How to Remove the Background from an Image

After we wrote our post on using the browser tool remove.bg, we got some feedback about another great tool, as well as questions about how to remove image backgrounds using Canva and Word.

Another Browser-Based Tool

First, I’d like to talk about a suggestion we received for a background remover at Experte.com. This tool is simple and elegant while having fewer restrictions than other free browser-based background removers. If you are a webmaster, you may be interested in some of their other tools. I plan to write another post featuring the full suite of tools in the near future.

Microsoft Word/PowerPoint

Given how often we use images in Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, it would be great if there was a way to remove an image background without leaving that platform. Great news – there is! It’s not always very accurate, but Microsoft has built this functionality into their Office software. Tech-Talk wrote a great article about removing backgrounds using Office software to guide you through the process. Note that instructions for Office 2007 are different than later versions. Unfortunately, Google Docs does not have an equivalent tool onboard.

Canva

Canva is another popular image editing tool that we were asked about. While Canva does have a background remover available, it is a paid feature. If you have access, here is how to remove an image background:

  • Click on the image you want to edit.
  • In the toolbar above the editor, click Edit image.
  • From the side panel, click BG Remover.
  • Wait for the background to be processed.
  • To apply the changes, click Apply on the bottom of the side panel.

Even on a paid plan, you are limited to using this feature on 500 images every 24 hours.

Conclusion

Thanks to those readers who reached out with questions and suggestions about removing backgrounds from images. If you have any other feedback, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Enlarge Images Easily Without Quality Loss

Have you ever tried to use an image online that looked pixelated or otherwise low-quality when enlarged? Most of the buzz in using online images is how to make the file sizes of the images smaller, but that often results in a quality loss that can leave you disappointed. The good news is that there are several AI-backed tools available to assist you in enlarging your images without losing quality.

There are a number of tools that can accomplish this, such as:

They all work similarly, though their free plans have different limitations. For the purposes of this demo, we are going to use https://bigjpg.com.

Upscaling an Image

The main page contains a standard upload window that allows you to choose an image on your device to upscale.

Screen shot of the home page with a "select images" button in the center

When your image has finished uploading, select “start.”

Screenshot showing the uploaded image with buttons to start or delete

The configuration window will appear. First, select the type of image you are using. Then, pick a factor by which to increase the image. For this tool, the free version is capped at 4x.

Screen shot of the configuration window with options for image type (artwork or photo), upscaling (2x, 4x, 8x - paid, and 16x - paid), and noise reduction (none, low, medium, high, highest)

In testing, I tried a few different images. I found that photos best showed the power of the noise reduction aspect of the tool. For this, I used one of our stock photos of a young man at the library. Here is the original:

Man in his 20s sitting between bookshelves with a stack of books

First, I enlarged the image 4x, and didn’t apply any noise reduction. Click/tap on the image below to make it full size. Depending on the size of your screen, you may be able to see how fuzzy the image looks in his face and his shoulders. That’s the “noise.”

Same image, but larger and lower quality.

I started from the original image and enlarged it 4x again, this time also opting for the highest noise reduction. Click/tap on the image below to make it full size, and note that this image has all of the “noise” smoothed out to make the picture quality appear better.

Same image at 4x, but the rough edges from before are gone

You may wonder why they offer different levels of noise reduction. To see the answer, compare the last image with the original. Where the AI has reduced the noise, it has also “guessed” at how to edit the image and left it looking a bit like a soft filter has been applied. In some cases, you may want to balance that effect with the noise for a better outcome.

Summary

Now that AI technology has become available to the consumer market, free image editing tools have gotten much more sophisticated. There are several sites that will allow you to upscale and enhance your images without a pricey software product. Have you used any of the tools we listed? Do you have another image upscaling tool you love? Let us know about it in the comments.

Avatarify: Make that Picture Sing!

Today we are highlighting Avatarify, a face animator app backed by artificial intelligence that is able to take an image and a song and make the person (or animal!) in the image sing that song. Then you can share the video with friends. The app is free and available from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store. Keep in mind that while this is called a “deep fake” video, you aren’t likely to fool anyone with the resulting video.

Using the App

After installing the app on your device, the initial screen makes it appear that a subscription is required to use the app. Note that it is easily dismissed by tapping the x in the corner of the screen.

Pick a song from the Avatarify library.

Screenshot of the phone screen showing thumbnail images of songs in the library.

