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How to remove image backgrounds in GIMP

If your image background is dissatisfactory, remove it with GIMP.
By
January 25, 2023

Adobe Photoshop is a fantastic program for editing images. However, there is a major barrier to entry in that it costs money. GIMP is a free alternative that allows you to access many of the same image-editing functions. Let’s review how to remove the background from images in GIMP.

Read more: How to add a drop shadow in Photoshop

QUICK ANSWER

To remove the background from an image in GIMP, right-click your image layer and select Add Alpha Channel. Choose the Select by Color tool in the upper right, then click on the background color of your image. Press Delete to remove the background.


KEY SECTIONS

How to remove the background of an image in GIMP

If the background is simple (Select by Color)

GIMP allows you to select and delete a particular color from your image. That means if your image has a uniform white background, the process of removing it is very simple.

Open the image you wish to delete the background for in GIMP. In the Layers section, which appears in the bottom right by default, right-click your image layer. Select Add Alpha Channel.

add alpha channel gimp
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In GIMP, the tools appear in the top left. Select the Select by Color tool from the list, or press Shift+O on your keyboard.

select by color tool gimp
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Click on the color you want to delete from your image. For example, in our image, we selected the white background.

click on the color you want to delete from your image
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Press Delete on your keyboard to delete that color from your image.

press delete on keyboard gimp
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If the background is complex (Foreground Select)

When your image has a more complex background — meaning there are many colors — you may want to consider using the Foreground Select method. This is a solid way to create a smaller canvas for you to select from, then choose what you want in your image.

Right-click your image layer and select Add Alpha Channel. After that, select the Foreground Select tool from the options in the upper left.

foreground select
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Using your cursor, click and drag a rough outline around what you want to keep in your image.

draw the foreground
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Press Enter on your keyboard.

press enter on keyboard gimp
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Click and drag your cursor to customize your selection. Use the bracket keys ([ and ]) to change the size of your selection pen and draw over everything you wish to keep.

select everything you want to keep
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When you’ve drawn over everything you wish to keep, click Preview mask.

click preview mask
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Press Enter on your keyboard (or click Select) to create a selection.

convert to selection by pressing enter or clicking select
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Click Select > Invert (or press Ctrl+I on your keyboard). This will invert your selection.

invert selection
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Press Delete on your keyboard to delete the background.

press delete on keyboard
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Paths Tool

paths tool gimp app pc
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The Paths Tools is a very basic way to create a selection. After selecting what you want to keep, just invert your selection and press Delete.

  1. Right-click your image layer and select Add Alpha Channel.
  2. Click the Paths Tool from the options in the upper left.
  3. Select key points around the area you want to separate from your background. Click and drag those lines to get as close to the borders as you can.
  4. Press Enter on your keyboard to make the selection.
  5. Go to Select > Invert (or press Ctrl+I on your keyboard). This will invert your selection.
  6. Press Delete on your keyboard.

Read more: How to crop or resize an image in GIMP