Stay Updated

Nov 5, 2013

How To Remove The Background Of Any Image In Photoshop Or GIMP


Removing a background is one the simplest tasks that can be performed in an image editing program. To remove the background is useful when laying one layer over another, or for combining images into one canvas.

We’ll look at what it takes to remove the background of an image in Photoshop as well as the free program GIMP.

Remove The Background In Photoshop

Let’s say you have two images, like this:


The top layer is an owl and bottom is another cartoonish picture. The two would go well together if only the background the top layer were removed for easy, realistic blending.

With the top layer selected from the layers panel on the right, choose the “Magic Wand Tool” from the left. Right-click the option in the tool area to show the Magic Wand.


If need be, hide the other layers by clicking the small eye icons next to them.


Now simply choose the background with the Wand Tool to quickly highlight it, like this:


We could press the “Delete” key at this time to remove the background, but we’re going to refine the selection with a light smooth touch. This will ensure no rough edges remain.

Right-click the selection and choose “Refine Edge.”


Choose something small like “2” for the “Smooth” option.


Save these changes with an “OK” and then press the “Delete” key to remove the background.

If the bottom layer is hidden, make it visible again to reveal the background has actually been removed.


Now the top layer can be positioned as desired without its unnecessary background.

What If The Background Isn’t So Simple?

You may be put off if your background is hard to manage. Maybe you’re dealing with hair on someone’s head, or a car with a street behind it. These will not be as easy to work with, as you can’t use the Magic Wand Tool to quickly select what you don’t want and then quickly remove it.

You must use manual selection techniques when the image forces you to. For example, we have a picture of a building here, but we don’t want the sky behind it. Using the Magic Wand Tool doesn’t do a very well job, as it selects part of the building, which we don’t want.

In this case, we’ll need the “Polygonal Lasso Tool.”


This tool helps create straight lines for selecting around solid, definite structures like what we have with buildings. To use this tool, click once at a point the background meets the foreground, like the edge of this building and the blue sky:


Then move the mouse around and notice the selection moves with it. Click again, this time along the same point (the background vs the foreground), and then keep doing this until you have your selection. Double-click wherever you end up to automatically meet the ending point with the beginning, thus creating the selection.

Press “Delete” to remove the background.

In this example, the background layer is white, thus the revealing color behind the foreground layer will be white when it’s removed.


Right-click and remove the “Background” layer to reveal transparency.


Remove The Background In GIMP

Maybe you’re not using the costly Adobe Photoshop, but are rather content with GIMP. The same logic from above applies to this program.

To automatically reveal transparency behind an image in GIMP, right-click the layer the image resides on and choose “Add Alpha Channel.”


Choose the “Fuzzy Select Tool” (“U” for the shortcut) from the toolbox.


Then just click the background of the image to automatically select it.


Hold down the “Shift” key and click other areas of the background to group them together. This way, when you get two or more sections selected, you can easily press the “Delete” key and remove them all at once.
Now the image can be properly placed over another, like this:


Removing the background of simple to complex images are always possible with these high-powered image editing programs. GIMP is a great free alternative to Photoshop, but it still functions much the same – even with much the same tools.

It’s recommended to take time and patience when removing the background manually. It can certainly be time consuming. However, being able to mold images to your liking by combining them like we’ve done above, makes the time and effort of much worth.


Post a Comment