Create Your Own Transparent Image Files With Preview [OS X Tips]

Preview Transparent

There are many times you might want to knock out the background of a particular image on your Mac. Typically, I pop into Photoshop or Fireworks to use the Magic Wand tool to select all the white space of that image, and delete from there. These programs cost hundreds of dollars, though. Isn’t there a free way to do this?

It turns out that Preview, the free image & PDF viewing (and now editing) app that comes with OS X will do the very same thing, without you having to spend an extra dime on image editing software. Here’s how to do it.

First, use Preview to open up an image that has a lot of white space in the background. In the upper right hand corner of the Preview window, there’s an editing button that sort of looks like a highlighter in a square box. This will drop down the editing toolbar in Preview.

Now, the fourth icon from the right in that toolbar is usually set to a rectangular selection box. Click on that, and you’ll get a drop down menu that shows the other editing selectors, including Instant Alpha, which looks a lot like a magic wand.

Take your cursor now and click and drag in any of the white space in the background of your image. The space will turn red while you’re dragging, and then become a standard selection box when you let go of the mouse or trackpad. You’ll then be asked if you want to convert the image to PNG, if it isn’t one already. Do so.

Then, hit the Delete button on your keyboard to get rid of that selected section. Do the same for the rest of the whitespace you want to delete. When you’re finished, save your effort, either as the PNG you saved it as already, or as a GIF file, the other transparency supporting format.

Now you’ll have a nice transparent image, ready to put onto any other image or website where you want to see the background colors through your new image. Have fun!

  • DonPope

    This will be very useful. Thanks!

  • fleur_de_livres

    Thanks for this! It worked perfectly and led me to realize how many things Preview does that I had no idea. Cheers!

  • http://www.lackluster.org/ Esa Juhani Ruoho

    Wow, this was really swell. BTW, at least with OSX Mavericks, it’s not the “fourth”, but the 2nd! also, seems that there are some limitations re: being able to de-select stuff (I have a white background with a logo in the centre of it with some grey, some of the grey will get selected – which is not what I’m after ;)

  • Kimberly Fish

    thank you very much!!!

  • senzen

    Nice, thanks!

About the author

Rob LeFebvreAnchorage, Alaska-based freelance writer and editor Rob LeFebvre is Cult of Mac's Culture Editor. He has contributed to various tech, gaming and iOS sites, including 148Apps, VentureBeat, and Paste Magazine. Feel free to find Rob on Twitter @roblef

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