Keying Green Backdrops

Keying Green Backdrops
Separate objects from green backdrops with presicion and control. Learn how to mask fine strands of hair and a translucent glass cup.

Identify the Green Backdrop

Before we add layer mask, we need to identify the green areas and create an black and white layer to represent the transparency of the image.

Step 1

Open a photo you would like to edit. Or, you may use the photo used in this tutorial (from iStockPhoto). Make sure that the image is in RGB color mode. To switch to RGB color mode, click on RGB Color under the Image> Mode menu.
Image from

Step 2

Add a Channel Mixer adjustment layer (Layer> New Adjustment Layer> Channel Mixer). In the Channel Mixer window, check the Monochrome checkbox and set the Red to 200% and the Green to -200%. Don't close the Channel Mixer window yet!
The Channel Mixer Tool

Step 3

Now drag the Constant slider towards the right until the object is a 100% white; not gray. Don't go overboard with the constant setting. If the constant is set too high, the images' edge detail will be loss.
Editing the Constant in the Channel Mixer

Step 4

You'll notice that after apply the Channel Mixer adjustment layer, the green areas are not completely black. If we leave this alone, the greens will only be 50% transparent instead of 100% transparent. To fix this, select the Background layer and open the Hue/Saturation tool (Image> Adjustments> Hue/Saturation or Ctrl+U). In the Hue/Saturation tool, select Green from the Edit drop down menu and increase the saturation until the green areas turn black.
Adjusting the Green Backdrop

Convert Layer to Mask

Step 5

Before we can add a layer mask to the Background layer, we need to unlock it. To do this, simply double-click on the layer and a New Layer window should appear. The default settings are fine. Click OK.
Converting a locked background layer into an unlocked layer.

Step 6

Add a layer mask to the layer we have just unlocked (Layer> Add Layer Mask> Reveal All).
Layer Mask Added

Step 7

Make sure the layer mask is activated. The thumbnail of the layer mask in the layers window should have a white border around it. If it doesn't, click on the thumbnail to activate the layer mask.

Step 8

With the layer mask activated, open the Apply Image tool (Image> Apply Image). We'll be using the default settings in the Apply Image tool so simply click OK unless the settings on your screen is different from the image below.
The Apply Image Tool

Step 9

Now that we're done converting the Channel Mixer layer into a layer mask, we can delete the Channel Mixer adjustment layer.
Layers Deleted

Remove Green Edge Artifacts

The image is masked, but most likely it will have green artifacts near the edges. Before we can call this project complete, we need to remove those artifacts.

Step 10

Create a new layer (Layer> New Layer or Shift+Ctrl+N). In the Layers pallet, move the layer to the bottom.
New Layer

Step 11

Fill the bottom layer with a 50% gray. To do this, press Shift+Backspace and the Fill tool should appear. Select 50% Gray from the Use drop down menu and click OK.
The Fill Tool

Step 12

With a 50% gray background, the green edges are clearly visible and the background will help us with the next step.
50% Gray Backdrop

Step 13

Select the top layer and open the Hue/Saturation tool (Image> Adjustments> Hue/Saturation or Ctrl+U). Select Green from the Edit drop down menu and set the saturation to -100. Immediately green edge should disappear.
Reducing Saturation in the Greens

Step 14

Now that we're done, paste the background you would like to use as the bottom layer.
Background added.

Final Results

Keying Green Backdrops Final Results

Rollover the image to see the before/after.

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2 comments on “Keying Green Backdrops”

  1. Great tutorial, but wouldnt it be easier to just use the magic wand tool, delete the green, and then do the hue and saturation thing to get rid of the green line?
    but still a very informative turorial :)

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