What's new
Photoshop Gurus Forum

Welcome to Photoshop Gurus forum. Register a free account today to become a member! It's completely free. Once signed in, you'll enjoy an ad-free experience and be able to participate on this site by adding your own topics and posts, as well as connect with other members through your own private inbox!

Changing a plain background


Well-Known Member
How can I simply change the colour of the background to the letter in this pic/scan from white to black, (not easy to see, but when I open it on my PC it shows the a white background, the colour of the inner lid of the scanner)
If its not a simple process, how do I crop the letter so just the letter appears.

Thanks for any helpH Wounded Letter to Gwen.jpg
You can use the magic wand tool to select the background/letter.

If the selection looks like this....
Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 7.55.09 AM.png

Hit Shift + Cmd/Cntl + I to invert the selection so it looks like this....
Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 8.18.41 AM.png

You can then remove the background by adding a layer mask.
Do this by clicking the 'add layer mask' icon located at the bottom left side of the layers panel.

(The layer mask can be reversed by clicking on it and then hitting Cmd/Cntrl + I to invert.)

You may have to clean up a few spots that were selected by selecting/clicking the layer mask and using the Brush Tool set to black
to brush out the remnants.
Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 7.55.31 AM.png

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 7.58.14 AM.png

Then save the file as a PNG which supports transparency.

H Wounded Letter to Gwen.png

EDIT: Now, with the letter itself isolated from it's original background and saved as a PNG file, you can place it on any color background you desire. You will also notice that MrTom and I have both provided you with completed images. The above tutorial hopefully will help you and others in case there is ever a need to do this for yourself! Good luck!
Last edited:



... and a 'repaired' version just in case...

How do you know.....eh.......just how?

It can't be coincidence EVERY time.

Sorry MrT...............pure coincidence!!!

I see you repaired the slight tear and removed the pen doodle. How did you do that? ;)
Last edited:
...Sorry MrT...............pure coincidence!!!
I see you repaired the slight tear and removed the pen doodle. How did you do that?..

Hmmmmm......I'm not convinced.....the force is strong in this one! :)

Repair and removal were both done with 'Content Aware' Fill:

1. With the Lasso tool I drew a marquee around a 'doodle'.
2. Right click inside the marquee and select 'Fill'.
3. Set to 'Content Aware' from the dropdown options...


4. Repeat for the other 'doodle'.
5. I did the same for the 'tear' too and then...
6. Drew a marquee around the 'm' in 'Regimental' in the address.
7. Copied it to its own layer via 'New Layer Via Copy'.
8. positioned it in the word 'Mada'...
9. Set blend mode to 'Darken'.

I thought I read the OP wanted the BG Black but I must have dreamt that.....the rest I did exactly as you did.....with added 'Straighten' too.

All that about 3 minutes later than yourself.....Mr Psychic! LOL


".....I thought I read the OP wanted the BG Black but I must have dreamt that.....the rest I did exactly as you did.....with added 'Straighten' too.

No........you read right. My thought was that with the image isolated............the OP can add in any color background they desired. I guess I should have noted that in my previous post.

Here is a new repaired and straightened PNG.

H Wounded Letter to Gwen2.png
Last edited:
Wonderfull results folks, thanks so much for sharing your expertise. However im having trouble adding a "layer Mask" I cant seem to find the option to do this.....This is what im seeing on screen..

Layer help.jpg
Jings...I'd forgotten about this. LOL.

Unfortunately PS 'Elements' doesn't have the luxury of layer masks.

I don't know how to 'fake' them either but there are tutorials online that can show you.

If nobody here can instruct you then I suggest you search for a tutorial.


Elements 13 does now have layer masks.
Last edited:
I now have access to a PC with PS CS3 installed, which apparently will create a layer mask.....firstly how do I get the magic wand option to select the correct area. Then, can you PS experts give me a lamens guide on how to do the same task, but this time in PS CS3.

Thanks again for your patience, your help is very much appreciated......
If you want instructions on how I did the above and you can wait an hour I'll do a video for you.

Unfortunately 'Content Aware' wasn't introduced until CS5 but there is another way you can use to achieve the same effect which I'll do in the video.

Is your CS3 version the 'Extended' version or not?
(Use HELP > About Photoshop, it'll read 'Extended' on the splash screen)

I took the liberty of expecting a positive answer and did one anyway.

This only shows how to Straighten, hide the BG with a mask and add a new black layer.
Its also done deliberately slowly and without any shortcuts.....all long hand.

3.00 mins.....no audio.

Last edited:
That is fantastic, THANKS SO MUCH for your time and effort, we have learned a lot from that, thanks again, I have also tried this method on an old piccy with rough edges, I can change the background as you have taught me, but there still is a few white "glitches" around the edges of the picture, is this simply the characteristics of using the Magic Wand tool, and for even better results should use a hand "lasoo" tool or something.....
No worries...

There are LOTS of ways to isolate a particular colour from the rest, it very much depends on the image as to which one you use.

In the example we've been using I set the Magic Wand 'Tolerance' to 10 but you may find increasing that will remove more of the 'white'.

The danger there though is that it may be OK in some places but not in others, you have to adjust for the best you can get and then manually fine tune it.....PS is good but it can't get everything spot on every time, its just the nature of digital images.

If you change the 'Tolerance' setting and try again you'll see that the marquee changes accordingly....change it drastically to see exactly what it is doing...you can always use Ctrl + D to remove the marquee, change the tolerance and try again....repeat until you think you've got 'most' of the white.

After that, zoom in so you can see what you're doing and manually Add to the marquee with the lasso, or polygon, or rectangle, or elliptical tools OR subtract from the marquee....Use 'Alt' instead of 'Shift'.

If you are feeling confident enough you can try 'Refine Edge'....you'll see the button at the top of the workspace whenever a 'marquee' tool is selected.

This is exactly for the purpose you describe although it does take some practice to get it just right.
If you decide to give it a go you could do worse than watch a few videos on 'Refine Edge', you may even find one for CS3 but if not, later versions use the same principles...you'll just have to adapt to your version.

Good luck.