Using Procreate to Remove the Background of Images or Art


This post may contain affiliate links

Removing the background of an image or a piece of art is a really important feature of any design software. In the past, many of us turned to Photoshop to remove backgrounds and perform this magic. These days, we can use Procreate!

To remove the background of an image or piece of art in Procreate, you can either use the selection tool or the eraser. The selection tool lets you isolate the main subject of your image or piece of art and let you copy and paste it to a new layer. The eraser allows for a more hands-on approach.

The techniques we’re going to talk about for removing backgrounds in Procreate will work for photographs and images. 

These same techniques will also work if you need to digitize your traditional art. 

If you plan to sell your art on mugs, shirts, sweatshirts, or any other product you can imagine, you’ll need to remove the backgrounds (by the way, Printful is my TOP print on demand choice for getting awesome products to sell my art on).

There are a few methods you’ll want to know how to use to remove the backgrounds from your images or art. The method you choose will depend on they type of background you’re working with.

For example, if your background is really busy and chaotic, you’ll want to use a different method than if you have a solid background.

Alright, let’s jump into how to remove your backgrounds with Procreate!

Use the Automatic Selection Tool to Remove Backgrounds with Procreate

If you have a solid and subtle background that is in high contrast with the image you’re trying to isolate, using the automatic setting of Procreate’s selection tool will work well for removing the background of your photograph or art. 

HTML

This method will work best if your image or artwork has these qualities:

  • Your background doesn’t have a lot of detail
  • The subject you want to isolate is large and stands out from the background
  • Your background and image have high contrast (a charcoal drawing on a cream piece of paper, for example)

In general, this method works best for digitizing art. This is because the backgrounds normally meet all of the criteria above. 

Photos, on the other hand, are more likely to have busy backgrounds that confuse the automatic selection tool.

If you aren’t sure if the automatic selection method is the right choice for the image or piece of art you’re removing the background of, give it a try and see what happens. This method is the quickest method on this list, so you won’t waste a lot of time experimenting with it.

Whenever I need to remove a background, I always try this method first, even if I don’t think it will work with the background I have. If it doesn’t work, I undo it and move onto another method.

Here are the steps you’ll want to take to remove your background with Procreate’s automatic selection tool:

1. Create a new canvas or hide everything on your existing canvas

The image you want to remove the background from should be the only thing visible on your Procreate canvas. Either start fresh with a new canvas, or uncheck all your existing layers until your image is the only thing left.

2.  Import your image, if needed

If you haven’t done so already, click on the wrench to open the Actions menu. Click on the “Add” button and then click on the “Insert a photo” button. Choose your photo and import it into your Procreate canvas.

procreate add a photo

3. Stretch your image across your canvas

In the top toolbar, click on the Transform tool (the arrow icon) and stretch your image across your canvas. Make it as large as possible.

Feel free to let your background fall off of your canvas space. This will actually make it easier to remove whatever background is left. Just make sure that your primary image doesn’t get cut off.

procreate insert photo

4. Click on the Selection tool and choose the automatic setting

In the top toolbar, click on the Selection tool (S icon). Within the Selection settings that appear at the bottom of your screen, choose “automatic.” 

procreate selection tool

5. Click on the background of your image

Once you have the automatic setting selected, tap on the background of your image. You’ll see it change colors.

procreate automatic selection

6. Slide your finger across your screen from left to right to increase the selection threshold

This is when you’ll figure out if this method will work for your image so, buckle up.

When you clicked on the background, you probably noticed that it changed colors. Our goal here is to have all of the background be that color, with our primary image staying unchanged. You want to capture as much of your background as possible before it starts seeping into your primary image.

To do this, slide your finger across your screen from left to right. This will increase your selection threshold. Only slide until you notice the selection start the seep into your primary image. Once it does, decrease the threshold again until only your background is selected.

procreate selection threshold

If you notice that you can’t click on your background without some of your primary image being selected, this method won’t work for you. 

By default, the automatic selection setting will start off at the minimum threshold. So, if you tap on your background and the selection is already seeping into your primary image, that’s a clear sign this method won’t work for the background and image you’ve chosen. Keep reading to learn how to use the other methods of removing your background.

On the other hand, you may notice that your selection doesn’t capture your entire background. In some cases, that’s ok. You can use this method and then use your eraser later to clean up any of your background that is still lingering on your canvas.

Ideally, you’ll be able to click on your background with the automatic selection tool and it will only select your background, without your primary image included. 

You will still want to increase your selection threshold as much as possible because, without doing so, you might notice an outline of your background color still lingering on your primary image. 

7. Click on Invert

The “Invert” button is in the Selection settings at the bottom of your screen. When you invert your selection, you’ll end up selecting your primary image instead of your background. That’s what we want to do!

procreate selection invert

8. Click on Copy & Paste

The “Copy & Paste” button is in the Selection settings at the bottom of your screen. Copying and pasting will take your primary image, which is now selected, and paste it onto a new layer. 

procreate selection copy and paste

9. Uncheck your first layer to double check your work

At this point, we’ve finished the process, but you’ll want to check your work. Go into your Layers panel and uncheck your original layer to hide it. This will leave your copied and pasted layer as the only visible layer. 

Take a look at this layer to make sure that your primary image looks good and that your background has been successfully removed.

procreate remove background

10. Clean things up with the eraser, if needed

If any of your background got left behind, click on the eraser tool to clean things up, if needed.

