Whether you’re working on a web design project or creating your latest meme masterpiece, cutting out objects from a larger image is a skill that every image editor needs. It’s a skill that is easy to learn but tough to master, so let’s take a closer look at a few different techniques you can start practicing.
The Quick Guide to Cut Out An Image in GIMP
If you’ve got a very simple image, the process is equally simple. A product photo set on a white background makes a perfect example.
Step 1: Switch to the Fuzzy Select tool, use it to select the image background, and then invert your selection.
Step 2: Remove the selected object with the Cut command, and then use the Paste command to return it back to the image as a Floating Selection.
Step 3: In the Layers panel, click the green-highlighted New Layer button to convert the floating selection into a standard pixel layer containing your pasted pixels.
That’s the quickest way to cut out an image in GIMP! It doesn’t work perfectly for everything, but the basic principle is the same no matter what your image contains. Your results will depend on what tool you use in Step 1 to make your selection, and how careful you are to match the edges of your object.
If you want to take a more detailed look at this and a couple of others ways to cut out an image in GIMP, then I’ll break the steps down in more detail below.
The Detailed Guide to Cut Out Images in GIMP
There are lots of ways you can cut out an image, but let’s stick to the simplest method for this guide. It comes up all the time, and it’s a great way to get used to the basics before you move on to more complex projects.
Let’s dive in!
Step 1: Making Your Selection
Depending on the image you want to cut out, this step can be very easy or the most painstaking and time-consuming process. In my example picture of a carnivorous plant from my collection, the background is a nice bright white which will make the process very easy.
Switch to the Fuzzy Select tool using the toolbox, or press the keyboard shortcut U. Click once on a section of the background, and GIMP will automatically select all the pixels connected to it that are close enough in color to the pixel you clicked on.
Invert your selection by pressing the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + I (or Command + I on a Mac). You can also open the Select menu and choose Invert Selection.
At this point, you should have a selection marquee around the object you want to cut out, and you’re ready to move on to Step 2.
If you don’t have a solid background in your image, the Fuzzy Select tool won’t create a proper selection, and you will have to use some of the other selection tools to select your object completely by hand.
If you don’t care about having a finely detailed edge, you could use the Rectangular Select tool or the Ellipse Select tool. But if you want to do the job properly, you’ll have to carefully draw out a selection using the Free Select tool, the Scissors Select tool, or some combination of all of them.
Step 2: Cut And Paste
Now that you’ve got the area you want to cut out properly selected, the rest is fairly easy. Cut the selected pixels using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + X (Command + X on a Mac), which will remove them from the image and copy them to the clipboard memory.
Return the cut-out pixels to your image workspace with the Paste command, using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + V (Command + V on a Mac). If you want to put them into a different file, you can switch to that file now and paste the pixels there instead.
Step 3: Create A New Layer
GIMP will create a Floating Selection using your pasted pixels, as you can see in the Layers panel below. A Floating Selection is a kind of temporary layer, and you won’t be able to edit the rest of your image until you either anchor your selection or move it to a new layer, using the green buttons highlighted at the bottom of the Layers panel.
If you choose to anchor it, you’ll simply be pasting the pixels you removed back into the same spot. Instead, click the green New Layer button in the left corner of the Layers panel. This will automatically create a blank new transparent pixel layer, and anchor your pasted pixels into it.
If you want, you can then delete the original layer or just hide it by clicking the ‘eye’ icon representing layer visibility next to the appropriate entry in the Layers panel.
Now you know how to cut out an image in GIMP! Like so many things, this skill is simple to learn but difficult to master, so practice, practice, practice! Or, if you’re feeling really adventurous, read on for
Advanced Selection for Complex Scenes
I could fill an entire book with a full exploration of all the different ways you can create and modify selections in GIMP, which puts “completeness” sort of outside the scope of this article. But if you want to level up your skills, I can show you what to start practicing.
If you’re trying to copy one person’s face out of a crowd, the Fuzzy Select tool isn’t going to work, because the edge detection algorithms aren’t designed for that degree of visual complexity.
When in doubt, you can use a combination of the Free Select tool and Scissors select tool to create any selection you want – it just takes time and patience. You can also experiment using Quick Mask mode to create selections, although this isn’t as well-implemented in GIMP as it might be.
Quick Mask mode places a transparent red overlay over your image, which you erase using a brush tool to create a selection. It can be a useful tool in your toolkit, but I find the red overlay can be quite distracting and often clashes with the actual content of your image.
The best workflows are the ones that balance speed and precision, so you’ll have to get familiar with each of the selection tools until you’re confident making the decision about which tool (or combination of tools) will let you get the best results with the minimum amount of manual effort.About Thomas Boldt