How to Remove a Photo Background With GIMP

By Elizabeth Valentine

You can use the free, public domain GIMP to perform a variety of photo editing tasks, such as removing the background of an image. Whether you want to delete a plain, solid-colored background or a complicated mix of colors, you can use GIMP to complete the project. The "Scissors Select Tool" is used to "select shapes using intelligent edge-fitting" technology. You can select what you want, and delete the rest, eliminating your unwanted background.

Step 1

Launch GIMP and open the photo you want to edit. Click on "File," then "Open," highlighting the image of your choice. Press "Open." Select the "Layer" tab, placing your cursor over "Transparency" then using the over-arrow to select "Add Alpha Channel."

Step 2

Click on the "Scissors Select Tool" located in the main toolbar. Outline the foreground selection you want to keep, clicking down at every angle and corner present in your image to help the edge-fitting tool wrap around your foreground. Once you have outlined what you want to preserve, click on your original dot to isolate the desired region. Click inside the selection, turning the border into a dotted line.

Step 3

Use the "Select" tab to locate the "Invert" tool, then click on it. This will change your selection from the foreground to the background so you can delete the background.

Step 4

Press the Delete key or click on "Edit" and "Cut" to remove the photo background. To preserve the transparency, save your edited photo using a PNG file extension.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you want a less-jagged edge than what the "Scissors Select Tool" left you with, you can use the "Eraser Tool" located in the main toolbar to erase any rough patches. Click on the tool and select the brush type that best suits your preferences. The "Circle Fuzzy" brush will give you a soft-edged eraser whereas the standard "Circle" will give you a hard-edge. Run your cursor over the unwanted areas to erase them.
  • In case anything goes wrong with the editing process, remember to work on a copy of your original file rather than saving your changes directly over the photo itself.