How to remove a background in Inkscape

How To Remove A Background From An Image With Inkscape

How To Remove A Background From An Image With Inkscape 800 470 Nick Saporito

In this tutorial we’ll be going over how to remove a background with Inkscape. Although Inkscape is a vector-based tool, that doesn’t mean it can’t handle simple image-editing tasks. And if all you need to do is delete a background from an image then Inkscape should be a sufficient enough tool in most instances.

Inkscape may not be the best tool for removing backgrounds from images, but if you’re working with a simple enough image with a well-defined subject and background then it can be accomplished by drawing a path over your subject then using then path as a clipping mask. Best of all, clipping masks are non-destructive, meaning your background can be restored at any point if you desire.

Remove A Background With Inkscape

To remove a background from an image with Inkscape, using the Bezier Pen  (keyboard shortcut: b) to draw a path around the subject of your image. Then, use the path as a clipping mask for the image.

Due to the nature of working with paths in Inkscape, it is recommended that you watch the video tutorial for this lesson. It will walk you through the entire process step-by-step:

Continue on for a written outline.

Table of Contents

Step 1: Grab the Bezier Pen and enable the “BSpline” setting

Once you’ve opened or imported your image into Inkscape, grab the Bezier Pen from the toolbar on the left-hand side of the screen. It can also be accessed using the keyboard shortcut: B.

Locate the tool settings menu towards the top of the screen. On the left-hand side of the menu where it says Mode you will see three different settings for the Bezier Pen:

  1. Create regular Bezier path
  2. Create Spiro Path
  3. Create BSpline path

Select the BSpline option, which is the option furthest to the right:

Bezier Pen location

Click to enlarge.

This setting makes it easiest to draw basic paths. It is sort of like training wheels for the Bezier Pen.

Step 2: Click to add points around the subject of the image

Now it’s time to draw a path that outlines the subject of your image.

With the Bezier Pen selected, begin clicking to add points around the subject of your image. As you add points, a line will be drawn connecting them. This is known as a path.

Adding points with the Bezier Pen

The lines you draw will automatically be smooth. If at any point you need the path to be straight, or you need to create a point that is a corner, simply hold the Shift key while clicking to add your point.

Finish drawing your path around the subject and close the path by clicking on the original point. You should now have a vector path outlining your subject:

Path outlining subject

Tip: reducing the opacity of the image will help you see the path more clearly.

This is the most difficult step in the lesson, so if you’re struggling to catch the hang of it then it is recommended that you watch the video tutorial above.

Step 3: Use the path you’ve drawn as a clipping mask for the image

Now that your path is drawn you can use it as a clipping mask to remove the background from the image.

To do so, select both the path and the image at the same time. This can be done by clicking and dragging a bounding box around each or by clicking on each while holding the Shift key.

With both selected, navigate to:

Object > Clip > Set Clip

Once selected, your image will only be visible in the area where the path is, meaning the background will effectively be gone:

Image with the background removed.

You can now export it as a PNG image with a transparent background. Exporting as JPEG will cause the background to be white as it does not support transparency.

Clipping masks are non-destructive, so if you want to restore the background at any point, all you have to do is select the image and go to:

Object > Clip > Release Clip

What If This Doesn’t Work?

Although Inkscape can be used to delete backgrounds from images that are simple or well-defined, Inkscape won’t always be the best tool to use based on the image. For deleting images with finer details where the subject isn’t as well-defined, such as hair, then you’d be better off using something like GIMP to remove your background.

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Nick Saporito

Hi, I'm Nick— a Philadelphia-based graphic designer with over 10 years of experience. Each year millions of users learn how to use design software to express their creativity using my tutorials here and on YouTube.

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