Jun 192012

When removing backgrounds from objects in images, having a “halo” or fringe left around those objects is a very common problem. Fortunately, Photoshop has some excellent tools for dealing with this that are easy to use. They don’t work miracles but when applied in the right circumstance, they make very short work of images with this issue.

First Things, First

This technique should not be used when removing backgrounds from logos that you intend to save as transparent tiffs. In all cases, these options will affect the color of the edges on your transparent layer and in some cases, they can make them softer. This may cause the outer edges of transparent tiff logos to appear soft and blurry in print.

Starting Out

We begin with a simple image. In theory, removing the background from this shouldn’t be difficult.

 Background Removed?

Using a pretty straight forward method (could have been Magic Wand, Quick Select, Magic Eraser or any other number of techniques) we’ve removed the background from our image but if you look carefully with the black layer from the Green Layer Action visible, you may be able to see a white fringe around the edges. This is because the image was low resolution and our selection tools had a hard time figuring out just where the exact edge of the subject was.


A Closer look

Looking closely at one of the pants legs, we can see the problem more clearly. Against the black background, the black pants should blend
in a little but instead, they have a white outline around them.

We’re going to look at how to get rid of that.


Attempt One

When dealing with something that appears to have a white or black fringe, the first and easiest thing to try is using
the Remove White/ Black Matte option. It’s totally automatic.


Since there are no settings, Remove Matte will either work for what you’re trying to do or it won’t. Here are the results of Remove White Matte on this image:


Compared to the original it’s an improvement. It reduced the problem but hasn’t gotten rid of it so this time, it’s not going to work for our needs.

Many times this tool will fix these more straight forward problems with little hassle so it’s always worth giving it a try but if it doesn’t work, type CMD+Z to undo it. Then, try the next step…

Moving on to Defringe

Since Remove White Matte didn’t work as well as we needed it to in the previous attempt, we are going to try using Defringe to apply some stronger adjustments.¬† Aside from offering adjustable settings, another benefit of Defringe is that it will work with “halos” of any color – not just black or white.

When using Defringe, always start off with a low setting of 2-3 pixels. If that doesn’t give you the desired result, type CMD+Z and try again increasing it no more than 1-2 pixels at a time until you get the result you’re after. The larger the number you use in this field, the more area that Photoshop looks at for attempting to remove edge color. Too large a number can negatively affect aspects of the selection you’re trying to save.


As you can see from the above photo, a little Defringe can do a lot. When using this tool, always try with as small a number as possible. going higher would have risked loosing the highlight on the back of of the leg, shown above.

If you haven’t already applied it and need to check your work when you’re done, an excellent tool to use is the Green Layer Action.

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