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Background Removal from Packshot Photography

| July 3, 2013 | 12 Comments

Today we have prepared one treat for you, that will save you lots of time. We are giving you away one handy Photoshop tutorial and action that is aimed at extracting packshot images from their backgrounds.

Back in the day when I started working in magazine publishing Photoshop was in its early years. The first version I worked in was 2.5. It did not have any layer capabilities and actions option was something we could not even dream of.

Let’s say for example you worked in a magazine which had lots of product packshot images and you had to remove them from their background. All you had at your disposal was the selection and path tools. Path tools was my daily tool and mastering it was the first thing I learned to do right in Photoshop.

Some images you can extract easily, but what when you have a necklace or some other complex object that needed to be extracted? Sometimes it took hours to do this kind of job.

Today this is all history and we can thank Photoshop actions for that. Now it is possible to do this same work in just a few seconds. Although the preparation of the image may take some extra time but it is still much faster.

This brings us to another topic that we covered earlier and that is communicating with your photographer. It is crucial that he or she do their job properly. Good packshot photography is crucial in the general look of your magazine. There is nothing worse than great layout ruined with lousy photography.

This is why you have to set some standards at the start of your relationship with photographers so they can provide you with the clean, sharp and most importantly, images that have a clear distinction between the product and the background, which in most cases will be white.

I will not get into the process of lighting the scene for packshot photography since every good photographer should know this.

So, let’s get into action.
This tutorial will explain the process of creating your own action which you can adjust to your own needs or you can skip it and jump to the bottom and download the action set which then you can import into Photoshop.

Images and action are taken in Photoshop CS 5.5, but the same rules apply to earlier versions since the tasks needed to complete it are basic ones.


Packshot photography background extraction Photoshop tutorial.

Good packshot photography is a vital part in this process.

Step 1

The image above is an original image. This is very nice product photo. There is a clear distinction between the product and background. There are no unwanted shadows and background is in one constant shade.


Packshot photography background extraction Photoshop tutorial.

Select the background.

First we have to select the background. Since in this shot background is in one constant shade you can select it easily with the magic wand or which ever method you prefer.
I used 10px tolerance. It can vary from background to background.
Some pixels that were left unselected you can select with the marquee tool.


Packshot photography background extraction Photoshop tutorial.

Inverse the selection so that only the product is selected.

Step 2

Now that we have a clear selection you can start recording your Photoshop Action.
First that you have to do is make an inversion of your selection:
Select – Inverse (Command+Shift+I).

Packshot photography background extraction Photoshop tutorial.

Sequence of actions that modify the selection and edges.


Then you make the next sequence of tasks.
First contract the selection by 2 pixels.
Select – Modify – Contract
The amount of contract can vary. If the image has a larger amount of pixels you can contract it up to 3 pixels. If its smaller one than the 1 pixel is enough for more would cut out some edges of the product.

Then, smooth the selection.
Select – Modify – Smooth
This will smooth the edges a bit. Again, you can do it for a pixel or two. It will be enough.

Last sequence is to make a feather selection.
Select – Modify – Feather (Shift+F6)
This will give extra smoothness to the edges of the image. One pixel is enough, because the majority of these images will be scaled down to some smaller size. If you plan to publish the image across the page, try with 2 pixels, but one will be enough.


Packshot photography background extraction Photoshop tutorial.

Copy/paste the selection and delete the background layer.


Step 3

Now you just copy and paste the selection. This will produce another layer on top of the background layer.

You can delete the background layer or just hide it.


Packshot photography background extraction Photoshop tutorial.

Make a selection of layer by command clicking on it.

Step 4

Now you have product extracted from the background. But you have all this unwanted space around the product. I like to keep my images cropped without unwanted space around them. It is easier for me to work with them and they will be smaller in size.

To crop them Command+click on the layer. This will make you a selection of the product. Then go to Image – Crop. This will crop the product to its edges.

This is the last step. You can stop recording your action now.


Packshot photography background extraction Photoshop tutorial.

Add background layer with a bright color that will help you to spot and remove some parts of previous background.

You can also add to your image another layer in some bright color and put it in the background. This will help you in noticing if there are some parts of the previous background that were left in the image and you will easily spot them and erase them.

Also you can add to your action command to resample image to 300dpi and convert it to CMYK if you color correct your images in CMYK. Some do it in CMYK, some in RGB, your choice.


Packshot photography background extraction Photoshop tutorial.

Final image ready to be color corrected.

So, this is it. When you record the action or download it from our link below this process will be done in a second. The biggest task is to fine select the image in the beginning but if you have a good quality photo that should not be a problem.

If you have any suggestions or remarks about the tutorial, please post a comment below.


If you don’t want to go through all of this process you can download the action here and import it in Photoshop.

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Category: Tutorials

Comments (12)

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  1. Roger GI says:

    Awesome tutorial for removing background. But it seems to me that using Pen tool by Hand to remove Background would be more qualified in quality. The paths would be so much keen to uncompromising the quality works !

    • Nikola says:

      I cannot agree. Clipping paths produce sharp edges, which is something that is not good always. For example when you have to extract clothes from the background.
      In my opinion having just slightly “feathered” edges is more natural than to have crisp sharp edges. Of course it depends on the product but I would go with this method in vast majority of occasions.

  2. Jerónimo Rosales says:

    Haha. Last paragraph is the best!

  3. Soyuz says:

    nice! any tips in hair extraction. I´ve been having some problems with it :(

    • Nikola says:

      Hmm, I must say I do not have any. I was never a Photoshop retouching guru. Luckily there was always someone handy by my side to work on such a problematic tasks. I will ask one of my colleagues who is an expert in that matter and I will give you a few tips.

  4. Jerónimo Rosales says:

    Nikola. Do you know where can I find a tutorial that tells me how to shade fonts like this one (the bold one wich says “Freight Sans”?

  5. Roger GI says:

    The best way to do Clipping Path or Background Removing.
    You can have a view the Clipping Path Tutorial.
    I think this is very good way for best quality Clipping Path or Background Removing.

    • Nikola says:

      The method you provided is the way of clipping images that I used to do for years and it is great. I think the method I provided is much faster and it produces the same results IMHO. Especially if you have to deal with a hundred or more images per issue.

  6. Background remove is the one kind of magic by photoshop. Thanks for teaching me how to create it.

  7. Nice, but I think clipping path is the best way to remove background of image. thanks for sharing

  8. Angelo says:

    Thank you this is great

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