I hate graphics software. There, I said it. I know I’m a tech blogger, and I should have at least some basic graphic skills, but the truth is I don’t. In fact, I shy away from these programs in apprehension, starting to sweat as soon as I hear the word “layers.” Don’t laugh, it’s a sort of disability, and just like batch editing, one I have to struggle with when preparing articles.
One of the most common tasks I have to do with images is removing their background. This is not something only tech bloggers have to do, though. If you’re selling stuff online, creating presentations, or even making collages, you might want to use the object in the photo without using its background. Making a single-color background transparent is a task I’ve already mastered (see some tips below on this too), but removing a complex background from a photo always seemed like an impossible task.
But is it really? To find out I dived into the task head-on.
ClippingMagic is a brilliant tool that makes it unbelievably easy to remove a photo’s background. As mentioned above, I expected the task to be at least a little demanding. I was wrong. Removing a background from images with ClippingMagic is as easy as dragging, dropping, and drawing out the background. The tool does the hard lifting for you, leaving you with minor corrections which are easily done with the provided tools. So how does it work?
After uploading your image, you’ll see two copies of your image side by side. With the two provided brushes, mark with green everything you want to leave in, and with red anything you want to get rid of. You don’t even have to meticulously color every nook and cranny, just show ClippingMagic the way, and the tool will take it from there.
There are 4 different brush sizes to choose from, and you can zoom to take care of the finer details. You can also choose between 7 different background colors, or leave it transparent. In 2-5 minutes, depending on how complex your photo is, you’re going to have your final result, which you can download to your computer. Isn’t that awesome?
Pros: Doesn’t require any installs, very easy to use, and does most of the hard lifting all by itself.
Cons: Being a web app, ClippingMagic requires an Internet connection; this method cannot be used offline.
Bottom Line: A simple Windows software tool anyone, from a child to a grandmother, can use to remove any background from almost any image.
MS Office 2010/2013
If you have Word, Excel or PowerPoint installed, you have another easy way to remove your picture’s background. The process is identical for all three programs, and requires you to insert the picture into a new document. Once that’s done, click the Format tab, and under the Adjust group, click on Remove Background.
The program will try to figure out automatically which parts of the picture are the background, and mark them in purple. Depending on the complexity of your image, you could be done right then and there, or you might need to make some adjustments. In my case, the result looked good, but wasn’t perfect.
To fix problems, start by fitting the marker around your object, which will cause the program to automatically detect more background. If this is still not enough, as was in my case, you’re going to have to use the Mark Areas to Remove and Mark Areas to Keep tools. These are not the most intuitive to use, but it mostly amounts to drawing straight lines around the objects you want to get rid of or keep.
When you’re done, save the changes, and you’re left with a background-less image. You can now either use it inside the document, or right click it to save it as an image.
Pros: With many images, all you have to do is give the tool the image, and it promptly separates it from the background all by itself. Works offline.
Cons: Requires MS Office, which not everyone has or wants to buy. The marking tools are a little hard to use.
Bottom Line: If you already have MS Office and feel comfortable working with it, this method will work great.
Setting A Background As Transparent
Sometimes you don’t have a complex photo, but a simple image with a white background you want to use on top of other images or a different background. In cases like this, it won’t do to have a white background, as this will hide the other image, and generally get in the way. Turning this white background transparent is even easier than getting rid of a complex background. There are numerous ways to do this, most of them pretty simple, but today I’ll show you a quick way to do this with Office. Unlike the above tool, this one is also available in MS Office 2007.
To start, insert your image into a Word, Excel or PowerPoint document. Keep in mind that this method will not work well for multi-colored backgrounds. Even a drop shadow could screw up the results. If you have more than one color in your background, use one of the two methods above. If you have only one color, this method will work like a charm.
Click on the image, and under the Format tab, in the Adjust group, click on Recolor. Choose Set Transparent Color, and click on the background to remove the background from the image.
That’s it. If your background is truly uniform, it will simply go away. If you get a weird result, it probably means there were multiple colors in your background.
MS Office is a treasure trove of image-editing tools which gets bigger with every version that comes out. For more ideas, check out these amazing image-editing feats you can do with MS Word. You might also be interested in this collection of awesome image editors which reside entirely online.
Note: This trick is possible using many simple image viewers and editors as well, and I’ve often done it using IrfanView too.
So turns out I was wrong. Removing backgrounds isn’t an impossible task after all. There’s no reason to fear or to worry. With one of the tools above, you too can remove any background from any picture, and do so easily and quickly. Don’t believe me? You don’t have to. Just keep in mind that if I can do it, anyone can. Give it a try and tell us how you fared.
What’s your favorite way to remove the background from an image or make it transparent? Do you have a trick everyone should know about? Share it in the comments!