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Dash of Inspiration – Clean Background Removal

March 26, 2012

A Dash of Inspiration, A Cup of Creativity by Doreen

Clean Background Removal

Removing an element from the background; no matter what you call it, can be done in a variety of ways; but ALL of them are time-consuming and take a tremendous amount of practice to get professional results.  This will be short and sweet since there is not a lot to say about this other than IF you are going to attempt this in your digital creations, then you MUST look out for the ‘artifacts’ which can be left behind when performing background removal leaving you with unprofessional results.

As shown in the example below, when done in haste, this technique leaves behind some unwanted effects such as;


  • Bits of background which can look like blotches, spots or blurry areas
  • A halo effect around edges when your element is placed on a darker background.
  • Jagged/rough edges left around the subject

Courtesy of Joshuas583

The key to great background removal is patience and learning how to combine various techniques to ultimately get clean smooth edges around your subject and when you place this newly cutout subject on a dark or contrasting  background as shown in the example below, there are no leftover bits of background or jagged edges. You have to have a smooth blend that looks natural as if  photographed that way.

Courtesy of the Yale Library

There is no single tool, no magic wand that will work all the time for all subjects and offer great results so don’t count on using your Background Eraser tool or Quick Selector as a full-proof, one-time removal tool.  Here are some really good articles and tutorials on a variety of methods to accomplish background removal.  I hope that I’ve inspired you to experiment with some of these tools.  When done well, this type of digital work can be very rewarding when you have a great looking subject, but a cluttered background – just remove it and place it in paradise!

5 Great Background Masking Techniques in Photoshop by Corrie Haffly

Masking 101 by Chris McVeigh,

GIMP Background Removal by

Working with Selection Tools by Eric Z Goodnight

BRILLIANT! How To Remove Background Around Difficult Subjects by 1stoptutorials

9 Comments leave one →
  1. naquaiya permalink
    March 26, 2012 3:35 pm

    Ouuuuu….Thanks Doreen, great references. This is so important.

    • March 26, 2012 3:59 pm

      You are welcome Naquaiya! Ya know, I have put many hours in over the years trying to perfect my techniques on this subject and I’m still amazed sometimes when I find a smudge of leftover background gunk that somehow I missed . . .hahaha!

  2. March 27, 2012 10:14 am

    Doreen, thanks for awesome goodies again! I really appreciate that you always add great finds for us GIMP users!

  3. SunAtNight permalink
    March 27, 2012 5:20 pm

    I would love to hear your thoughts on selecting good digital backgrounds. What features or characteristics do you look for? Perhaps you can do a second part to this topic for next week?

    • March 27, 2012 10:21 pm

      Hi SunAtNight – thanks for stopping by. I’d be happy to do that, it really depends on the subject, the purpose for the piece and the look you are going for, but I certainly am willing to share my own thoughts on the subject.

      Next week it is then : Part 2: Selecting Digital Backgrounds

  4. March 29, 2012 8:14 am

    Thanks Doreen.
    That was a great help…no more “artifacts” !!!

  5. March 29, 2012 7:29 pm

    Great info Doreen, thank you! Now can you place ME in paradise 😉 ?

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