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Pixelmator tutorial: How to add a new background to photos

Follow our step-by-step guide and find how to add a new background to your favourite photos and add pro effects using Pixelmator's powerful tools on your Mac.

Pixelmator - Change Background - Featured

Pixelmator - Change Background - Sidebar
Pixelmator - Change Background - Featured
It can take some getting used to Pixelmator’s tools, but once you’ve experimented you get complete control of your image.
The few remaining errors in this photo can easily be corrected. The streak of light on the man’s ear is painted out using cloning. Then, the background is selected and removed. Selecting areas can be quite tricky, but Pixelmator gives you many ways to adjust and refine your selection with sliders. Removing the background, even on an image like this (with fine hair and blurred edges) is a quick process. You then create a new layer, put it in the background and add a series of quick effects. By adding these effects one after the other, then painting with custom brushes, you can cook up a creative background to be proud of in moments. Adding glow to this image gives it a slightly ethereal look, and then you’re ready to export.

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Pixelmator - Change Background - Step-by-Step

Pixelmator - Change Background - Step 1

Step 1: Ear clone

Select the Clone tool from the Tools bar. Click on part of the ear that has no light spill, then paint over the light spill. To select a new area to clone from, Option-click.

Pixelmator - Change Background - Step 2

Step 2: Hair care

To make it easier later on, tidy up the man’s hair using the Clone tool. Remove light spill and fill in obvious gaps. Use Option-click to repeatedly set a new source.

Pixelmator - Change Background - Step 3

Step 3: Outlining space

Select the Polygonal Lasso Tool, and draw an outline around the man, then draw all around the space on the left of the frame. Click on your starting point to close.

Pixelmator - Change Background - Step 4

Step 4: Refining

Go to Edit>Refine Selection and set the Feather to 30%. You can also adjust the size and smoothness, with the red area showing what will be left behind.

Pixelmator - Change Background - Step 5

Step 5: Creating space

Hit Delete, and then repeat the process on the woman’s side. The more accurate you are when drawing with the Lasso tool, the less refining you will have to do.

Pixelmator - Change Background - Step 6

Step 6: Sponge colour

Delete your refined selection, then select the Sponge tool. In the top-left, click Desaturate, then use this tool to scrub away excess colour from the light spill.

Pixelmator - Change Background - Step 7

Step 7: Cloud Layer

In Layers, click ‘+’ and drag the new layer below the photo. Press Cmd+3 to get the Effects, and drag clouds to the background. Then drag sunbeams to this layer.

Pixelmator - Change Background - Step 8

Step 8: Leaf brush

 Select the Brush tool, and in the Brushes palette click the cog and select Nature, then choose the Leaf brush. You may need to go to View>Show Colours.

Pixelmator - Change Background - Step 9

Step 9: Final glow

 In the Effects Browser, select Glow and drag it to the background. You can continue to refine, erase and blur on the photo layer to see how it looks in context. 

Click on the image below to zoom in and view the annotations.

Pixelmator - Change Background - Annotated