How hard is it to completely remove the background from a photo? For the graphically challenged among us, the answer is “pretty darn hard”. Messing around with programs like Photoshop or GIMP is out of the question if you’re not into that stuff, and trying to make a complex background transparent is as useless as trying to customize your iPhone.
Believe it or not, removing backgrounds is not as hard as it looks. There are several relatively simple ways to remove the background from an image, the most renowned of which is Clipping Magic, a Web app that makes removing backgrounds easy even for children. But can it be even easier?
That’s exactly what Background Burner claims. Let’s find out if it’s true!
Using Background Burner
Just like Clipping Magic, Background Burner is a Web app that makes it easy to quickly remove the background from any image. As usual, you start by uploading your photo to Background Burner. The app will then attempt to remove the background from your image all by itself. You don’t have to do anything yet.
After less than a minute, Background Burner will present its results. It will usually give you 3-4 options to choose from.
If the photo you uploaded wasn’t too complex, one of the results will most likely be perfect. If that’s the case, just hit the “Select” button below the perfect result and download it. If none of the results are completely perfect, you can choose the best result of the bunch and do some touch ups to make it perfect.
If you choose to touch up, the interface you’ll be using is very similar to Clipping Magic’s. Use the green brush to mark parts you want to keep and the red brush to mark parts you want to erase. There are three brush sizes to choose from for each color.
When your image is ready, you can download it either as a JPG with a white background, or a PNG with a transparent background. The latter will be useful if you’re planning on planting the image on a different background.
So what can Background Burner do for you that Clipping Magic can’t? First and foremost, Background Burner is completely free, and according to its developers, will also stay that way. Clipping Magic, on the other hand, currently costs money if you want to download your work (see below).
Background Burner also attempts to do most of the hard work itself. Unlike Clipping Magic, where you always have to show it which part is the subject and which is the background, Background Burner usually does a pretty good job at doing this automatically, leaving you with only some small touchups. This is especially useful with photos that are not very complex, and can save you quite a bit of work if you’re planning on removing the background from several photos.
When it comes to images that are a bit more complex, Background Burner’s automatic results are not as good as the completely manual ones of Clipping Magic.
In this case, no matter how much I tried to touch up Background Burner’s result, I couldn’t get a result as good as the one I got with Clipping Magic (which is not completely perfect either). To be fair, the image I used here was indeed a challenging one.
The lack of a completely manual mode that gives you total control over the result can be problematic with images like this, but as long as you stick with simpler images, you probably won’t miss it.
Background Burner is also missing a bulk clipping mode, which Clipping Magic offers for $8/month. On the other hand, Background Burner’s automatic background removal does make it pretty easy to remove backgrounds in bulk. While it’s not as fast as Clipping Magic, it is free.
Background Burner’s editor (where you make your touchups) is not as advanced as Clipping Magic’s, offering only the very basic options. When using Clipping Magic’s editor, you can take advantage of more advanced tools such as the hair tool, boundary offset, and different background colors. You will, of course, have to pay to download your result, so it’s up to you to decide what’s best for your photo. In most cases, Background Burner’s more basic abilities are still more than enough.
Background Burner is a quick, simple and free way to remove the background from most images. You don’t need any knowledge in graphics in order to use it, and you’ll still get great results. So if Clipping Magic’s new pricing left you disappointed, hurry up and try out Background Burner.
If you’re craving to use more serious tools and don’t know where to start, we have some wonderful free Photoshop eBooks that can get you started with Photoshop, and even turn you into a pro. Check them out!