How to remove background from image with GIMP.

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Remove background from an image with GIMP free tool.

I will show you 2 methods to remove a background from image, one a simple method for a simple picture, and one more an advanced method.

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Method 1 – simple 

This method will only work if the background has a solid color what is different than the image color, or vise versa the image has a solid color that is different from the background.

Step 1:

Fire up GIMP and select your image i will select my simple smiley face image.

Smiley face image for how to remove background

As you can see the background has a solid red color and the image has nothing red. That makes it very easy.

Step 2:

Grab the “Select by color” tool marked in red at the image.

Select by color tool

Now hover over to the solid color area, which by me is the red area and click to select that color. By me, all the red will be selected.

Step 2.1:

This step is only if your image is a solid color and the background is not, the opposite we have here. Then instead of selecting the background, select your image, then hover over to the top menu options click on “Select” and choose “Invert Selection” that will invert your selection and select the full background.

invert selection option

Step 3:

Go to the layer area on the top right of the screen, right click on your layer and select “Add alpha channel”

add alpha channal

This adds a transparent background under your image, You will not see any change when you do this but it is very important if you want to have a transparent background.

Step 4:

now you can just click on your keyboard the DELETE key and the whole red background will disappear from your image, and you will have an image like this.

Image with removed background

Step 5:

Export the image, you need to export it as a PNG file so you will not loos the transparency, go to file > export as, and select the name you want, and all options you can leave by default.

Export image with no background

Here you have done it, You have successfully removed the background from an image with GIMP! That’s the easy and simple way but will not work for a lot of images. So let’s go to the advanced method.

Method 2 – Advanced

For this method, i will choose a more a complicated picture. but it will work even on more complicated pictures than that. So let’s get started.

Step 1:

I will select my picture of a nice close Fish.

Nice close fish

As you can this one is definitely not that simple as the last one. Let’s see if we can remove the background from this image with GIMP. If you look closely you will notice the bottom of the fish will be hard to get all the details, but it is not impossible.

Step 2:

First thing first we need to make a copy of the layer. Just go over to the layer area, click on your layer then a right click and select “Duplicate layer”.

Duplicate layer in GIMP

Step 3:

head over to the top menu options click on “Colors” then select “Threshold”

remove background with threshold

Ones you click on that you will immediately see your image get transformed don’t get scared that is what we wanted. You can notice how the foreground(fish) get separated from the background, now we just need to tweak around a little with the tool until we get the best results.

This is how this image looks like just by selecting the tool.

separate image from background

You can see the background is completely blacked out which is a good thing, but it is missing a lot of detail from the fish, so we can’t leave it like this.

Step 4: 

Play around with the arrow on the dialog. The results that you are looking for is the most you can separate the foreground from the background but you can’t loos any detail from the foreground. So here is what I think worked the best for my image.

blacked out background

You can see, now the background is not completely black, but now we have all the details of the fish which is very important. You do the same for your picture, eliminate the most of the background you can but without loosing any of your foregrounds.

Step 5:

Now fill in all the inside of the fish with withe and the outside with black to complete the job that the tool didn’t finish, so will have a completely separate image from the background.

removed background with gimp

Here are my results after completely whiting out the inside of the fish, and blacking out the background. Now comes the easy and fun part.

Step 6:

Go ahead and select the “magic select tool”

Magic select tool

And click anywhere on the black area, all the black area should be selected.

Step 7:

While the background is selected, go back to the layer window and click on the original layer where you have the full colored image, and click the eye near the black and white image so you won’t see that layer anymore. You will see the selection is still around the fish.

disabling layer in gimp

Step 8: the most fun part…

Just press the DELETE key on your keyboard and watch the magic happen.

removed background from image with gimp

Here it is, fully removed the background from the image, but retained all the details.

Yes, we did it!!!

I hope this was helpful, and you will learn how to remove the background from all your images. If you still have any questions you can leave it in the comments section and i’ll try to answer the best I can.

If you want to check out some other tutorials. Here are some links.

Additional resources




3 comments on “How to remove background from image with GIMP.

  1. Everything from the brush size and the background color to the crop details are fully under your control – just configure an image to have the settings you like, then make the ones you want to keep the defaults for future images.

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