Adobe Illustrator provides not one, but two possible ways of removing a white background—or any other color—from a section of an image you wish to keep. For example, if the image has a star in the foreground, you can use either the Pen tool or the Magic Wand tool to remove the background and make the star ‘transparent.’ That means it doesn’t have a background.

Cool, right? However, it’s a bit of a tedious prospect, but worth doing nonetheless. There’s nothing worse than dragging objects around that have ugly backgrounds following them.

Removing White Background in Adobe Illustrator with Pen Tool

The Pen tool is great for removing the background from images—white or otherwise—if the image you’re dealing with has a lot of ridges and detail or the background blends too much with the foreground, like a photograph.

1. Start by opening Adobe Illustrator. In the top left corner, click File. When the drop down menu is revealed, click Open. With File Explorer, locate the image you wish to open in Adobe Illustrator.

2. On your toolbar, click on the Pen tool. Alternatively, you can use the shortcut P. With the Pen tool, you can use ‘anchor points’ to outline your image.

3. Now, start with your first anchor point by clicking near the edge of the image, the part of the image you want to leave behind when you remove the background. Clicking once will drop an anchor point. Do this for the entire outline of your image, and keep track of where your first anchor point is.

Tip: Use the Zoom tool for precision. This provides a close-up of the edges for better anchor point placement.

4. If you feel confident with the placement of your anchor points, finish it off by clicking on the very first one you made. This will close it off, completing the outline.

5. Now choose your Select tool. Because of what you did with the Pen tool, the portion of the image is now considered a separate object. In other words, it can be moved separately from the background.

6. Click on the object you outlined, then hold Shift and click on the background. Both objects are now selected.

Make Clipping Mask

7. Right-click on the outlined object and choose Make Clipping Mask from the drop down menu.

8. Switch to the Magic Pen tool. Click on the background and tap the Delete key.

9. Click on File in the top left corner and choose Save As from the drop down menu.

10. When saving, use the .EPS format. Give it a name and click Save. If you load the image again, the background will still be missing.

11. Furthermore, you can save your image in .PNG format as well, especially if you’re creating content for websites. Files you’ve removed the background from will still be missing even as a .PNG since PNG supports transparent backgrounds.

Removing White Background in Adobe Illustrator with Magic Wand

Another way of dissecting the white background—or any colored background for that matter—from an image is with the Magic Wand tool. Now, what differentiates the Magic Wand tool from the Pen tool is the Magic Wand tool is better at removing the background from contrasting images. For example, if you have a black box against a white background, those two will contrast greatly. That’s where the Magic Wand tool comes in handy.

However, if you something

1. Start by opening Adobe Illustrator. In the top left corner, click File. When the drop down menu is revealed, click Open. With File Explorer, locate the image you wish to open in Adobe Illustrator.

2. On your toolbar, double-click on the Magic Wand tool. Alternatively, you can use the shortcut Y. With the Magic Wand tool, you can ‘magically’ select the outline of an object.

Magic Wand

3. Double-clicking the Magic Wand tool will open its settings window. Make sure that Fill Color has been enabled. This will isolate a color of your choice by selecting all portions of that specific color.

4. In the same vain, Stroke Color will target the color the portion of the image is outlined with.

5. Tolerance is basically a rule of thumb. For example, if you’re dealing with a gradient, colors tend to blend with various shades of a single color. But how far should the outline go? The higher the Tolerance level, the more of that shade is selected. Tolerance is measured in ‘px’ or pixels.

Tip: The default is 32. Generally speaking, that should do just fine, but you can play with it until you find the right balance.

6. Toggle Stroke Weight. Set the Tolerance anywhere between 0 and 5.

detach from the background

7. Now select the object you want to detach from the background. Due to the settings you’ve specified with the Magic Wand tool, it should select the portion of the image in the foreground. You’ll see various lines scatter across your image. That is completely normal.

Tip: If it didn’t turn out the way you were expecting, use CTRL + Shift + A or CMD + Shift + A to open the Magic Wand settings window again.

8. Hold Shift and click on the background. Your background and newly outlined object will be selected.

Make Clipping Mask

9. Right-click the object in the foreground. In the drop down menu, choose Make Clipping Mask.

10. Click on the background. Tap the Delete key to erase the background and leave your image ‘transparent.’

9. Click on File in the top left corner and choose Save As from the drop down menu.

10. When saving, use the .EPS format. Give it a name and click Save. If you load the image again, the background will still be missing.

11. Furthermore, you can save your image in .PNG format as well, especially if you’re creating content for websites. Files you’ve removed the background from will still be missing even as a .PNG since PNG supports transparent backgrounds.

And with that, you have successfully removed the white background from your image with Adobe Illustrator. Much editing. Wow.