The Magic of Background Removal


Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

—Arthur C. Clarke

Ever since I’ve been using a Mac (nearly 40 years), I’ve considered removing the background to be something magical. At first, I found editing individual pixels magical with MacPaint’s pencil tool. Later, Photoshop and other apps with myriad tools to remove backgrounds and unwanted elements from photos and drawings felt even more magical.

The problem was that performing such magic required skill. And, as technology improved, its proper execution required superior skills. You could (and probably still can) make a lot of money if you’re really good at manipulating images realistically and removing unwanted backgrounds and objects from photos, drawings, and videos without leaving a trace.

While you still need a trained artist with insane skills to achieve spectacular results with difficult subjects, advances in artificial intelligence have introduced new background removal apps and web services that perform such magic automatically without requiring any skill.

If you search the web or your favorite app store for “background removal”, you’ll find that there are plenty of options that claim to be free. I checked several and they all seemed able to remove backgrounds automatically. See remove.bg for an example. Unfortunately, many if not most (including remove.bg) limit you to one high resolution download before harassing you for money.

Give them a try if you want, but if you’re looking for something free and that works like magic to remove backgrounds, try Adobe Express (www.adobe.com/express). Available on web, iOS, and iPadOS, you can remove unlimited backgrounds (great) and more forever on the free plan.

You have access to thousands of unique templates, design assets, and Adobe fonts; a limited collection of royalty-free Adobe Stock photos; basic editing and photo effects, including removing background and animating; web and mobile applications; and 2GB of storage, which Adobe says you can use for as long as you want at no cost.

Of course, Adobe would love for you to upgrade to Adobe Express Premium ($9.99 per month or $99.99 per year) and will remind you often. Although not for me, if you want features like 160 million royalty-free Adobe Stock collection photos, 20,000 licensed Adobe fonts, premium editing features, and 100 GB of storage, the price of ‘Express Premium seems reasonable.

For as long as I can remember, if I were to remove a background manually in Photoshop (or more recently, Affinity Photo or Pixelmator Pro), it took hours and rarely looked as good as the results I get instantly. with today’s AI-assisted automatic background. removal tools. Adobe Express (and most others I’ve tried) delivers better results in seconds than I get after hours of editing.

Try it. It’s so easy and so good that I’m unlikely to remove a background manually again.

Bob “Dr. Mac” LeVitus has written over 90 books, including macOS Monterey for Dummies and The iPhone for Dummies.

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