Dev Depo: Clipping Magic, Masking Images Online

Stephen Yagielowicz

For a wide range of web applications and users, removing an image’s background is a common yet troublesome task. While Photoshop and other tools offer powerful solutions for this chore, they can be difficult to use and are not always available to users on the go.

Enter ClippingMagic.com, a free online tool from the Vector Magic team that allows users to instantly create masks, cutouts and clipping paths online, with just a few clicks and strokes of the mouse.

Clipping Magic is a free online tool from the Vector Magic team that allows users to instantly create masks, cutouts and clipping paths online, with just a few clicks and strokes of the mouse.

Using Clipping Magic is easy: simply drag and drop your selected image on to the upload drop-zone pad or choose a file via the standard dialog box by clicking a button.

Next, your image is displayed in a live view panel, where drawing tools are used to mark the foreground in green and the background to be dropped in red. The system’s advanced algorithm takes care of the details and provides live feedback so that users can focus on the most challenging parts of the image.

When happy with the masking, Clipping Magic removes the background by adding an alpha channel, with a suitably feathered boundary. The publisher notes that images with sharp boundaries between contrasting foregrounds and backgrounds work best but blurry boundaries such as hair are readily handled with step by step tutorials to guide you.

To ease this, the Refine menu provides controls to refine edges, and to handle noise, contrast and blur, because some images have such poor contrast between foreground and background that it isn’t possible for the algorithm to cleanly separate the two.

As for hair, Clipping Magic helps separate it from clean and distinct backgrounds, although gradients and some noise in the background will still typically give good results, as long as the colors are sufficiently different.

While Clipping Magic tends to use vector based clipping paths, pixel based clipping masks are used when there are areas of partial transparency that would be lost if cut using a clipping path. Clipping masks are always used for hair selection.

Flexible feathering is one of the tool’s strong points.

“When cutting out an image, the cutting boundary is usually feathered, giving it a few pixels over which it transitions from fully opaque to fully transparent,” a rep explains. “This makes for a soft cutout that looks more natural.”

Alpha channels are also used to generate nicely feathered images with soft transitions from fully opaque to fully transparent.

Currently in its beta release, Clipping Magic is free to use, with those that sign up now receiving freebies when the service comes out of beta. There is a 4 megapixel size limit with images exceeding that being shrunk to size, but this limit will be raised when the full service launches.

It’s important to remember that while PNG images have full transparency support and will thus give the best results, GIFs can also be used, but this format only supports binary transparency (a pixel is either fully opaque or fully transparent). The commonly used JPEG format doesn’t support transparency at all so keep this in mind when choosing pics.

All in all, Clipping Magic is a simple solution to an often complex problem. Give it a try and see if it makes dropping image backgrounds easier for you.

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