Absolutely! Instead of filling the new layer with white, simply choose any color you like as the foreground color and fill the layer with it.

What should I do if the edges of my subject look rough after masking?

You can smooth and refine the edges by clicking on ‘Refine Edge’ and adjusting the sliders for a more natural transition.

How do I avoid losing detail in my subject’s hair when making the background white?

Use the ‘Refine Hair’ option in the ‘Refine Edge’ dialog to specifically target and retain hair details during the selection process.

Is there a way to automate this process for multiple images?

Photoshop CS5 offers batch processing and actions that you can record and apply to multiple images, automating repetitive tasks like background removal.


Mastering how to make a background white in Photoshop CS5 is a game-changer, especially for those in the photography and design industries. It’s a skill that can elevate your work, bringing a level of professionalism and focus to your images that’s hard to achieve otherwise.

While it might seem tricky at first, with a bit of practice and patience, you’ll be swapping out backgrounds like a pro. So, go ahead, give it a try, and watch how a simple white background can transform your images from average to extraordinary.

Get Our Free Newsletter

How-to guides and tech deals

You may opt out at any time.
Read our Privacy Policy