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Two foolproof ways to remove the background from a photo

Looking to cut out the background from an image, but aren’t quite sure how to do it? Well, no matter if you have Photoshop or not, you’ve come to the right place. In this article we’ll cover two different methods that will get the job done: one that uses Photoshop, and one that relies on a browser-based Web app.

We’ll start with the simplest option – the Web app. Even if you’re partial to full-featured programs like Photoshop or GIMP, we highly recommend checking out Background Burner. We like it because the learning curve is insanely low, it doesn’t require any downloads or installs because it runs in your browser, and it doesn’t cost a single cent. Here’s a quick rundown of how to use it:

If you’re fortunate enough to have a copy of Photoshop and prefer to use that, we’ve also included a quick tutorial for that on page two.

This article has been updated since it was originally published due to software changes. We’ve replaced Clipping Magic, which is no longer free, with Background Burner. Staff writer Emily Schiola contributed to this article.

How to remove backgrounds with Background Burner

So let’s say you want to Photoshop a mustache onto your boss’s face, but you don’t have Photoshop and all of the gloriously curly mustaches you find have annoying white backgrounds on them. In order to strip out the background and get a PNG image of the mustache by itself, follow these steps:

1. Download/save the image to your computer.

2. Head over to Background Burner.

3. Click the big blue Choose File button or just drag and drop your image into the dotted box.

4. Watch as a tiny dragon burns the background off your picture.

5. With something this basic, Background Burner does a good job of getting the picture precise. If you want to make changes, you can zoom in and paint red where you want it restored and red where you want it removed.

Background Burner Mustache

6. If the image preview on the right looks correct, go ahead and click save.

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, but it’ll take a little extra work. To get the job done, just follow the same steps as above, but get a little bit more precise with the red and green markings. For example, this picture of my coworker Ben Lundin is pretty good, but the background just doesn’t do him justice. I want to replace it with something a bit more badass.

BBQ background

Again, the little dragon went to work burning off the background.

Background Burner removing background

For the most part, the software’s edge-finding algorithm did a decent job of finding Ben, and gave four options to choose from.

Background options

I chose the one that left most of his body intact but didn’t want the grill or the other people ruining the vibe of my photo. If you are happy with the initial options, you can click select. If not, you can go into Touch Up and make things a little more precise. Using the basic outline, I started putting green lines on the parts I wanted to be restored.

Background touch-up

So, to make it more accurate, I needed to zoom in and get more precise with my green markings. You can change the size of your brush in the top menu, but I’ve found that’s it’s much easier to just zoom in deep. Once you’re close enough to see where the algorithm missed the edges, drop a few green marks to help it straighten out. After you’re done with that, just zoom back out too see if the finished product looks all right. Mine’s not perfect, but it’ll do. Do the same with the red brush

Background touch-up pt. 2

When you’re happy with your product, choose Use This. The website will ask you to sign in to download your creation, but it doesn’t cost any money and claims the spam emails will be minimal.

Complete picture with background removed

Now I can add a newer, more appropriate background…

Ben Lundin in front of explosion


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