Photoshop has several variations of the eraser tool for either basic erasing adjustments, or selectively erasing a background. This tool is used to delete pixels from an image using a brush. The variations of the tool decide how the pixels are deleted, either by everything you brush over, certain colors, or certain color and tonal ranges. At the most basic level, the eraser tool is very simple to use.
To use the Eraser Tool in Photoshop, press E, then select the layer you wish to erase. Now choose the brush settings for your erasing adjustment and paint over the image where you want to remove. Where you paint will become transparent and remove the pixels permanently from the selected layer.
With that said, let’s take a closer look at how each eraser tool works and how you can best utilize them in your projects.
Types Of Eraser Tools In Photoshop
Before we dive into the different eraser tools, it is essential to know that these tools are destructive, meaning the edits they make will be saved into your work unless you repeatedly use the “undo” function.
Once they are written into your file, the changes you make with the eraser tools will be permanent. For this reason, it is best to work on a duplicate layer when using these tools.
1. Eraser Tool
You can find the Eraser Tool by heading to the eraser icon in the toolbar on the left.
If you see a different eraser tool is active, click and hold the icon and select Eraser Tool.
This tool functions similar to how a brush might — you can change the size, opacity, smoothing, and flow, and even switch between brush, pencil, and block modes.
The eraser tool works by deleting the pixels you “brush” over. Unless you’ve used the tool recently, the color will automatically be set to white, and when you brush over pixels, it will look like you’re painting with a brush. The pixels will be erased permanently, and you won’t be able to get them back except by clicking Undo.
The eraser tool is helpful because it is pretty straightforward — you simply set the eraser settings and then erase wherever you’d like. However, it can lead to mistakes if you’re trying to erase a complicated area, so this might be best used to erase more simple areas.
It is possible, of course, to erase complex, jagged areas with this tool. However, it will likely take lots of time and effort, and usually, it’s better to use one of the other eraser brush tools. When dealing with many complex edges, using a selection will speed up the process significantly.
2. Background Eraser Tool
You will find the Background Eraser Tool under the Eraser Tool by clicking & holding the icon and selecting Background Eraser Tool.
The background eraser works a bit differently. Rather than using color to “paint” over and erase the pixels, the cursor will change to a circle with a plus sign in the middle. The tool will then sample the color underneath the plus sign as you brush. Next, Photoshop will erase all the pixels close to that color that fall inside the circle.
This tool is useful as the circle acts as a shield of sorts, preventing you from erasing pixels outside of it, and you can set the size of the circle based on how much space you’d like to erase. This decreases the likelihood you’ll erase something you don’t mean to, especially if you’re careful to keep the point in the circle’s center only on the color you’d like to erase.
However, this might not be the best tool if the area you’d like to erase has lots of different colors or has the same colors as the edge of the part of the image you’d like to keep. The tool could end up erasing parts of the image you didn’t mean to.
3. Magic Eraser Tool
You can also find the magic eraser tool by clicking and holding the eraser tool and selecting the Magic Eraser Tool.
If you’ve ever used the Magic Wand Tool, you’ll find the Magic Eraser Tool quite familiar. It works just about the same since you click an area (or click and drag to select a larger area), and the tool will automatically select all pixels of a similar color or brightness.
This tool is useful as it is effortless and quick to use. It is best used for images with more contrast between the brightness or color of the area you want to erase and the area you want to keep. For example, a subject against a solid colored background.
However, you will have less control over which pixels are selected, as Photoshop automatically erases based on the tolerance you set. If the project you’re working with has lots of areas of similar colors or brightness levels, this may not be the best tool because you may accidentally select and erase an area you didn’t want to.
How To Use The Eraser Tool In Photoshop
To use the eraser tool, select the icon in the sidebar or press E.
In the Options bar, you’ll see the different settings you can use to adjust the eraser tool. First, you can set the size of your eraser by clicking the arrow next to the brush tip icon.
In the window that appears, you can set the eraser’s size and hardness and select a specific brush that you’d like to act as the eraser (this is optional).
From there, you can set the Mode if you’d like, choosing between Brush, Pencil, and Block. As the area you erase will be transparent, I recommend you keep the Opacity set to 100%, so you don’t have any areas that aren’t fully opaque or transparent after removing the pixels.
You can then set the Flow rate and the Smoothing, which will help control brush shakiness and keep the strokes smooth. Feel free to play around with these options to see what works best for your needs.
Once you’re content with the eraser settings, you can start erasing parts of your image. As noted above, it is best to use this eraser for pictures in which the area you’d like to erase isn’t overly complicated with lots of jagged or uneven edges. I’ve selected the image below — it has a few more complex edges, but you can easily clean those using the other two eraser tools.
To erase, I’ll just brush around the area I’d like to get rid of. I suggest you lift the cursor often to end the current stroke, which will make undoing any mistakes much easier and faster. In any areas you deem too difficult to erase using the eraser tool, you can go as close to the edges as possible and then use a different eraser tool to clean up the edges.
As you can see, I’ve gotten the eraser as close as possible to the edge in some areas. Now, let’s learn how to use the background eraser tool, an excellent option for cleaning up any edges between the background and subject.
Although it’s extremely hard (and time-consuming) to get a clean cut out of an object, the Eraser Tool serves as a quick way to get a rough idea of what your subject will look like cut out. To get a more accurate and professional background removal, try one of the eight tools highlighted in my background removal guide.
How To Use The Background Eraser Tool In Photoshop
You can find the Background Eraser Tool under the eraser icon by clicking and holding the icon and selecting Background Eraser Tool from the options.
You’ll see the different brush settings at the top. The most important ones to set are the size, hardness, and spacing, which you can find by clicking the arrow next to the brush tip icon.
I recommend you keep Spacing relatively low, so there is not as much space between the brush tip moving from one area to another. You can set the Size based on the area you’d like to erase. Hardness will determine how hard or soft the edges of your strokes are, so I recommend keeping this at 100% as you don’t want any semi-transparent areas.
You can also set the sampling settings and choose whether the pixels are sampled continuously as you move, only one time, or using a swatch of the background.
Next, you’ll want to set the Tolerance. This should be based on the contrast between the area you’d like to erase and the parts you want to keep — you can keep it higher for more contrast and lower for less.
Once you’ve set your settings, you can start erasing the background of your image. As you brush over the image, you’ll notice that the parts of the image that are a different color or brightness level than the one underneath the point of your circle will not be erased. In the image below, the light gray color sitting underneath the center point of the circle is erased while the flowers remain.
The result after erasing the background is nice and clean. Even the background areas in between the flowers have been erased.
How To Use The Magic Eraser Tool In Photoshop
You can find the Magic Eraser tool by clicking and holding the eraser icon and selecting Magic Eraser Tool.
In the settings at the top, you can set the Tolerance. Make sure you check Anti-Alias and Contiguous and set the Opacity to 100%.
I’ll use the below picture as an example.
With Tolerance set to 32, all I have to do is click the area I’d like to erase, and the system will select pixels of similar colors to erase adjacent to those.
As you can see, the brush was a bit too tolerant and erased some of the darker areas of the flower. After undoing the last action using Control + Z (Win) or Command + Z (Mac), let’s see how it looks when moving the Tolerance down to 10.
Now that only the blackest areas have been erased, the result looks much more accurate.
Want To Make Learning Photoshop Easy?
To help you get quick wins in Photoshop, I wrote an ebook called the Photoshop Blueprint sharing six valuable techniques to transform your editing and make more sense of the program. You can get the entire Photoshop Blueprint ebook for free by clicking here, or hitting the link below!