One of the very first Photoshop skills we learned in my tenth grade photojournalism class was cropping the background out of images. I hated it. It was extremely time consuming, and the magnetic lasso tool never seemed to want to cooperate with me.
Nearly a decade later, the tools have gotten better, but there still isn't a quick and simple way for people without polished photo-editing skills to remove the background from an image. But James Diebel and Jacob Norda, the team behind a new free web app called Clipping Magic, hope to change that by doing it for you almost instantaneously.
Clipping Magic is an online tool that lets you upload a photo and mark the parts you want to keep and throw away, then does all the hard work for you. It's still in alpha testing right now, so it's a bit rough, and they haven't quite figured out how to handle things like hair and blurry boundaries yet.
Using the tool couldn't be much simpler. You start by dragging and dropping a photo into the uploader, and once you're connected, just show it what you want removed.
The green brush is used to mark anything you want to stay in the finished image, and red marks the background you want taken out. You don't have to completely color in each part—just enough for the algorithm to pick up what's foreground and what's background.
The preview pane on the righthand side shows what the end result will look like based on your markup.
Once you're satisfied, you can either download your finished image or choose to share it in a private link.
For a simple image like the one above, it does a pretty decent job. When it comes to blurry photos or images with a lot of partially transparent parts like the one below, the results aren't so good.
The app can't tell the difference between foreground and background in a blurry image like this one, so it doesn't know what to crop and what to keep.
If you don't mind spending a bit of time, you can fine tune it by using the zoom tool to get into the tiny spots with smaller brushes and make it better. Still, even with a little more time spent, this cat image could use some more work.
Overall, Clipping Magic is a useful little tool that does a decent job at simplifying a pretty complicated process. It won't replace a professional Photoshop job, but it's still a work in progress and the developers plan on making substantial improvements.
As of right now, the app is free to use. In the future, when it's out of alpha, it will likely become a paid service. Be sure to give it a try while it's free and let us know what you think!