Clipping Magic: Remove Photo Backgrounds Easily

Clipping Magic: Remove Photo Backgrounds Easily

Gregory Han
May 21, 2013

One of the most common tasks in photo editing is cropping and clipping out images from backgrounds. Executed correctly, it's not a difficult process, but it is one that requires a deft hand with the Photoshop pen tool, the use of alpha channels, and a discerning eye for what to keep and what to leave out. Now there's a website which simplifies the process...

I remember one of my first tasks coming out of college working at my first job was to clip out intricate 3D rendered video game characters, including what seemed like every individual artfully placed piece of virtual hair gracefully covering one eye in heroic fashion. Over the span of several months, and countless 3/4 stance clipped video game character models, I became quite adept at removing out all manners of photos and images for use in magazine layouts, product display art, and during our staff's off hours, some good natured Photoshop ribbing among the staff.

But as with many things, what was once a specialized task relegated to the pros is now available in a simplified solution for anyone to use. Clipping Magic is a new free site which allows users to upload their own photographs and remove background images. Mark down areas in green you want to keep, use the red marker to designate for removal. Sounds easy, right?

In practice, the site's image clipping technology is still nowhere as precise nor discerning as what someone with Photoshop skills can do in similar time. Complicated backgrounds with a lot of elements or various degrees of shading/lighting require a lot of fine tuning to achieve an acceptable clipping job, as shown by the Satsuma orange tart photo I threw at Clipping Magic. 

The developers admit the alpha release's limitations, including the algorithms inability to recognize hair properly, resulting in helmet head (perhaps ripe for intentional humorous photo editing). But with well defined, high contrast objects against a background, Clipping Magic does a fast and decent job of popping out a subject from its background for anyone who doesn't know their Pen Tool from their Channels.

The site and service is free at the moment, at least until the alpha trial is finished. So give it a try and throw them some feedback.

(Images: Gregory Han; Clipping Magic)