Post-Processing » Affinity Photo Tutorials » How to Remove a Background in Affinity Photo (2021)

How to Remove a Background in Affinity Photo (2021)

One of the major tasks in some types of photo editing tasks for graphic designers and photographers is to remove a background in Affinity Photo. You might need it to remove the background completely for a product photo that needs to have a white background or a transparent background for a magazine cover. In this Affinity Photo remove background tutorial, we will cover everything you need to know.

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Step-by-Step: How to Remove a Background in Affinity Photo

First, I will give you a quick explanation of how to quickly remove the background in Affinity Photo so you can see the canvas below:

  1. Unlock the background layer in the layers panel.
  2. Create a selection of the background using the Quick Selection Brush
  3. Hit the Delete key to get rid of the selection (the background).

This is the shortest way to remove backgrounds. However, sometimes there is more work to it than this. If your subject is complex you may need to follow the more detailed approach explained below.

Method #1: Create a Selection of the Background and Remove it

Step 1: Open the Image

You should first find and open the image you want to edit with Affinity Photo to remove the background. We will use this Scottish Highland Bull as our model.

Our sample image for removing a background in Affinity Photo

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__CONFIG_colors_palette__{“active_palette”:0,”config”:{“colors”:{“62516”:{“name”:”Main Accent”,”parent”:-1}},”gradients”:[]},”palettes”:[{“name”:”Default Palette”,”value”:{“colors”:{“62516”:{“val”:”var(–tcb-color-4)”,”hsl”:{“h”:46,”s”:0.8692,”l”:0.01}}},”gradients”:[]}}]}__CONFIG_colors_palette__
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Step 2: Unlock the Background Layer

Before you can make changes to the background you need to unlock the photo layer. Go to the Layers Panel, and click on the little padlock icon next to the background pixel layer.

unlock layer

Step 3: Rasterize and Trim

In order to be able to remove the background completely from your image, and make the background transparent, you need to right-click on the background layer and select Rasterize & Trim…

This allows you to edit the image on a pixel level.

rasterize and trim layer in Affinity Photo

Step 4: Create a Selection using the Selection Brush Tool

A very handy tool for creating selections in Affinity Photo is the Selection Brush Tool. Select it from the left side toolbar or use the keyboard shortcut W to activate it. Any selection tool in Affinity Photo can work, but we’ll use the Selection Brush Tool in this tutorial.

Create a selection of the subject you want to keep by clicking and dragging. You can also select the background directly if your image has good contrast between the background and the subject. However, the sample I choose to work on is a bit more difficult.

Step 5: Refine the Selection

Once you have a fairly good selection, click on the Refine Selection button in the Context Toolbar.

Refine selection

When you click the Refine button, the dialog box opens with an overlay mode, the selection being visible, while the non-selection being red.

Now slowly start to brush around the hair area, letting Affinity do its smart selections. As you might see, the selection is being re-calculated, and the edges are refined.

Important Tip: Refine the edge selection in small steps

Working with Refine Brush in Affinity Photo (The brush is calculating after you have painted over the areas)

Start to brush from the areas you are sure to be selected, even if it gets repeated, and slowly hover around the edges.

Change brush size with the shortcut keys [ and ] as the need arises. For delicate areas, a small brush size is a great idea.

Refining selections is indispensable in removing backgrounds in Affinity Photo making it look more natural
Re-refining in Black and White Matte Mode – looking at issues and trying for a smoother selection.

When you are ready simply click on Apply, you will have a precise selection of your subject (or background if you selected that directly.

Step 6: Invert the Selection (if you selected the subject)

To invert a selection, go to Select > Invert Pixel Selection. If you have selected the background directly using the Selection Brush Tool, you can simply skip this step.

Invert pixel selection

Step 7: Press Delete

With the selection active, press the Delete key to get rid of the selection. This leaves you with a blank, transparent background. You can now insert it on a white or black background or whatever you want.

Changing the background enables you to see where you still need to work on your selection
Final Selection on black background. You can also place it on a white background. Just edit the fill layer and place it beneath the original layer

Step 8: Export your Image with a Transparent Background

If you want, you can leave the background transparent and save it as a .png file. This allows you to preserve the transparent background when you use it in Affinity Designer.

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__CONFIG_colors_palette__{“active_palette”:0,”config”:{“colors”:{“62516”:{“name”:”Main Accent”,”parent”:-1}},”gradients”:[]},”palettes”:[{“name”:”Default Palette”,”value”:{“colors”:{“62516”:{“val”:”var(–tcb-color-4) “,”hsl”:{“h”:46,”s”:0.87,”l”:0.58}}},”gradients”:[]}}]}__CONFIG_colors_palette__
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Method #2: Use the Affinity Photo Background Erase Brush Tool

Step 1: Select the Background Layer

Select the background layer. You can also use the brush on any other pixel layer. If you use the brush on a vector layer, Affinity Photo will rasterize when you use the Eraser brush.

Step 2: Select the Background Erase Brush Tool

You can find Erase Background Brush in the tools panel under the Eraser Brush. It looks just like a pencil eraser, but with a checkered pattern behind it.

Step 3: Change the Brush

Adjust the brush settings in the context toolbar. If you need to you can also change the brush type in the Brushes panel.

Step 4: Brush over the Background you Wish to Remove

Carefully paint over the color you want to remove. Affinity Photo samples the target color beneath the brush cursor.

Related Affinity Photo Articles:

Concluding words

As you can see, you can use Affinity Photo to cut out or remove backgrounds in even the most difficult scenarios. If you are a graphic designer, then this is an essential function and might be one of the most common edits you do in Affinity.

What is your preferred Affinity Photo background removal method?

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