Next, tap “add photo” to select an image from your gallery.

Screenshot of the preview showing selected song with "add photo" and "continue" buttons under it.

The first time, you’ll be prompted to enable access to your gallery. This is required unless you want to use a demo image. For the first round, I chose a picture of my kittens. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make the mouth land in the right place, giving the cat a monstrous look in the video. I gave up and tried a demo image of Elon Musk.

If you’re using your own image, it might detect the face(s) automatically. If not, the next screen shows a shadow face over the image (the part I had trouble with in the cat picture). Move it over a face and save. You can select multiple faces in the image to animate.

Screenshot of the shadow face on a cat image, showing the features do not line up.

When I didn’t have to aim the “shadow face” over the image, it was really easy! This is how mine turned out:

The quality of the initial video was higher, but I compressed the file to lighten the file load on this page.

After the video is created, you have the option to save it to your device or share it using any method available on your phone.

Would You Use It?

This was a fun little tool, and the demos on their webpage suggest a variety of use cases: https://avatarify.ai/. Is this a tool you would use to share videos with your friends? Let us know in the comments.

Resize Images Easily

If you post images on the internet with some regularity, you may have noticed that every platform has different recommended sizes for images. It can be a pain to make a graphic over several times to post in multiple places. In a previous post, I wrote about Biteable, a tool that will automatically convert any image to all of the recommended sizes for social media platforms. This is great for my social media needs, but not for another resizing issue that comes up regularly for me.

Our website has a row of featured events/services/announcements that need to be sized at 300px x 300px in order to line up or stack neatly on any size screen. I have been given graphics and logos in all dimensions that I have needed to make fit into these blocks. Canva has a magic resize tool, but that hasn’t generated results that work for me.

Enter Pixlr

Pixlr comes in two “flavors.” Pixlr X and Pixlr E. Both are free, browser-based tools that don’t require an account. They are similar to Canva, but not as full-featured. Pixlr X is meant for creating basic designs, while Pixlr E is for editing photos. The free version of Pixlr X is what we are using today, but both products have robust premium versions if you are interested in AI assistance, a larger decorative element library, more support, or no ads.

How I Use It

I am fortunate enough to have several design editing tools at my disposal, and I use different tools for different tasks. Pixlr X fills a very specific need for me, and it never fails.

As I mentioned, the library website needs images that are 300px x 300px. Product logos/graphics, ready-made templates in image editors, and graphics for initiatives from outside our organization (Summer Reading, Tech-Talk, etc.) rarely come in that size, or even in a square shape. For instance, here is the logo for Consumer Reports, a digital resource we provide to our patrons:

Consumer Reports logo

The original is 1600px x 900px, so it needed some editing. I opened Pixlr X, then clicked “open image” in the center of the page.

Screenshot of Pixlr X home page showing the open image button.

This opened a window that allowed me to select the original Consumer Reports image that is 1600px x 900px. The first thing I wanted to do is scale this down to a 300px width, so I clicked on the layout button in the left menu.

Screenshot showing the third menu item from the top of the left menu selected, with layout options opened to the right of it.

I selected “resize page (scale)” and reset the width to 300. By leaving the “constrain proportions” toggle activated, the height automatically adjusted to prevent the logo from being distoryed.

Screenshot showing the width set to 300, the height set to 168, and the constrain proportions toggle activated.

The next step is to add a 300px x 300px background and center the image. Staying in the layout menu, I selected “set page size.” Here I changed the height to 300, made sure the “relative change” toggle was deactivated and anchored the logo in the center of the image.

This is how it turned out. The checkerboard part indicates transparent space. The next step is to add a background. I could just add white, but then the image would be really boring.

Screenshot of Consumer Reports logo with checkerboard pattern bars above and below it.

Instead, I want to copy the green from the logo and make that the background. I did this using a separate eyedropper tool to get the hex code number for the color (covered in this article) and then going back to my layout menu in Pixlr to activate the background toggle. This suggests a few colors, but you can click any color to reveal a box to enter a custom color.

Screenshot of the layout tab showing background color suggestions.

I entered the hex code for your desired color in the box and hit “enter” to apply.

Screenshot showing hex code entry box below the suggested background colors.

This is the finished product. It’s a simple fix that preserves the company’s logo guidelines while making the image suitable for our website.

Resized logo with the transparent bars above and below in green matching the green in the logo.

