Foolproof ways to remove the background from an image

Looking to remove the background from an image, but not quite sure how to go about doing it? You’ve come to the right place! Don’t worry, changing a background is probably easier than you may think — especially with the right software! Below, we’ll cover web apps like Background Burner, as well as offline tools like Photoshop. Read on for all the details.

We also have guides on how to create a watermark and how to make an animated GIF, if you’re looking for additional tutorials related to photography.

Web-based apps

Background Burner

Removing simple backgrounds

So let’s say you want to Photoshop a mustache onto your coworker’s face or tweak an image you found online, but you don’t have access to Photoshop and all of the mustaches you find feature an annoying background. In order to strip out the background and get a PNG file, which will allow you to isolate your image and save it without any background content, follow these steps:

Step 1: Download and save the image in question to your computer.

Step 2: Head over to the official Background Burner website.

Step 3: Click the blue Choose File button in the bottom-right corner, or simply drag and drop your image into the dotted box at the bottom.

Step 4: Now, watch as the tiny dragon eradicates the background of your image. The tool does a pretty precise job with basic backgrounds, but if you want to make additional changes, click the Touch up button below the resulting image. Then, use the Mark Foreground and Mark Background tools to define the parts of the image you’d like to remove.

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Step 5: Once the image preview on the right-hand side of the page looks correct, click the green Log in to download button. You’ll need to create a free account in order to download the resulting image, but doing so is easy, especially if you allow the site access to your Facebook or Google credentials.

Removing complex backgrounds

Looking to remove the background from an actual photograph, not just some clip art with a white background? Don’t worry — Background Burner can handle this, too. To get the job done, simply follow the steps as outlined above, but be a little bit more precise when marking up your image. For example, the picture below is pretty good, but the background doesn’t quite fit. We want to replace it with something a bit more impactful.

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To begin removing the background, follow steps 1 through 3 above, and allow the dragon to do its job. As you can see below, the tool’s edge-finding algorithm did a decent job of finding the model, and provided us with four options to choose from.

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We chose the one that left most of his body intact, but nixed the grill and various party goers. If you’re happy with the initial results, simply click the green Select button. If not, click Touch up and fine-tune your image. Using the first image as our outline, we started painting green lines on the parts of the image we wanted to be restored.

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So, to make it more accurate, we needed to zoom in and get more precise with our markings. You can change the size of your brush in the top menu, but we’ve found that’s it’s far easier to zoom in. Once you’re close enough to see where the algorithm missed the edges, drop a few green marks to encapsulate the part of the image you’d like to keep. Once done, zoom out to see if the finished product looks OK. Ours isn’t perfect, but it’ll do. Now, do the same with the red brush (aka, the Mark Background tool).

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When you’re happy with your product, click Use This in the bottom-right corner. Again, you’ll need to create a free account in order to download the resulting image, but doing so is easy if you allow the site access to your Facebook or Google credentials.

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Now we can add a newer, more appropriate background…

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Perfect! Keep in mind that there is also a professional version of Background Burner — one that’s specifically focused on ecommerce — if you plan to remove image backgrounds on a regular basis or need access to more advanced tools. Oh, and if you’re interested in augmenting a sweet profile image like this, we’ve rounded up a collection of the best selfie apps.

Alternative: Clipping Magic

Clipping Magic

If you want to explore a more detail-oriented option, check out this alternative to Background Burner: Clipping Magic. Like the aforementioned tool, it uses automated software to detect edges — all you have to do is mark the “foreground” and “background” with red and green strokes.

Clipping Magic also provides a useful live preview, which lets you tweak the results on the fly. The web app provides basic options for shadow and color adjustment, too, along with a couple other tools that allow you to better adjust the resulting image. This makes the software more suitable for detailed projects, ones in which you want more control over how your image looks.