The remove background tool is one of the new features introduced in Office 2010. Ever since I downloaded the public beta, I’ve been itching to take it for a test drive and this weekend, I did just that. I tried my hands at two images – one with high and the other with low contrast. So let’s look at the results
Remove Background from a High Contrast Image
(Did you know : Lisa’s character is named after the younger sister of her creator – Matt Groening. She’s 8 years old. Yeardley Smith, who does her voiceovers, won a Primetime Emmy Award in 1992.)
The moment you click on the ‘Remove Background’ button, the application highlight the active portion with a border. We adjust the borders so that only the area that we would like to extract is highlighted.
Remove Background from a Low Contrast Image
So far so good. This time we took a relatively more realistic image where the borders of the subject had alternating regions of high and low contrast with the background.
This is where we take help from additional features in the Remove Background Tool. When you click on the remove background button, Excel will make its first attempt at the job. If the image is a little ‘complicated’, the result may not be as you would expect. This is where the ‘Mark areas to keep’ and ‘Mark areas to remove’ buttons come in handy. One by one, mark the portions of the subject that you would like to retain or discard. If you need greater precision, zoom into the spreadsheet so that a specific portion is visible in greater detail. The (+) sign indicates a region to retain and a (-) sign indicates those marked for removal.
I was personally impressed with the result. Something like this in ms-paint would have taken more far more time and effort. (no I don’t use photoshop ) However, admittedly this could have been better. One that I did not have the patience to do a thorough job of it and finished as soon as I had something that I could reasonably show on the blog. The second and more important aspect was that it takes a bit of an effort and focus to get it right – especially when you are working on regions with low contrast. An incremental click with ‘Mark Area to Keep’ tool can end up selecting a far bigger area than you intended. A subsequent click with ‘Mark Area to Remove’ tool can result in a area larger than desired getting marked for removal. After a few rounds back and forth, I did manage to get it right.
Another useful addition could have been a ‘scissor’ options which could let the user define the contours himself in cases where the automatic options fail to do a good job. However for ease of use and execution, this background removal tool gets a thumbs up from me.