This method of removing yous background with Procreate’s automatic selection tool is the quickest method. That said, it doesn’t always work depending on the image you’re using. 

If you find that this method isn’t working for you, here are other methods to try.

Use the Freehand Selection Tool to Remove Backgrounds with Procreate

If your background is busy, or the image you want to isolate isn’t in high contrast with the image you’re trying to isolate, using the freehand setting of Procreate’s selection tool will work well for removing the background of your photograph or art. 

This method will work best if your image or artwork has these qualities:

  • The automatic selection method didn’t work for you
  • Your background is busy
  • The image you want to isolate doesn’t stand out from the background (doesn’t have high contrast)

In general, this method works best for photographs. Even if your photograph does meet the criteria for the automatic selection method, for some reason, Procreate struggles with photographs. This freehand method is usually best.

Here’s how to remove backgrounds with the freehand selection tool in Procreate:

1. Create a new canvas or hide everything on your existing canvas

The image you want to remove the background from should be the only thing visible on your Procreate canvas. Either start fresh with a new canvas, or uncheck all your existing layers until your image is the only thing left.

2.  Import your image, if needed

If you haven’t done so already, click on the wrench to open the Actions menu. Click on the “Add” button and then click on the “Insert a photo” button. Choose your photo and import it into your Procreate canvas.

procreate add a photo

3. Stretch your image across your canvas

In the top toolbar, click on the Transform tool (the arrow icon) and stretch your image across your canvas. Make it as large as possible.

Feel free to let your background fall off of your canvas space. This will actually make it easier to remove whatever background is left. Just make sure that your primary image doesn’t get cut off.

procreate add photo

4. Click on the Selection tool and choose the freehand setting

In the top toolbar, click on the Selection tool (S icon). Within the Selection settings that appear at the bottom of your screen, choose “freehand.” 

procreate freehand selection

5. Outline your image with the freehand selection tool

Start outlining your image and you’ll see a line appear that looks like a row of marching ants. Make sure that you hug your image as tightly as possible. 

Anything that ends up within your marching ant outline will be preserved. Anything you leave outside of it will ultimately be deleted.

When you’re finished, make sure that the ends of your lines meet. Basically, your outline needs to be a closed shape with the beginning of your line joining with the end of your line.

procreate freehand selection outline

Important tip: if your image is really detailed and it’s too labor intensive to outline the whole thing with the selection tool, read the next section about removing backgrounds with the eraser tool. There’s a way to merge this selection method with the eraser method when working with really detailed images.

6. Click the Copy & Paste button

Once you’re done with your outline, click the “Copy & Paste” button within the selection tool menu. 

This will copy and paste your selection to a new layer. 

procreate copy and paste selection

7. Uncheck your original layer

You now have a new layer with only your selection on it. Ideally, this should be your primary image without the background. 

Uncheck your original layer so that this new, copied and pasted layer, is the only thing that’s visible.

procreate remove background

8. Clean up your work with the eraser tool

Take a look at your new layer and make sure that your entire background is gone. Using the freehand selection tool can be tricky, especially if you have a detailed image. It’s possible that some of your background is still hanging around.

If so, grab your eraser tool and erase any stray background marks by hand.

The eraser tool is a handy asset to have when removing backgrounds in Procreate. In fact, you can remove your entire background with it.

Use the Eraser to Remove Backgrounds with Procreate

Another method for removing backgrounds in Procreate is using the eraser tool to remove everything aside from the primary image. This method is the most time intensive, but it can be useful for detailed images that require a lot of precision and small movements.

This method will work best if your image or artwork has these qualities:

  • Your image is very detailed
  • Your image doesn’t have a lot of background (read about the next method if your image is detailed and also has a lot of background)
  • You prefer to do things by hand

The eraser method works best if you have a detailed image with a lot of pieces sticking out into your background. Think about a porcupine vs. a basketball. 

If you use the selection tool, it might be hard to preserve every single quill. Using the eraser, you can lower the size of the tool as small as needed so that you can manually erase in every nook and cranny. 

procreate erase background with the eraser

Use the Freehand Selection Tool and the Eraser Tool Together to Remove Backgrounds with Procreate

If you have a detailed image, but you don’t want to erase the entire background by hand, use the freehand selection tool to loosely outline your image and remove as much of the background as possible. Then, use the eraser to remove the sections that require more precision.

This method is a mashup of the freehand selection method and the eraser method. 

This method will work best if your image or artwork has these qualities:

  • You have a detailed image
  • Your image has a lot of background that can easily be deleted
  • You want a quicker method that sill includes some manual erasing

Follow all of the steps listed in the freehand selection section. But, instead of trying to hug your image as tightly as possible with your selection, just loosely outline your image.

procreate freehand selection

Once you’re done, grab the eraser and use that to finish removing the background. 

This mashup method can be a quicker way to remove the vast majority of your background, while still giving you the ability to use the eraser for the more detailed work.

Removing the background of images and artwork in Procreate can be tedious at times, but it is easy once you get the hang of it. It also opens up so many doors for you to be able to sell your work on products, digitize your traditional art, and more!

Diana Fitts

Diana has been an artist for over 25 years and has training in drawing, painting, digital drawing and graphic design. Diana's latest obsession is digitally drawing with Procreate and creating t-shirt designs with Canva. Diana has experience selling her art across a number of platforms and loves helping other artists learn how to make money from their art as well.

Recent Posts