Photoshop Quick Tip: Separate a Logo from Coloured Background Using Gradient Maps

Every once in a while a client sends me logo file as flat jpg that I need to include in a design. I always ask for vector files, but sometimes the person in charge cannot provide these. To make matters worse the background is coloured which makes it even harder to cut out the logo. While there are many techniques to separate content from the background in Photoshop I found that using gradient maps is a quick and non-destructive way to do so. This tip won’t work in all instances, but when it does it is very handy! Here’s how you do it.

Step 1:

You get sent a file similar to one below. Let’s assume the background and logo colour are quite similar. Using the quick selection tool or ‘selective colour’ method often results in fuzzy edges. Bummer!

Cut out Logo from Background in Photoshop Tutorial

Step 2:

Add a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer above the flat logo layer (2) and create a Clipping Mask (3). The default black and white gradient doesn’t cut it though. We need to tweak this a bit.

Cut out Logo from Background in Photoshop Tutorial

Step 3:

Double click on the gradient to open it’s settings. Now we have to tweak the position of the stop points in order to get the desired effect. This is the trickiest part and might requires some fiddling around to get the smooth edges between the black logo and white background. When you’re done, just make sure that the logo is in fact 100% black and the background 100% white using the eyedropper tool. Since we’re working with a non-destructive adjustment layer we can always go back to further tweak the stop points.

Cut out Logo from Background in Photoshop Tutorial

Step 4:

All that’s left to do is to set your flat logo layer (Merged Layers) to Multiply in the Blending Mode options. That’s it. You’ve now got the logo in black, cut out from the background and ready to place on whichever background you like.

Cut out Logo from Background in Photoshop Tutorial

Step 5:

Below is the comparison between the cut out logo and the live text on a coloured background (which represents working with a vector logo). The results are great and will work just fine for web purposes. I wouldn’t recommend using this techniques for print files though.

Cut out Logo from Background in Photoshop Tutorial

Extra tip:

If you need the logo in white to place on a dark background you simply have to reverse the gradient colours (not the gradient itself!). So the black stop point should be white and vice versa. Then you simply choose ‘Screen’ as Blending Mode.

Written by Franz Jeitz

Franz Jeitz is a freelance designer and owner of Fudgegraphics. Originally from Luxembourg he now lives in London. Franz loves design, music and is a tea enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter.

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2 Awesome Responses so far
  1. TY — clear and practical. Don’t need it yet, but I’ll file it where I can find it for when I do

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  1. CraftCrave | Blog | Scrapbooking Tutorials (large): Saturday, 16 Mar 2013

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