There are many instances where someone might need to remove the background from a photos. Sometimes it is for a product image, where a white background is usually the standard, or the product image might be needed as an asset for another ad or project.
Having the image alone without a background allows the product image to be used in a much wider variety of ways, including placing it on a different background if need be. Most would use Photoshop for something like this, but Photoshop can be an expensive investment, even with the monthly subscription service Adobe offers now in lieu of buying the program outright for thousands of dollars. The good news is there are ways to get the job done without Photoshop.
There are a few freeware programs out there that could do the trick, but GIMP I find is one of the better ones. The interface can be a little bit clunky, as it uses a variety of windows and panels, but it functions similarly to Photoshop, and many people even prefer it to Photoshop after getting used to it. Once you’ve downloaded and installed GIMP, you’re ready to begin.
First thing you’ll want to do is create a new file. Make the image size fairly large, or at least large enough to fit the full image you’ll be editing. Make sure the default background is transparent. If you are going to be using the image for print media (like posters, fliers, brochures, etc), set the color mode to CYMK since those are the colors standard to most printers.
Otherwise, either color mode should be fine. Once you have your new document, it is time to drop the image you’ll be working with into GIMP. Just drag the image file into the active window and it’ll appear as a new layer in GIMP.
Now that the image is in place, we just need to get rid of that pesky background. There are a few ways to do this depending on the object and background. If the background is mostly a single color, and there is a lot of contrast between the background and the object, you can use the quick select tool to select either just the object, or everything but the object.
Click the little wand icon in the tools menu and drag it over the background, getting close to the object you want to keep on the image but not touching it. A dotted line should start blocking out an area around the object until everything around it is selected. From here, just press the delete key and voila, no more background.
If the background is a little more complex, there’s another method you can use, but its a little more time consuming and requires a little more patience. Click on the little lasso icon in tools, and carefully trace around the object you want to use. Once you’re done, you can add or subtract from your selection by holding the shift or ctrl keys while using the lasso tool.
Once you’re done, click select from the menu at the top of the screen and then click on select inverse in the drop down menu (depending on your version of GIMP, the wording may be slightly different). This will select everything but the object you just selected with the lasso tool. Just press the delete key and the background should be gone.
The last step is saving your image. I highly recommend saving the image as a .png file. This will preserve the transparency layer you’re using as a background, meaning you can drop the image on another background no problem. Saving as a .gif or .jpg will replace the transparent section with white, which is nice for simple product images, but will require you to redo all this work just to get the object on its own again if you need to use it as an asset for another project.
Some of these steps or the wording and names of some of the tools may vary slightly depending on the version of GIMP being used, but overall the key steps should be the same no matter what version you use. If you have any questions or run into any issues, there are plenty of tips and guides on YouTube as well as our blog, where you can find even more creative tips and tricks.