Inkscape How To Remove Background

How To Easily Remove Backgrounds With Inkscape

How To Easily Remove Backgrounds With Inkscape 1024 602 Logos By Nick

In today’s tutorial I’ll be demonstrating how you can easily remove the background from an image using Inkscape. This technique, although quite simple, does require a modest amount of familiarity with the Bezier Pen. You’ll be shown everything you need to know about it in the video, but it may take a little bit of practice.

Why Inkscape?

Since Inkscape is primarily a vector-based graphics program, you may be wondering why I choose to use it to crop raster images instead of using something that is intended for raster images, like GIMP.

The method outlined in this tutorial will work just as well with GIMP, but I feel that Inkscape does a much better job with creating paths and allowing you to manipulate nodes and handles. It just feels easier and more intuitive in Inkscape (although they may just be because I’m far more comfortable and familiar with it.) What it all boils down to is that it makes for a more efficient workflow.

I would still say that GIMP is the ideal application to use for doing this though since you can feather the edges and make further alterations once cropped.

How To Remove Image Background with Inkscape

Getting started, the first thing we’re going to do is open a new document with Inkscape, and then click & drag photo onto the canvas in order to import it. If you’re using a Mac, you may have to go to File > Import.

The import menu in Inkscape

Once prompted, make sure to choose the Embed option instead of Link. If you choose link, Inkscape is just going to create a mirror reflection of the original image file, so any changes you make to it will also be reflected in the original image and vice verse. Also, if you delete the original image, it will return a broken image error within Inkscape. Choosing to embed the image will instead create an entirely new copy of the image that exists solely within that particular Inkscape document.

The upside with embedding is that you get a dedicated, independent image to work with. The downside is that it requires a tad bit more CPU power from your computer while using slightly more system memory, but it’s negligible at best and hardly a concern for most modern machines — even budget laptops. Unless you’re working with an enormous image on a machine from 2011, I recommend embedding for everyone.

Outlining Your Subject

Grab the Bezier Pen and begin to start creating a rudimentary shape that outlines your subject. Make sure to position the anchor points at the peak of curves while allowing for a straight line to run directly through to the next anchor point. It is highly advised that you watch the video at the bottom of the page for this particular step. It’s much easier for me to verbally demonstrate this than it is to type it.

Once you’ve outlined your subject, it should look something like the image below. Don’t worry about the rudimentary shape and parts of the subject laying outside of the shape’s boundaries. We are going to straighten that out in the next step.

Rudimentary outline around the subject

It may help to reduce the opacity of the image in order to add contrast between your shape and the subject.

Once your image is outlined, we’re going to grab the Edit Paths by Nodes tool, click on the outline to select it, then manually click and drag any of the straight segments of the line. This will curve the line and allow you to shape it according to your subject’s boundaries.

Straighten your path into a curve

To further match the boundaries of your shape with that of your subject’s, click on one of the nodes. This will bring up handles that you can use to change the size and length of the curve.

Node handles in Inkscape

This is what the node handles look like

Go ahead and repeat this process for the rest of your shape until it perfectly matches the shape of your subject. Once completed, fill it in with a solid color, remove the stroke and set the opacity to 50%. It should look something like this…

Completed outline

Creating A Clipping Path

Now that we have our subject outlined, we’re going to use that outline as a clipping path for the image beneath it.

A clipping path is a vector object that you use as a shape for cutting out a raster image. Think of it like a cookie cutter being applied to a batch of cookie dough.

Cookie cutter example image

To use your newly drawn outline as a clipping path, simply select both the outline and the image at the same time, then go to Object > Clip > Set. This will effectively crop your subject and remove the background. Make sure to bring the opacity of your subject image back up to 100% before you do so.

Inkscape removed background

Tip – when making Clipping Paths in Inkscape, always make sure that the shape you want to use layered above the image you want to crop. Inkscape will always use the highest layered selected object as its clipping path.

The beautiful thing about this technique is that it is not permanent — your background (along with your drawn outline) can still be recovered if you end up needing it down the road. Just select the object and go to Object > Clip > Release. This will remove the object from its clipping path bring you right back to where you were before you applied it.

Video Tutorial

If the steps outlined above were a bit too vague for you to follow, I would suggest watching the video tutorial. In the video I go over everything step-by-step and provide voice narration while doing so. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, feel free to leave a comment below.

Become A Master of Inkscape!

Want to learn more about how Inkscape works? Check out the Inkscape Master Class – a comprehensive series of over 50 videos where I go over every tool, feature and function in Inkscape and explain what it is, how it works, and why it’s useful.

Logos By Nick LLC is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Read affiliate disclosure here.

Nick

Designer, content creator, and the founder of LogosByNick.com — an educational media platform for learning about graphic design.

All stories by: Nick
24 comments
  • Joachim Roesing

    Hey Nick – thanks a lot for this tutorial.

    Question though: you mention the beauty of this is that the effect can be reversed, but this is precisely what I would not want in the case Inam dealing with.

    Is there any way to delete the “left-over from clipping” permanently from memory?

    Here’s why I am asking: Right now, if I attempt to run a trace bitmap on the clipped-out section, inkscape would ignore the clipping and take the entire picture, and what I would want is to limit the tracing to the portion I have clipped out

    Any ideas / hints as to how I could accomplish this? Tried a few things, but can’t figure it out.

    Thanks in advance
    -jr

  • Elina Gomes

    I can’t use Inkscape for image background removal. I think Inkscape is more comfortable and familiar right now. It makes for a more efficient workflow. Now I will be try. Thank you so much for your information.

  • Jaco

    How do you clip out/remove the smaller background areas that are surrounded? For example, the background between the 2nd digit of the thumb and the phone?
    If I redo the bezier curve on these type of backgrounds after removing the overall background, it clips the image to that small area instead of removing it.

  • Katrina

    Hi!
    I have a floating object I’m trying to keep, as well as birds sitting on a fence. I want the background behind all gone.
    After I have outlined what I want to keep with my bezier and go to fill, it also fills the smaller background pieces I’m trying to leave behind. (Between fence bars). When I click on those smaller sections and try to say no fill, it clicks as if it is not filled, but it stays filled.
    So when I go to clip the smaller background sections inside the image I do want, they come along for the ride.
    Any tips?

  • Katrina

    Hi!
    I have a floating object I’m trying to keep, as well as birds sitting on a fence. I want the background behind all gone.
    After I have outlined what I want to keep with my bezier and go to fill, it also fills the smaller background pieces I’m trying to leave behind. (Between fence bars). When I click on those smaller sections and try to say no fill, it clicks as if it is not filled, but it stays filled.
    So when I go to clip the smaller background sections inside the image I do want, they come along for the ride.
    Any tips?

    • Nick Saporito

      It would be too lengthy to type out every detail. If you don’t understand the instructions then I would recommend watching the video tutorial at the bottom of the article. It explains each and every step so that even a first time user could understand.

    • Nick Saporito

      It would be too lengthy to type out every detail. If you don’t understand the instructions then I would recommend watching the video tutorial at the bottom of the article. It explains each and every step so that even a first time user could understand.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.