Looking to remove a background in Affinity Photo? Luckily, it’s pretty easy!
You need to make sure you choose the right image; separate backgrounds from a well-defined subject are much easier to remove. If the subject has fuzzy or indistinct edges, you will struggle to get a good result.
In this article, I will walk you through the process of removing backgrounds in Affinity step by step. Note that you have a few options, but I’ll outline the main procedure and offer helpful tips along the way.
Removing a background in Affinity Photo: the basics
If you’re new to photo editing and changing backgrounds, I recommend starting with a simple image with a clearly defined subject. If the subject has fur, wispy hair, or other indistinct edges, you’ll likely be frustrated. Instead, choose a subject that has clear, smooth edges to make the process easier.
For this article, I’ll demonstrate removing the background using a photo of a yellow beach umbrella:
Step 1: Start with the Selection Brush Tool
To start, choose the Selection Brush Tool. You’ll find it in the tools panel usually located on the left side of the main window. (You can also press “w” on your keyboard).
Make sure the mode is set to “Add”, then adjust your brush size until it’s relatively large. You can do this via the hook keys, [ and ]. Press the left bracket key to reduce the size of the brush or press the right bracket key to enlarge the brush.
You can also use the slider on the toolbar labeled “Width”. In the same toolbar, check the box labeled “Snap to edges”. Affinity Photo will detect when your brush is near an edge and automatically adjust the selection.
Step 2: Select your topic
It is often much easier to select your subject than to select the background. Start by painting with the selection brush on the main subject of your photo.
Note that as you approach an edge, the selection line aligns to cover it.
If the selection isn’t accurate at this point, don’t worry. In the next step, you will learn how to refine the selection so that it contains only the correct areas.
You can adjust the brush size at any time using the brackets or the Width slider. This may be necessary if you need to select small parts of your subject (like the ends of the parasol in my example).
To manage the parasol points, I reduced the brush size and zoomed in on the photo for more precision.
Step 3 (optional): Delete part of the selection
Sometimes the selection brush can cover parts of the background. It’s easy to fix.
Zoom into the affected area and hold down the Alt/Opt key. You can also click on the “Subtract” mode button in the top toolbar:
Paint with your selection brush over the areas you don’t wish to be selected, and they will be instantly deselected.
Step 4: Refine your selection
The next step is to check your selection and refine it if necessary.
Look to the right of the Mode and Width options in the toolbar. Here you will find the Refine button, and when you click on it, a new panel will appear. Unselected areas of the image will be filled with a semi-opaque red color.
Zoom in, especially on the edges. Find the parts of the background that are not covered by the red overlay. In the new window, select “Matte” and paint over the affected area.
Work around the edges of your selection. Be sure to stay zoomed in at a level where you can easily see any issues. Comb out any problem areas. You can adjust feathering, smoothing, border width, etc. brush, as needed.
Once you have completed this part of the process, click Apply. The selection will change and the red overlay will disappear.
Step 5: Invert Selection and Remove Background
Now that you’ve selected your subject, you need to reverse it. After all, you want to keep the subject and remove the background, not the other way around!
To invert the selection, choose Select > Invert Pixel Selection in the top menu. (You can also press Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+I.)
Once you’ve inverted your selection, just hit the backspace key and the background will disappear!
Alternatively, you can keep your topic selected, then copy (Ctrl/Cmd+C) and paste (Ctrl/Cmd+V) it. This creates a new layer with your subject, and you can then hide the original layer by checking the box to the right in the Layers panel.
(To deselect the subject, press Select>Deselect or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl/Cmd+D.)
Step 6: Add a new background or save a PNG
At this point you should have a subject with a transparent background, so you can either add a new background or save your photo as is.
If you want to save your subject without a background, turn off the background layer. Then use Ctrl/Cmd+Shift or Alt/Opt+S to open the Record panel:
At the top of this panel you will see a row of icons. To save your image so that the background appears transparent, you must select PNG. Then click Export. Your image will be saved with a transparent background!
To add a background instead, simply drag and drop your chosen background image into Affinity Photo. Position the new background below your subject layer in the Layers panel. Resize it until it looks like what you want. Then save the new image.
Advanced tip: use a mask to refine the selection
If you’ve edited in Photoshop, you’ll be familiar with layer masks. You can also use them in Affinity Photo to refine a selection.
Here’s how it works: Make the selection as I described above. Then click on the Mask icon in the Layers panel. This will hide the background layer, but not delete it. If you turn off the mask layer, you can see the background again.
Use the regular brush tool to refine the edge of your selection. To reveal areas of the background that are hidden, paint with a white brush:
And to hide the revealed areas, paint with a black brush:
With a little patience and a lot of zoom, you can neatly extract a subject from its background.
This method can be the easiest and most accurate option when working on images with complicated subjects.
How to remove backgrounds in Affinity Photo: final words
Learning how to remove background in Affinity Photo is easier if you start with a well-defined subject. But as you practice, try to choose more and more difficult topics. This will help you develop your skills and learn how to get the most out of Affinity Photo’s tools.
The level of precision and clarity you desire will determine how much time you spend editing each image. If you’re only using your image for social media, you don’t need to be particularly specific. But for images you plan to print or post to an e-commerce or stock photography site, you’ll need to be more careful.
So give yourself plenty of time to practice. As you develop your skills, the background removal process in Affinity Photo will become easier, faster, and more enjoyable.