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How to Make and Use a Transparent Image

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I experimented with transparent images to see what I could do. Invisibility, 3D pictures, photo to art and animations from still images.

Removing a complex background from an image.

Removing a complex background from an image.

Transparent Backgrounds

Transparent images are pictures that you can see through. You see it and you see what is underneath. Like when a person wears a thin white shirt. The colors merge together. A transparent background usually refers to a background that is completely invisible. The result is similar to cutting a picture out of a magazine or calendar.

The foreground image is always going to show a background under it. The color will depend on the HTML page or program you are using to view it. Some programs will display the empty background as white. Others will show it as black. Paint programs would show it as a white and gray checkerboard pattern.

When you remove the background you simplify and declutter the image. Small photos often look better without one. Switch the background by placing it on top of another picture. The photo below shows me replacing the backdrop. It takes me from my bedroom to the beach.

Removed the background and pasted myself into a beach photo.

Removed the background and pasted myself into a beach photo.

How to Find Cut Out Images

JPGs don't support transparency. GIFs only support up to 256 colors. You should be looking for PNG cut out images or PNG images with transparent backgrounds. There are sites with thousands of cut out pictures. Some are in the public domain. Others are not. When using picture collection sites check to see if they are copyright free. Look at their terms.

I recommend Snipstock because I use it. You could also look for regular public domain photos and cut them out yourself.

how-to-make-and-use-a-transparent-image

How to Use See Through Background Images

Open the picture in a paint program. Then copy the foreground and paste it onto the background. Put it wherever you want and save it. You might need to reduce the size. There are different ways to use the transparent background images. The most obvious is to use them to make funny photos. I have listed some other uses below.

Display them as they are. Often the background was just something that was there when you were taking a photo of something else. Cut out images are like sculptures and figurines. They highlight the main subject. People that are selling products use them to increase their sales.

Change the setting or location. Make it look like the subject in the foreground was somewhere else. You can make it look more professional or create cool images. Try adding people, animals or ghosts to photos with interesting backgrounds. I took a selfie in my bedroom. Then I added my image to a picture of a beach.

Mix fiction with reality. Add fictional characters to photos of real places. It could be a cartoon or a real looking image. There are lots of free see through background pictures to choose from online. I added Yoda to an old photo.

Add 3D depth to photos. Paste a picture onto a background and save it. Press CTRL Z to undo it. Paste it again a little to the left or right. Then convert them into a red cyan 3D image. The foreground appears to be closer than the background when viewed with 3D glasses. It creates a partial 3D effect. For real 3D you need photos taken from different perspectives.

In the 3D version the ghost appears to be in front of my computer screen.

In the 3D version the ghost appears to be in front of my computer screen.

Create some sketches. Removing the background can make it easier to turn a photo into a drawing or sketch. Reduce the colors or use edge detection and you can make a photo look like hand made art.

Use them for games. When I started making logic and puzzle games in JavaScript I had to learn how to make transparent background images. They are used in games that use pictures for their graphics.

Make an animation. Creating animations from transparent background images is really easy. Make a picture. Move the foreground. Then repeat. You can move the image up, down, right or left. Change the size of the picture to make it look closer or farther away. The effect works best on objects that do not have a lot of visible moving parts. I made the animation below with my 3D GIF Maker.

Star wars tie fighter still image to animation. It only took a few seconds to make.

Star wars tie fighter still image to animation. It only took a few seconds to make.

How to Make a Transparent Image

The simplest way to remove a background is to manually erase it. Open the picture in a paint program that supports transparency and erase the parts you don't want. Use the eraser or the magic wand. Most paint programs have a magic wand option for selecting an area with similar colors.

Another option is to add to a blank canvas. You may need to use the select all option and erase everything first. It should show a checkboard pattern. Draw an image or paste a picture onto the empty canvas. Save it as a PNG file with transparency.

Cutting out an image can be difficult and slow. That is why there are websites and programs to do it for you. Most of the background removers only remove a single color or they have trouble with complex backgrounds. I recommend remove.bg because it does an amazing job.

If you don't want to erase it completely then reduce the opacity. To do it while using paint.net go to Layer Properties and reduce the opacity value. The image becomes see through. I added the ability to change the opacity in my photo to painting program so I could merge photos together.

When you put a transparent image on top of an opaque one they merge together.

Transparent deer photo on top another image.

Transparent deer photo on top another image.

Simplifying the Scene

Make it easy for yourself and any computer programs you might use. Don't blend in with the background you want to remove. When possible use a single color for the back like a white wall. For more complex backgrounds make sure the color differences are obvious. Think in terms of color areas not objects.

Declutter the scene before taking the picture and focus on the subject. After taking the picture crop it. Remove any extra space around the parts you want to keep. There are programs that are good at removing complex backgrounds but they have limits and you may need to pay for them.

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The Alpha Channel

Digital photos have an alpha channel that controls the transparency. You can make the colors less opaque. Reduce the alpha value and the background starts to show through. In cut out images the parts that appear to be gone are just invisible. The missing pixels have an alpha value of 0.

Transparent background images are popular because they are easy to edit and they can look great on a webpage. Use them as they are or create something new. There are lots to choose from online but finding the right one can take a long time. You may need to search through hundreds of pictures. It can be faster to make your own.

You probably will not find see through images with backgrounds. Make them and place them on top of other another picture. I used see through pictures with my invisibility, 2D to 3D photos, animated GIF maker and photo to painting program. If you are doing anything that involves working with pictures then you will probably want to use transparent images.

Transparent edge image on a background to create an invisible man effect.

Transparent edge image on a background to create an invisible man effect.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Michael H

Comments

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on February 23, 2021:

Useful article.

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