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I have a simple black and white image. I want to remove the white background and make it transparent. There are some intricate parts so the magic wand tool won't work for me in this case. Is there a way I can select a color and remove it (making it transparent)? Here's a sample of the image:

black and white image example

I'm currently using Pixelmator, but have access to Photoshop. Also, I would think all of these programs would have a similar tool for doing this, but I'm not familiar with it.

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What software are you using? – Scott Jun 29 '13 at 7:22
Oops, thought I mentioned it. I'm currently using Pixelmator, but have access to Photoshop if I need it. – Andrew Jun 29 '13 at 15:59
Also, it's a pretty large image for what I'm doing, so yes, I'm planning on shrinking it considerably. – Andrew Jun 29 '13 at 16:01
Awesome! I just figured out a way to do it in Pixelmator. – Andrew Jun 29 '13 at 19:59


If you would like to make a white background transparent, you can use the "Mask to Alpha" tool. However, this tool assumes that the dark part of the image is what you want to make transparent. You will first need to invert the color so that the white is turned black:

Menu > Image > Invert Color

Then you can convert the black to transparent:

Menu > Filter > Color > Mask to Alpha
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Using raster software (Photoshop, Pixelmator, The GIMP):

The image you are showing appears to be aliased, meaning that the pixels are either black or white and few (if any) gray pixels near the edges. If that's the case, the magic wand tool set to a very low threshold should be the easiest way to go about it.

Alternatively, Takkat's suggestion of using alpha channels is good (though it's a bit confusing in Pixelmator, I have to google it every single time I want to use alpha channels in Pixelmator).

Using vector software such as Illustrator or Inkscape

If your image is of a decent resolution, an alternative is to import it into a vector application and then use the auto-trace tool to convert it into a vector image--at which point the white would be non-existant.

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We can easily convert any colour to alpha with Gimp.

Choose "Layer - Transparency - Color to Alpha..." to select any colour (defaults to white) you wish to make transparent. Depending on your original file format you may have to add an alpha channel first (Layer - Transparency - Add Alpha Channel):

enter image description here

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I'm not using Gimp, but good to know that it's an easy alternative. Thanks! – Andrew Jun 29 '13 at 15:58

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