Introduction: Remove Image Background and Turn It Into Silhouette (for Free!)

Picture of Remove Image Background and Turn It Into Silhouette (for Free!)

In this tutorial I will go through the steps needed to remove the background from an image, and optionally turn it into a silhouette, using only free software and very little skills.

Please vote for me if you find this handy :) If I win a Form1Labs printer, I am hoping I will be able to open the first hackerspace \ makerspace in our area :)

Step 1: Choose Your Image & Download the Software You Need

Picture of Choose Your Image & Download the Software You Need

- Choose your image, if you are taking the image of a family member make sure that the background is as white as possible (or any other color that can really standout next to their skin) - this will make selection a lot easier

- Download your software, for this tutorial I am using Gimp, it is a 100% free software that has very good image editing capabilities.

You can get it from

Step 2: Open Your Image With Gimp

Picture of Open Your Image With Gimp

- After downloading and installing Gimp, go to File->Open

- Browse to your image

Step 3: Select Your Foreground Object

Picture of Select Your Foreground Object

Click on the "Scissors Select Tool" located in the main toolbar.

Outline the foreground selection you want to keep, clicking down at every angle and corner present in your image to help the edge-fitting tool wrap around your foreground.

When you are happy with the selection, press the "Enter" button on your keyboard, the image will turn into a dotted line

Step 4: Remove the Background

Picture of Remove the Background

Go to "Select" menu and click "Invert". This will change your selection from the foreground to the background so you can delete the background.

Press the Delete key or click on "Edit" and "Cut" or ctrl + x to remove the photo background.

Step 5: Optionally Fill the Image in Black

Picture of Optionally Fill the Image in Black

- To turn the image into a Silhouette, Invert your selection again to select the foreground object

- Choose the Bucket fill tool from the menu

- Make sure that “fg color fill” is selected. Your foreground color should be black, your background color should be white. Affected area should be “fill whole section”

- Click inside the selected area and it will get filled with black

Step 6: Touch Ups and Saving

Picture of Touch Ups and Saving

If there are some touch ups that are needed, you can use the pencil tool to make any fixes

Go to File->Export As->Select file type and save your image, png files will preserve transparency

Step 7: You Are Done!

Picture of You Are Done!

You can now use the silhouette for any crafts projects, I used a Silhouette cutting machine to cut various family members silhouettes and frame them, there are so many things you can do with these silhouettes :


Aimeelou84 made it! (author)2016-10-31

I've managed to colour it in black. Had to do it with paintbrush as bucket was only filling tiny bits at a time. How do I tidy it up - I'm not the steadiest lol!!!!

YossiC1 (author)Aimeelou842017-11-14

You forgot to choose "fill whole selection"

1986stix made it! (author)2015-02-03

i wish i knew how to use gimp. i just downloaded it yesterday after reading these instructions but it took me forever to smooth out the jagged edges.. happy though!

LimorM (author)1986stix2015-10-02

how do i smooth the edges like you did? also, how did you manage to cut every curl like that?

R-I-H-A-M (author)LimorM2017-03-03

I tried my best to get it at the Foreground selection step, you can add more path points as needed till it looks as smooth as you want it, of course you can always paint over the final shape with a black brush to make it exactly how you want it, hope that helps!

R-I-H-A-M (author)1986stix2015-10-05

wow! This is beautiful

Sturge75 made it! (author)2017-02-13

Using it to make a Valentines Day present for my wife from our 3 year old daughter. Thanks for the tutorial.

R-I-H-A-M (author)Sturge752017-03-03

Love it!

keizen (author)2015-09-18

BryanW4 (author)2015-05-16

kathryn.schemery (author)2015-01-22

hmm, i got the scissor clicking done, and these big white dots appear and then I press enter and nothing happens.. (it already is a line with those big white dots.) and then even if i continue onto invert selection, the whole image is gone except for the white line with dots i created. . then i do the bucket fill and the whole screen gets filled. so somehow im missing a few clicks in places i think.

nvm, fig it out. you have to make selection a full circle! got it!

Amber Celeste (author)2015-01-13

Thank you!!!!!!

tomatoskins (author)2014-09-23

I love Gimp! Great walkthrough!

R-I-H-A-M (author)tomatoskins2014-09-24

Thanks, me too, it is also very easy to use even for someone with no photo editing experience at all like me

jlepack (author)2014-09-23

That's awesome

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