CoffeeShop BackDrop Fix Action and Tutorial!

I have had many people request an action/tutorial on making white backgrounds more white and dark backgrounds more dark. I usually tell them to try a levels or curves adjustment layer and mask out their subject, but there is a easier method.  I actually finally googled it and found the inspiriation for this tutorial and action:  Replace Color adjustment.

I have heard of Replace Color, but I never really played with it before.  But this little adjustment makes it so simple to fix dark and white backgrounds.  Andrea Berger, a professional photographer, sent me the image above of the little boy praying and the image below of the tacos for me to use as examples in this tutorial. Thank you so much Andrea!  You can check out more of her amazing work here.

CoffeeShop BackDrop Fix Tutorial and Action UnWrapped:

If you would rather use an action please scroll down for the free download at the bottom of this post.  Make sure you reference this tutorial so you will know how to use the action. 

This is Andrea's before image.  The background is brown, but I want it white. 

Make a copy of your background layer (Ctrl-J) and then:

Photoshop:  Image, Adjustment, Replace Color.  Click on brown background and adjust the Fuzziness slider until the entire background is selected, and then adjust the Lightness slider up until you see the background become white.  Don't worry about how it affects the main part of your image right now.  Click OK.

Photoshop Elements:  Enhance, Adjust Color, Replace Color.  Follow the steps above.

See below.  In this case I didn't make the background a solid white, but rather a soft off-white.  I could have gone pure white if I had wanted to using this method.

This completely blew out all whites in the food section, so I added a layer mask and selected a hard to medium-hard black paintbrush, clicked on the mask to select it, and painted out the food.  Depending on your image, you might not have to use the layer mask at all. 

If you want to make sure you completely painted over everything important, click on the layer mask while pressing down Alt.  The black area is where you have painted on the layer mask to remove the Lightness adjustment.  As you can see I did a pretty decent job.  Hold Alt and click again on the layer mask to see your image.

This should probably be done as a final step in your editing.  Here is the "after" image below.  You can also do the same type of editing with a dark background.  Instead of dialing up the Lightness in Replace Color, dial it down to make the background darker.

If you decide to run the action you adjust Replace Color on the fly as it runs, and then the action adds a layer mask so you can remove the adjustment where needed.

If you are using PSE8 or below and you want edit without the action, you can download the free  CoffeeShop Layer Mask action.

I wanted to mention if you are having issues installing actions, you can read all about it on my Action Install page.   You can also post questions on my Facebook page (please don't forget to like my page).

If you would rather use an action to fix your BackDrop to save a little time, you can download the CoffeeShop BackDrop Fix HERE. You can also download it here!

I hope you enjoy this little tutorial.  I told you before I am learning as I go.  ;-)  And I want to thank everyone for sending me great suggestions of things I could post on my blog.  I am really trying my best to include a tutorial with most of my actions so you can really see what is going on behind the scenes.

Do you want to download my favorite CoffeeShop Actions or Design Elements in one convenient zipped file AND help support this blog? Just click here for my action pack or here for a download of some of my most popular design elements, storyboards, and textures.

For complete info on installing all of my actions, click here.


Maisy January 17, 2011 at 12:36 PM  

Thank you so much for sharing this trick! I knew there had to be another way to fix the background besides using the levels/curve, I just didn't know what it was. I'd given up on getting a true black or solid white because of the hassle adjusting levels created. I can't wait to try this out tonight!

Marjorie (Molly) Smith January 17, 2011 at 12:46 PM  

Thank you so much, can't wait to try it out.

Vicki January 17, 2011 at 1:03 PM  

Very, very cool! Thank you so much!

Jenn January 17, 2011 at 1:15 PM  

THANK YOU! I can't wait to try this out! I've needed to know how to do this. I'm glad it's so easy!

Jo January 17, 2011 at 2:35 PM  

I needed this so bad!! Your timing could not have been more perfect!!!

Heather January 17, 2011 at 2:42 PM  

cannot wait to try it now if only I can find the time :)

Tiffany January 17, 2011 at 2:43 PM  

I don't comment enough but I just wanted to say that I just love your blog!!! Thank you again for another great freebie!! :-)

Carol January 17, 2011 at 3:35 PM  

I sure hope you're reaping all the generosity you so frequently sow . . . thank you!!