Pixlr offers different formats and quality options for downloading your new image.

Summary

Pixlr is a free tool that makes design and image editing easy. While many of its features are duplicated in other free or low-cost image editing tools, the ability to change the size of the image canvas without messing up the aspect ratio of the original image in addition to changing the image itself has permanently secured its place in my image editing toolbox. What are your favorite design editing tools? Let us know in the comments.

Scan and Sign Documents Using Your iPhone or iPad for Free

Have you ever needed to scan and email a document but didn’t have access to a scanner? You’re in luck! You can scan (and electronically sign!) documents using the built in Notes app on your iPhone or iPad.

Scanning Documents

To begin, open up the Notes app on your iOS device. From there, choose an existing note or create a new one by tapping the new icon.

Toolbar with the "new" icon in last position

Next, tap the camera icon on the top navigation bar.

Toolbar with the camera icon in the second position

Choose Scan Documents from the menu.

screenshot with "scan documents" as the first option in a list

The camera will open and you will see the option for Auto or Manual. Auto attempts to find blocks of text to scan, and manual will let you choose the area manually. Once you have your document in the frame, you can tap the white button or the volume down button on the side of your device to take a picture.

Screenshot of the scanning view with the whit button at the right of the image

After the document image has been captured, you can select the area you would like in your PDF by tapping and dragging the white circles on the corners of the scan. When you have selected the area you would like in your document, you can tap Keep Scan. If you are unhappy with the capture, tap on Retake.

Screenshot showing the retake option at the lower left of the screen

If you only have a one-page document, tap save. If you have a multipage document, continue to capture images, and when you are finished, tap on Save. You will see the images you have already scanned in the bottom center of the screen.

Screenshot of a new scan showing a thumbnail of the previous scan in the bottom center of the screen

Once you tap save, you will see your saved document in the note. To share the document to email, text, files, or other platforms, open the document by tapping on the picture of it. The default name will be Scanned Documents, unless the scan detects clearly written text in the header of the document. The document will be in PDF format, which is easily accessible to different operating systems.

Screenshot showing the scan for selection to open

Once you have tapped on the document to open it, tap on the share icon and choose how you would like to share it. If you would like to rename the document prior to sharing it, tap on its name in yellow in the top center and enter the new name.

Screenshot showing the menu under the share icon

Signing Documents

Once a document has been scanned, you can also add an electronic signature, either typed with text or signed with your finger or stylus on the screen. As mentioned in the previous step, tap on the picture of the document to open it, and then tap the share icon. From the share menu, tap on Markup. A toolbar will pop up near the bottom of the screen. To add a signature, tap on the plus icon, and then tap on Signature.

Screenshot showing the markup toolbar with the menu from the "plus icon" showing

Once you tap on signature, a box will pop up where you can sign your name with your finger or a stylus. You also have the option to add a text field, which may come in handy if the document has a field that requires a printed name.

Screenshot showing signature box

Once you’ve signed your name, tap on done. If you make a mistake and need to start over, tap on clear. After you’ve tapped done, you can resize the signature by tapping on the blue circles in the corners of the signature box and dragging them to your desired size. You can move the box to your desired location in the document. If you want to delete the signature field, simply tap on your signature and then choose delete. Once you have created a signature, your device will save it for easy access in the future. If you would like to delete saved signatures, tap the plus sign, then signature, and then add or remove the signature. You’ll see a list of saved signatures and you can tap the red symbol next to the saved signature to delete it. You can also add another signature by tapping the plus symbol on the top left.

Screenshot showing entered signature

Once you have added your changes, you can share the document using the method discussed earlier. If you would like to remove signatures after exiting the app, open the scanned document in your note and choose markup. You can remove any previous additions by tapping on them and choosing delete. In addition to text fields and signatures, you can also add a description. Image descriptions can be read by screen readers and are useful for anyone who has difficulty seeing images online. You can also use the magnifier to enlarge portions of the document. Another markup option is adding shapes that include a square, a circle, a dialog symbol, and an arrow. You also have the standard markup tools available as well: the marker, highlighter, colored pencil, eraser, lasso tool, and ruler.

Conclusion

Scanning and signing an electronic document can be done will your iPhone or iPad. You can create multipage PDF files, add electronic signatures, and easily share your documents via email, text, or other methods by using a built-in feature of the Notes app. Have you tried scanning documents with your iPhone or iPad? Let us know in the comments.