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How To Cut Out An Image Using GIMP

Cutting out an image, or ‘rendering’ an image, is one of the most useful things you can learn to do. This means you can extract part of an image and paste it into another image, or you can save it with a transparent background, or you can combine it with other images in a collage – you can do lots of things, just let your imagination take over.


So, how to cut out an image using GIMP.


– Help, GIMP isn’t working! Here’s what to do
– How to make an animated GIF in GIMP


Let’s start with GIMP. If you don’t know about GIMP, this GNU Image Manipulation Program is open source, free to use and is incredibly similar to Photoshop. A big difference is that Photoshop is proprietary and can cost quite a lot to buy, while GIMP is free.  See my article on OERs for more information on open resources.


1. Open your picture, you can use whatever format your picture is in e.g. .jpg, .png, … – easy.

I’m going to cut my little friend ‘Pinkie’ out from the white background, so I can put this Pinkie image onto other images.



2. Select the path tool from the menu (if you’ve just opened GIMP and haven’t played around with it too much the menu is on the left hand side of your screen), the path tool looks like this:



3. Put ‘anchors’ around your image. Anchors are the dots that appear when you click the mouse on your image with the selected path tool. Using the mouse click a line around your image.



4. Important step: you must connect the first and last anchor. When you are on the last anchor hold down the CTRL button and click on the first anchor, this connects the first and last anchors and creates a full loop around your image.


5. You can now, if you need to, go back and pull the line around your image in and out to match closer to your ideal cutting line. Do this by clicking on the line and while holding down the mouse button ‘pull’ the line in and out.



6. Go back to the left hand side menu and click the button ‘create selection from path‘.



Your line should now looking like ‘marching ants’.




7. Now you need to add an ‘alpha channel‘. This helps GIMP to create a transparent background. On the top menu go to ‘Layer’, scroll down to ‘Transparency’, then click on ‘Add Alpha Channel’.


8. Now you need to invert and cut out image. On the top menu click on ‘Select’, then ‘Invert’. Alternatively you can press CTRL I, then from the top menu select ‘Edit’, then ‘Cut’, alternatively you can press CTRL X.


Voila, you should now have an image with a transparent background – which actually looks like a bunch of light grey and dark grey squares.



To get rid of the marching ants just click outside of the screen or go to ‘select’ then click on ‘none’.


To save the image with a transparent background you need to save it in a format that can handle not having a background (.jpg doesn’t handle transparent backgrounds).  I recommend first saving in GIMP’s native .xcf then saving as a .png file which is compatible with most other programs. Saving as a .xcf file means that you can come back and play with it easily in GIMP.


That’s how to cut out and image using GIMP – easy!


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15 Responses to How To Cut Out An Image Using GIMP

  1. Chris February 27, 2014 at 12:23 am #

    6. Go back to the left hand side menu and click the button ‘create selection from path‘.

    Cannot find this anywhere…..was a good tutorial up untill this point

    • RebeccaOGM February 27, 2014 at 6:41 am #

      Hi Chris, thanks for your comment. ‘Create selection from path’ is on the menu (dialogue) box on the left hand side, it shows up when you have clicked the path tool. To get to this stage you would have previously been using the path tool. This menu dialogue box shows as a default in GIMP.

      If this sounds a bit confusing or the left hand dialogue box isn’t showing go to the menu along the top of GIMP, click on ‘windows’ then ‘dockable dialogues’ then ‘paths’.

      Or, to get the default set up: ‘Edit’, then, ‘Preferences’, then, ‘Window Management’, then, ‘Reset Saved Window Positions To Default Value’. You will need to then re open GIMP.

      I hope that helps, Rebecca

      • Charlotte July 6, 2016 at 11:27 am #


        On my copy of GIMP. 2.8.16, the word “create” is left off and it says just “Selection from path.” Many many thanks for your explanation. You saved me from total frustration. Xeni is right. Why do they make it so complicated?

  2. Xeni March 7, 2014 at 10:18 pm #

    Thank you! ive searched and searched for a simple explanation to this – why do they make it SO complicated? Although i must say I have the same problem as Chris – just isnt there!


  3. mikew March 29, 2014 at 6:44 am #

    I’ve tried this method multiple times and the exported png displays exactly as the original. I am following the directions exactly. Please tell me why this is happening.

  4. RebeccaOGM March 29, 2014 at 8:57 am #

    Hi Mike, do you have the transparent background before exporting? Try saving with a different name using GIMP’s native .xcf (this is the default format), after that try exporting the image.

  5. Amber May 5, 2016 at 4:41 pm #

    Thanks a bunch! Worked perfectly.

  6. Emil October 8, 2016 at 4:45 am #

    instead of making the background transparent it makes the thing i want to have into a transparent thingy

  7. RebeccaOGM October 8, 2016 at 5:39 pm #

    Hi Emil, you need to invert the image before cutting out. It sounds as though it is cutting out the wrong part of the image. Make sure to ‘invert’ then cut out.

    Top menu, ‘select’ ‘invert’, or press ‘CTRL + I’ (that’s the letter ‘i’)

    That should work!

  8. Jooorda November 22, 2016 at 10:39 am #

    I am up to the point with the marching ants and it looks good, but for some reason the “Add Alpha Channel” option is grayed out. Any ideas?

  9. RebeccaOGM November 22, 2016 at 5:49 pm #

    Hi Joorda, there may be something wrong with your marching ants or the lines may not be connected properly. Try going back a step. Otherwise, try continuing forward a step.

  10. paaula December 2, 2016 at 11:19 am #

    doesn’t work…

    • RebeccaOGM December 3, 2016 at 1:45 pm #

      Hi Paaula, can you give more information to what isn’t working? What happens when you try?

  11. Essie December 6, 2016 at 8:43 am #

    I did as directed and it seemed to work until I uploaded it and it appeared with a white background, just like the original! I saved it as a .jpeg.

    • RebeccaOGM December 6, 2016 at 9:17 pm #

      Hi Essie, try saving as a .png to retain the transparent background

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