Amy Susi January 17, 2011 at 4:55 PM  

Just wanted to say there is no Image, Adjustment, Replace Color in PSE =-( But thanks for taking the time to post a new tutotial!

Rita January 17, 2011 at 4:58 PM  

Amy, it is Enhance, Adjust Color, Replace Color in PSE. I covered that in my tutorial. :-)

Lori January 17, 2011 at 5:26 PM  

Wow, your a mind reader too!!! I don't know that one person should be aloud so many talents;). I'm just teasing. But this tutorial is great timing for me. I just did a newborn shoot and was not loving the background. The way I was doing it was just too time consuming. Your way is much more simple. Thanks!

CraftCrave January 17, 2011 at 7:38 PM  

Just a quick note to let you know that a link to this post will be placed on CraftCrave today [18 Jan 01:00am GMT]. Thanks, Maria

Anonymous January 17, 2011 at 10:04 PM  

I might have to love you for this one!! I have already tried it and it was awesome. The picture just became amazing! My new favorite and I didn't even know I needed it!!

Jami January 17, 2011 at 11:32 PM  

Awesome, thanks, Rita! And the Alt trick is just what I have been looking for. Thanks for that!!!

Jody January 18, 2011 at 10:56 AM  

Wow! This is something I have been looking for for a long time. Thanks a million :)

Modern Mom January 19, 2011 at 4:45 PM  

Great info and very timely! I've been doing quite a few shots on white backgrouns for clients lately and this will save tons of time.

Mom to 9 Blessings! January 20, 2011 at 6:57 AM  

Awesome tutorial!

Thanks for sharing :-)


Sue January 21, 2011 at 7:45 PM  

Thanks so much for your wonderful actions and tutorials! :)

snaphappee January 23, 2011 at 3:00 PM  

I never knew I could do this!! Thank you for sharing this!! Yayayayayayayay!

Rosie@leavesnbloom January 27, 2011 at 10:35 AM  

Thankyou so much - this will come in handy for me :)

nichole March 14, 2011 at 12:40 AM  

hi, I'm trying to download this action but for some reason it won't let me download the zip file ??

neki desu March 23, 2011 at 4:30 AM  

thanks a bunch for this!i was fixing backgrounds in a very pedestrian way and this is really cool!

Anonymous April 1, 2011 at 3:34 PM  

You have no idea how much easier you just made my life! Thank you so so so so so much for all you have done for us Photoshop Elements gals (and guys ;)

Have a wonderful day! :)

Lisa S. Jones July 21, 2011 at 1:40 AM  

Hi, okay sorry, but I cannot figure this out I downloaded into my elements 9. All is good there I just get stuck in the layer mask part. Please help!! :-) I really want to use this action. BYW I am very new to elements!

Amberlin March 16, 2012 at 12:48 AM  

This is amazing! I used to hate fixing the black backdrop with my smudge tool since my flash would make it not washed out looking. Love it!

Stephanie Kozick April 29, 2012 at 12:39 PM  

this link to download isn't working for me. :(

Sallie Jayne Photography June 17, 2012 at 11:24 AM  

If anyone is having trouble with the layer mask part then try this Hope it helps :-)

Anonymous December 2, 2012 at 2:29 PM  

I am somewhat new to photoshop and I can not figure this action out at all. I need more tips!!

Anonymous December 3, 2012 at 2:37 PM  

So excited to have found your blog, I think we will be spending alot of time together :)
Thanks for the freebies, they mean so much to my new business and learning curve!!

Anonymous January 26, 2013 at 1:20 AM  

simply dropping by to say hi

Anonymous March 1, 2013 at 11:37 AM  

Thank you so much for posting these amazing actions for us to use. I have recommended your site to a group of people already! May god bless you!

Supriya Shah September 7, 2013 at 4:53 AM  

Amazing work rita!! loved all your actions, cant wait to try them... Thank you so much :)

Rebekah Mutchler November 13, 2013 at 3:54 PM  

This makes me so happy! Thank you, thank you!

grambie March 4, 2014 at 1:19 AM  

I am recently getting back into venturing to change my background because I suffer from Ataxia (tremors). I thought about your site and thankfully you had this action to complete the process faster. Thank you for this wonderful action. Hugs. ;)

Eli Crawford November 14, 2014 at 9:58 PM  

can i please have full instructions on how to do this with the preset sorry i'm a beginner just cant seem to do it right