Editing an image to remove its background can be quite tedious. And, like most image editing operations, it, too, is considered by many to be one of those operations that require a high-end photo editing tool.

remove background from images on mac

However, if you’re on Mac, the built-in image viewer—Preview—offers the functionality to remove an image’s background. In fact, it’s a lot easier to use Preview for removing background from images compared to full-fledged editing tools.

Follow along as we list down all the different ways in which Preview lets you remove background from images on Mac.

How to Use Preview to Remove Background From Images

Preview lets you remove the background of an image in three ways. Below are the instructions for each of these methods.

1. Remove Background From Images on Mac Using Instant Alpha

Instant Alpha is a selection tool that allows you to quickly remove parts from an image and make its background transparent. It works by performing a selection based on the colors of objects in an image and is ideal for pictures with fewer objects in the frame.

Follow these steps to remove the background from an image using Instant Alpha:

  1. Open the image whose background you want to remove in Preview.
  2. Click on the Show Markup Toolbar button to reveal all the different Preview tools.
    remove image background using instant alpha
  3. Click on Instant Alpha; it’s the second option in the toolbar with a magic wand icon.
    remove image background using instant alpha
  4. Drag the cursor on the image to select the background and release when you’re done. If you make a mistake during selection, hit the Esc key.
  5. Instant Alpha will now show your selected area in red color. Hit the Delete key on your Mac to remove this area from the image.
  6. If you’re working on a JPG file, Preview will prompt you to convert it to PNG for adding transparency. Hit Convert to continue and remove your selected background.
    remove image background using instant alpha

As you do this, if you aren’t satisfied by the removed background in your image in the first go, you can go over the steps again until you’re pleased with the end result.

Once you like the output, hit the Command + S keyboard shortcut to save it. Or, click on File > Save to do it. If you wish to use the image with another file, use Command + C.

2. Remove Background From Images Using Selection Tools

As we mentioned above, the Instant Alpha tool manages to remove background from images quite cleanly, but it isn’t ideal for complex pictures.

For such situations, Preview has a few selection tools that you can use in conjunction with Instant Alpha (or otherwise) to get your desired output. These tools include rectangle, elliptical, and lasso selection, and here are the steps to use them:

  1. Open the image you want to remove the background for in the Preview app. You can also continue editing the image you used Instant Alpha on but didn’t like the output.
  2. Tap on the Show Markup Toolbar button.
  3. Click on the Selection Tools: the first option in the toolbar.
  4. Depending on your requirement, select Rectangular Selection: to select a rectangular area on the image or Elliptical Selection: to outline an elliptical area in the image, from the options. If you want to select an object that requires free-form selection, select Lasso Selection.
    remove image background using selection tools
  5. Again, based on your selection tool, outline the object/area you want to remove to select it. To get precise cutouts, zoom in on images to get the selection area right, and zoom out when you’re done selecting.
  6. With the background selected, hit Delete.
  7. When prompted to convert the image, click the Convert button, and Preview will remove your selection from the image.

Click Command + S to save and Command + C to copy the output in Preview. Besides, if you accidentally mess up your selection and end up deleting an object in the image you didn’t intend to, hit the Command + Z keyboard shortcut to undo the changes.

3. Remove Background From Images on Mac Using Smart Lasso

Much like the Lasso Selection tool, Preview also has Smart Lasso. It’s essentially a selection tool that lets you draw a freeform line around the object you want to delete or copy in an image, after which it automatically adjusts the path based on color intensity.

Here are the steps to remove the background from an image with Smart Lasso:

  1. Open the picture from which you want to remove the background in Preview.
  2. Click on the Show Markup Toolbar button to reveal all the markup tools.
  3. Tap on the Selection Tools.
  4. Click on Smart Lasso.
    remove image background using smart lasso
  5. Drag over the background you want to remove using your mouse/trackpad to create a selection and release when done.
  6. As soon as you mark your selection, Smart Lasso will mark your selection. Hit Delete to remove it from the image.

Continue to go over the process as many times as you want until you remove the background from the photo. Hit Command + S to save it and Command + C to copy it over to another file.

Related: MIUI’s Erase Object vs Pixel’s Magic Eraser and Samsung’s Object Eraser

Background Removal on Mac Made Easy With Preview

Removing backgrounds is a handy editing technique that lets you delete unwanted objects from images. It may also come in handy when you wish to draw attention to an object in an image, swap the background for better visuals, make the image background transparent, or change the background color.

Preview makes it extremely easy to remove image backgrounds on Mac with a few simple steps without requiring editing expertise. However, when compared to full-fledged photo-editing tools, it falls short in terms of accuracy and functionality. As such, it’s ideal only for basic background removing requirements, i.e., in non-professional settings.

For other situations, you may still want to use background removal tools that come bundled with editing tools like Adobe Photoshop, Procreate, GIMP, and the like. Alternatively, you can also check out Cleanup.pictures, which is an online background eraser that lets you remove backgrounds from images with a single click and does a pretty good job at it.

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