How to remove the background from an image using the Gimp




Perhaps the thing I most often use the Gimp for is to remove a background. It is quite simple and fast once you are familiar with how to do it. This tutorial will focus on just the basics. It will show how to remove a single color background (this is the easiest way to remove a background).
I just did a quick Google search for "random clipart." Here is the image I ended up using.



Here is the image we are working with. On the right side of the window, you will right click the layer and "Add Alpha Channel."


Once you have the image you want, you will open it up in the Gimp. The very first thing you will want to do is "Add Alpha Channel." You will get this option by right clicking on the image layer (found on the right side of the Window). Near the end of the list you will see "Add Alpha Channel." Click on it. (There is a possibility that this is grayed out, in which case the Alpha channel has already been added and you don't need to do anything.)


Adding the alpha channel is what allows us to remove the background. Otherwise we would be stuck with a white background. Once the alpha channel has been added, we will select the Fuzzy Select Tool (It looks like a magic wand. You can also press U to select that tool.)


After we have selected the tool, I like to go to the tool options and enable "Feather edges." Feathering edges is what gives us a nice smooth object. If we do not feather the edges, the edges of our object will be pixelated and will not look good.


Feathering edges gives you an option to adjust the radius (this determines more or less how smooth the transition will be). A general rule of thumb is that the larger your image is, the higher you will want the radius. Because the image I am editing is quite small, I turned the radius down to 3.



After we have adjusted the radius, we can now select the background. This works very well because the background is a consistent color. If you are looking for clip art online, it is wise to be mindful of the existing background. You can save yourself a lot of time if the background is a consistent color.


You can now see that the object is selected. The black and white dashed lines (marching ants) represent the area that is selected.


In this picture you can see a closeup of the hand. Notice how the marching ants go around the black of the hand. Many of the pixels still have a dark yellowish color to it though (this is a feathered edge. The transition between two colors). This would look a bit weird if I put this image on a white background. To get rid of this, I want the selection to be a bit closer/tighter. To do this, I will press and hold the shift key while I press the selection again. When you press shift, you should see a + sign next to the magic wand (fuzzy tool). This means that it is expanding, or adding to the selection.


Using the shift key (adding to the selection) is especially important when you have a background that is not a consistent color. This allows you to select all the ranges of colors.


Now that I have added to the selection, you can see that the selection no longer includes yellow pixels.

Once you are satisfied with the selection, you can simply press the delete key. This will delete anything that is selected (note; if it becomes white at this point, it is because you have not added the alpha channel I talked about in the first step).



If you want to remove the selection to look at your image without the marching ants, you can go to "Select" and "None" (or just press Shift+Ctrl+A).


We now want to export the image (Shift+Ctrl+E).


Make sure you export the image as .png (or gif). If you export it as .jpg the background will be white. JPGs do not allow transparency.

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31 comments

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Anonymous
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March 7, 2013 at 1:04 AM delete

If you want to keep the background, but simply make it bigger, you should take a look at the Uncrop plugin (part of the new resynthesizer package at https://github.com/bootchk/resynthesizer)

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syed
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April 18, 2013 at 12:24 AM delete

Great help..fussy tool is Magic wand tool in P.S....@Anonymous...it helped thannk you...

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April 21, 2013 at 5:52 PM delete

Thanks for the comment Syed.

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Jayson James
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January 24, 2014 at 10:18 PM delete

It's a great work you have done. I am also working on that field. When I want to remove background from the image most of the case I use photoshop.

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February 7, 2014 at 10:56 PM delete

Wow, That's a nice method...... If I want to remove background from image, is Photoshop is perfect?? or gimp?
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Jenifer Jeny
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February 11, 2014 at 7:45 PM delete

Of course you can with photoshop, but I think GIMP is also perfect. Actually I made with photoshop but not GIMP. But above we observe that plenty awesome tutorial provided with awesome creativity that how to remove with gimp.

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Onegig Diw
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February 21, 2014 at 8:05 AM delete

God knows gimp is hard work...

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March 31, 2014 at 10:04 PM delete

Loved this tutorial. So helpful. Thank you!

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April 5, 2014 at 3:40 AM delete

Thanks for your comment. Glad it was a helpful tutorial!

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April 29, 2014 at 11:51 PM delete

Hey Thanks for the post McKay.

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May 5, 2014 at 7:36 PM delete

You are very welcome. Thanks for your message!

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May 8, 2015 at 3:21 AM delete

Gimp is more modern and essayist software to remove background. Thanks to share this tutorial as an easily.

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May 15, 2015 at 11:32 AM delete

I found it very hard to select the background areas that i want

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May 16, 2015 at 6:04 AM delete

Could you be more specific? Is your background a solid color?

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Anonymous
AUTHOR
July 7, 2015 at 1:08 PM delete

how to put it in another background?

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July 8, 2015 at 7:18 PM delete

Open up the background in another window in Gimp. Select all (Ctrl+A) to select your object, then go to the background window and Paste (Ctrl+V).

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Uker
AUTHOR
July 17, 2015 at 7:13 PM delete

When I do this the selector tool is taking out part of the image I need to keep, how can I add those parts back in? The outline of the image is perfect, but it has removed some of the interior white parts that are part of the image. Thanks!

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Lili
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October 11, 2015 at 6:36 PM delete

Great help. Thank you

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Anjlena Julia
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December 3, 2015 at 5:47 AM delete

This essay is very attractive and useful. Your this work defiantly helps other. Holborn Assets

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Tommy Jones
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December 12, 2015 at 10:04 AM delete This comment has been removed by the author.
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Thomas Kemp
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December 12, 2015 at 10:12 AM delete

“ I have been waiting for most of these tips since years. As I don't use Photoshop regularly, I never really bothered to find a solution to all these things. Awesome, thank you! I also find a image editing provider who create this type of task such as background remove, hair masking, logo design, retouching, drop shadow, raster to vector, neck joint etc. very easily & quickly as much client requirement.”

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Salim Ahmed
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December 19, 2015 at 11:13 AM delete

Effective tutorial. Thanks for sharing a great background removing tutorial. Thanks

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Diana Azura
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January 4, 2016 at 5:40 AM delete

I read your post. It was very nice. I learned something knowledgeable. Thanks for sharing.

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WWilkins
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January 12, 2016 at 10:08 AM delete

Thank you, worked perfectly

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January 13, 2016 at 10:45 PM delete

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January 15, 2016 at 6:24 AM delete

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Yuga Bharathi
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January 20, 2016 at 2:10 AM delete

Nice post. I am happy to visit your blog. This is very useful. Thank you so much for sharing.

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Unknown
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January 27, 2016 at 4:39 AM delete

A well elaborated and simple tutorial. this helped me a lot in removing background images while i was creating logo. as a freelancer at one of the crowdsourcing marketplace Designhill. these tutorials acts as the helping hand for freelancing. Thanks for sharing

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