Expression Design gives you all the tools you need to easily remove backgrounds from photos. In this tutorial we’ll remove the background from a dog image and place the results over a different background.
This tutorial starts with a photo Shango. To follow along using the photos in this tutorial, right click on the photos below and save them to your hard drive.
Once we remove the background, we’ll place Shango over the following image of a tree house.
1. Launch Design and choose File > New from the menu bar.
2. In the New Document dialog box, choose Custom from the Presets drop down list and set the Width and Height fields to 800 pixels. Click OK to create the new document.
3. In the Layers panel, double click on the default layer name (Layer 1) and type Tree House to rename the layer.
4. To insert the tree house image on the newly named layer, choose File > Import from the menu bar, navigate to the tree house image and click Open to insert the image.
The method we’ll use to remove the background from the dog image requires that the photo of Shango be on a separate layer. I’ll explain the reasons for this as we progress. Follow these steps to create a new layer for Shango.
5. Click on the New Layer button in the lower right corner of the Layer panel.
6. Double click on the name Layer 2 and type Shango to rename the layer.
7. Choose File > Import, navigate to Shango’s photo and click Open to place Shango on the new layer.
8. The tree house image will be a distraction as we work with the Shango layer so click on the eye icon on the tree house layer to hide the tree house image.
To remove the background we need the Pen tool, the 4th tool from the top in the Toolbox. Below is the result we’re after, followed by the steps taken to reach this result:
9. On the Properties pane, click on the Fill tab and choose a fill color; I chose red but any color will do. (Remove any stroke attribute if one is present; we don’t want a stroke.)
10. Choose the Pen tool from the Toolbox and beginning slightly to the left of the image, at Shango’s right leg, begin creating a path staying as close to the edges of the dog as possible. You can correct any mistakes later so continue on if you make a mistake.
11. When you reach the right edge of the photo, click once to go slightly beyond the right edge of the photo and then continue the path up the right side, the top and down the left side of the image, ending the path by clicking on the first node you created. (The Pen cursor will display a small circle when you are about to close a path.)
12. Make any adjustments you want to your path with the Direct Select tool. With this tool, click on a node and move it closer to Shango if you find an area where the background shows, or away from him if you accidently cut off the bottom of his ear.
13. To soften the edges of the selection, click the fx button on the Effects panel and choose Gaussian Blur.
14. Move the Radius slider to the right until you reach the desired softness; I chose 0.5.
15. Expand the Advanced Properties section of the Appearance panel and set the Blending Mode to Eraser. (Click the downward pointing arrow just above the Effects panel to open the Advanced Properties section.)
The Eraser blending mode causes strokes and filled objects to erase through all objects below it to the bottom of the layer. This is why we put Shango on a separate layer. Had we put Shango on the tree house layer, the shape we created would have erased through the tree house photo as well.
16. To ensure that the eraser object and the image of Shango are not disturbed, select both objects, right click on the selected objects and choose Group from the resulting context menu.
Now that Shango’s background has been successfully removed, it’s time to unhide the tree house. Click the Eye icon on the Tree House layer to reveal the tree house image. Make any size adjustments you’d like to either the Shango image, the tree house or both. Here’s the end result: