You’ve been provided an image file with your client’s logo sitting on top of a flat background color. You want to quickly remove the background so the logo is isolated on a transparent layer in Photoshop. This is a classic production challenge, and we’ve seen production artists tackle this issue dozens of different ways.
In this tip we’ll demonstrate an elegant solution to this perpetual challenge using Photoshop’s layer blending options. The technique works with any color logo or background, avoids the white fringing that many techniques leave behind, and creates a fully transparent background.
Before You Start: Name the Background Layer.
When a client provides their logo to you as a TIFF or other image formats, it opens in Photoshop as a background layer. To apply this technique, you’ll need to convert the background to a layer. You can do this by double-clicking on the background layer in the layers palette and giving the layer a name.
Step 1: Make the Background Transparent using Blending Options.
To access the blending options controls for your logo layer, double-click on the layer thumbnail in the layers palette. Slowly drag the white slider in the “This layer” gradient until the background behind your logo becomes transparent.
Note: If your logo is on a completely white background, it will become transparent after moving the white slider a single pixel.
Don’t click OK yet, we’ve got another step in this window.
Step 2: Option-Drag the White Slider to Remove Fringing.
At this point, your logo may seemly look great on it’s transparent background. But we’re not done yet. If you were to place this logo in it’s current shape onto a darkly colored background, you’d quickly discover that while you’ve removed the basic flat background, there is still an ugly white fringe around your logo.
To remove this fringe, hold down the Option key (Alt in Windows) and continue dragging half of your white slider farther to the left.
Drag this half of your white slider until just before the blackest part of your logo becomes slightly transparent. If your logo is a solid black on a white background, you should be able to drag this slider almost entirely to the left edge of the gradient.
Step 3: The Merge Down Trick.
Finally, we have to make these blending adjustments permanent. Because as good as this technique looks right now, if we leave our transparency set entirely by blending options, we’ll run into odd problems later when we incorporate our logo into other layered documents.
The easiest and quickest to make these changes permanent is to use Jason Hoppe’s patented merge down trick: Add a new empty layer below the one we’ve been working on, select our original layer and choose Merge Down
Congratulations. You should now have a nice clean version of your logo with a fully transparent background.
Bonus Step: Change Colors or add Layer Effects.
Once you’ve isolated your logo on a transparent background, you can easily apply a wide range of Photoshop effects. In the example below, the logo color is changed using a clipping group with a colored layer above, while other layer styles are used on the logo layer itself.
Source: This tip inspired by recent projects with Seattle designer Pat Hansen of Hansen Design Company, and founder of Noteable You Gifts. This particular technique has come in handy on many occasions, and we’ve ben meaning to write it up for several months now. Thanks Pat!