Changing Backgrounds

A couple of friends Flickr-mailed and left me comments and notes asking about how I changed my background in yesterday’s images. So, as promised, here’s a step-by-step tutorial, using the last of the three photos I took yesterday.

1. Open photo file in Photoshop. Note that this is my edited image, meaning, I’ve already done all the adjustments that I wanted to do to the original photo before opening this file. The original bluish-purple background is an accent wall in Y’s room. The light is from a window, camera left, that is diffused by a sheer white curtain.

2. Open then copy and paste (or drag) pattern to a new layer. Note that the pattern’s png file is rather small so we need to duplicate it until we come up with something like…

3. … this.

Where to find patterns? There are plenty of resources available on the web. My personal favorite is They have lots of cc-licensed patterns to choose from, plus a couple of them give you not just png but .pat files, as well. The advantage of a .pat file is that you don’t have to stitch patterns together anymore. Once you load it to Photoshop, you can easily access it through layer>new fill layer>patterns and choose the size you want.

Anyway, make sure your printed background is on top of your photo layer (background).

4. Turn off the visibility of your pattern layer, highlight background, and click on select>color range.

5. Make sure “sampled colors” is selected. Fuzziness more or less determines how wide the scope of the dropper is. I set mine to 15. Now, while pressing “shift” (I’m working on a Mac so I don’t know if the command keys are the same as when you’re using a PC), move over the white portion of the small box, until all that’s left is the silhouette of your subject.

6. Once you press OK, you’ll see this.

7. Now, turn the visibility of your pattern back on, highlight that layer, and click on add layer mask (it’s the button beside fx in the lowest tool box). You should have something like this. You can clean up traces of your old background using refine edge (select>refine edge) or the brush or erase tools.

8. Because I wanted to keep the color, shadows and a little bit of the texture of my original blue background, I changed the blending mode of the pattern layer to soft light, and lowered the opacity to 50%. It also made the background a bit more real, I think.

If, however, you want to retain the original brown color, I suggest adding a new gradient layer (layer>new fill layer>gradient> on top of your pattern layer so you don’t end up with a really flat background, which looks so fake.

So, once again, here are the before…

… and after photos.

Whew! I hope I made sense.

If you found this helpful and are thinking of trying it out, do drop me a line or a link to your photos please (you can post them here, email me or even Flickrmail me). Suggestions are very much welcome, too.

EDIT: Here’s a more detailed video tutorial, which you might find useful, too.

~ by Sheila on February 18, 2010.

3 Responses to “Changing Backgrounds”

  1. thanks for this wonderful information

  2. excellent, thank you!

  3. i am very bad with the video tutorials. the text tutorial makes sense. exceited about the b/g change. would give it a try. thanks a ton for sharing.

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