Ok, so, this might be my favorite tutorial to date.  Seriously, I use this trick all the time, and I hope you’ll use it too!  Today, I am going to show you how to take any black and white scanned image, and give it a transparent background (aka .png file).  Once again I will be using Photoshop CS4.

1Step 1:

Scan your image (I like to scan at the highest quality possible), and save it to your computer.  If you would like to use my “hello” doodle, you can download it here.  Now, open the image in Photoshop.

Step 2:

We are going to create a new layer, so at the top toolbar select LAYER>NEW>LAYER.

Step 3:

Click on your new layer and drag it under the original layer.


Step 4:

Select the paint bucket tool from the left side toolbar and pick any bright color.  It doesn’t matter, this color will go away eventually.

The layers should now look like this:


Step 5:

Now, click back on your original image layer, and select the Magic Want tool (or press W on your keyboard).  Change the tolerance in the upper toolbar to 40, then click anywhere in the white area.


Step 6:

Next, go to SELECT>SIMILAR then hit the backspace key on your keyboard.


Step 7:

Double click on the image layer in the layers palette to bring up the layer style screen.  Then, select Color Overlay and for the layer color, select black (#000000).  Click OK.


Step 8:

To create the transparent background, all you need to do is click the eye next to the background layer in the layers palette.  Of course you can also chose a different color background, or pattern, but that is up to you!


Step 9:

Now for saving!  Go to FILE>SAVE FOR WEB&DEVICES and choose PNG-24 from the drop-down menu on the right.

Final Product: 


 And now just to goof off, here are a few examples of how to use your new .png image!


If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments!

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9 Responses to Photoshop Tutorial: Removing a white background to make a .png image

  1. Amanda says:

    Yup, that’s a pretty good method! I’ve done similar before. I use Quick Mask Mode and the brush tool as an extra step before deleting the white if I need cleaner lines. Can I ask why you bother adding that extra layer of bright color instead of just double-clicking your drawing layer (turns it into Layer 0 instead of Background so that when you cut pixels, it’s empty instead of auto-filling)?

    • lexy says:

      That is definitely another option. I use the second layer if I am just adding a background or whatnot. If I don’t need it, I’ll just delete it or do what you said and double-click the drawing layer.

  2. What a great tutorial! I just got elements and have been slowly figuring it out and your tutorial gives me a new project! Love it and thanks for sharing! :)

  3. Stephanie says:

    I never use the Overlay effect, this was a great tutorial – I’m totally going to use it now. You can skip a step if you uncheck the “Contiguous” box during the Magic Wand step – then you don’t have to do ‘select similar.’

  4. Dan says:

    Thanks, this helped me in a pinch

  5. Katie says:

    I know nothing about Photoshop, but just taught myself how to do this using your instructions… THANK YOU!

  6. amber says:

    Thanks so much for posting! I’m a beginner in Photoshop and your tutorial was very helpful.

  7. Krishan says:

    A great job. It really works well. Easy to use.

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