Clipart

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).

(Here is a video I made if you would prefer to view how it can be done.)


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/outline, 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.

About McKay Christensen

After having lived in Oregon, Alaska, and China for the past 10 years doing landscape design and English teaching, I have returned to my home state of Utah and currently work for a growing tech company.

In my free time I enjoy working on my TutorialGeek.net website where I post tutorials and reviews (and anything else I think is geeky) and I also like to write songs for my Super English Kid Youtube channel.

My favorite things to do include anything with my wife and son. Hiking, camping, and photography (or anything else outdoors). Playing Ultimate Frisbee or Ping Pong. Listening to 60s, 70s, or 80s, music. 

Feel free to contact me using my contact page. I would love to hear from any of you!

23 comments:

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

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  3. 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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  4. 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.

    glamor retouching | ghost mannequin | photo background knockout

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  5. Loved this tutorial. So helpful. Thank you!

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

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  6. You are very welcome. Thanks for your message!

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

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

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  8. how to put it in another background?

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    Replies
    1. 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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  9. 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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  10. “ 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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  11. Thank you, worked perfectly

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  12. hello thank you for posting this, the first gimp tutorial i found about this (I'm trying to remove the background of a product to make it white) suggests beginning with a picture with a background as white as possible and with as good lighting as possible. i'm not a professional photographer so the light cube I'm using and the lighting i guess is not doing a good enough job, so the Fuzzy Select tool marching ants are not following the outline of the product and instead the marching ants sometimes go across the product. i found your post and it sounds like using the Alpha Layer is a better way to do it, I'm going to try right now. thank you again
    Bob in Atlanta

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  13. silly question but where is the delete key?! haha

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  14. Now that I have deleted the background to my image, I can't seem to figure out how to get the fuzzy tool outline to go away so I can do a little finishing work with the eraser tool. I noticed that you got the outline to go away somehow. Help!

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    Replies
    1. Hey Gary, to remove the selection (outline) you can press ctrl+shift+A - This deselects everything.

      I should have included that in the tutorial. Thanks for your comment, I will update this tutorial to mention that.

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