If you spend a lot of time in Photoshop, you probably often have the need for images with a transparent background. Unfortunately, tracking them down can be frustrating. One would think that using Google Image Search to find images with a transparent background would be easy. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. Thankfully, there are a number of websites that host images with a transparent background, making sourcing images for your next project a breeze.
What is a transparent image and why would I want one?
Transparent images are pictures that are partially transparent or see-through. Most often, transparent images refer to pictures with see-through backgrounds. This leaves the subject of the picture, or the object in the foreground, appear as though it has been cut out. Transparent images are often useful for design applications, particularly when combining two or more separate images.
Note: it is important to check the license of each individual image you download. Some images are only allowed for personal use, while others are licensed for commercial applications.
Unfortunately, many of the image hosting sites that contain transparent images impose some pretty severe download limits. Thankfully, IMGBIN is not one of them. In fact, there aren’t any restrictions to how many images you can download at one time, provided you create an account.
That being said, the IMGBIN website isn’t as well designed as some of the others on this list. The biggest complaint seems to stem from the site’s search functionality. Consequently, this can result in clicking through page after page to find the right image.
The CleanPNG website is, as its name suggests, clean and easy to use. Simply pop your search criteria into the search box, and you’ll find a variety of high-definition images at your disposal, all with transparent backgrounds, downloadable for free. The search function is fairly accurate; however, expect to see some wonky results from time to time. This is because users can upload their own images with transparent backgrounds. As a result, CleanPNG is constantly growing its library of transparent images. Do note that with users tagging their own images, they may not always be 100 percent accurate.
In addition, the main page of CleanPNG features categories of images that are popular for that time of the year. For example, towards the end of the year you will find collections that have to do with Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s Day. These curated collections make it quick and easy to find a ton of images to use in your next project.
StickPNG is another website that features nothing but images with transparent backgrounds. The library has a little bit of everything; however, there is a strong focus on popular culture images.
There is a standard search bar, and if you scroll down on the main page, you will find that StickPNG’s library of tens of thousands of images has been broken down into categories. These categories run the gamut from “cartoons” to “video games” to “icons.” Clicking on one of these categories allows you to choose a sub-category, further narrowing . your results. For instance, clicking on the “Comics and Fantasy” category will bring you to a page where you can further narrow your search by character, such as “Captain America” or “Beavis and Butthead.”
PNGTree has an absolutely massive database of transparent images. At the time of writing, PNGTree claims to have millions of royalty-free PNG images and that they are uploading more every single day. The PNGTree website features the familiar search bar but also breaks the library down into categories.
In addition to transparent images, PNGTree also features vector graphics, backgrounds like wallpapers and banners and templates for business cards, certificates and more. While everything is free to download and use in personal projects, there are download caps. To circumvent this, you’ll need to opt for a PNGTree premium membership. Opting for premium gives you a commercial license, meaning you can use PNGTree resources in commercial projects and unlimited downloads. There are a number of different pricing options, including 3-, 6- and 12-month plans, ranging from approximately US$60 to US$180. They also offer a lifetime plan that is currently on sale for $199.
FavPNG is another website that hosts tons of transparent images. The website is a bit bare bones compared to some of the other websites on this list, but the sheer volume of transparent images available makes up for it.
Like CleanPNG, FavPNG allows users to upload their own images to contribute to the database. As such, you can expect to get some questionable search results due to users improperly tagging their images. That being said, FavPNG is home to over 16 million transparent images, so you’re bound to find what you’re looking for.
FreePNGs is a moderately-sized transparent image database with roughly 170,000 images. All of the images found on FreePNGs are free to download and fall under the Creative Commons license. If you’re looking for more “generic” images, FreePNGs should definitely be bookmarked.
Like many of the sites on this list, FreePNGs boasts new transparent images being added every single day. In addition, users can upload their own transparent images to be used by the rest of the community. To help users sort through their database, FreePNGs has a standard search function and well-organized collections divided into categories.
Unlike the other sites on this list, removebg doesn’t host any images. Instead, it is home to an online tool that removes the background from any image automatically. Simply upload a photo, and with a single click, the background of the image is made transparent in seconds.
The tool at the heart of removebg can identify between the subject of a photo – which is most often associated with the foreground – and the background, then effectively erases the background. In addition, removebg can handle challenging edges like hair and other time consuming scenarios. Best of all, this tool is completely free to use.
Of course, there is one major drawback. Any image you process using removebg will be free to download, provided the file size ins under 0.25 megapixels. For casual users, this should be fine. However, if you’re a photographer or just someone who wants higher resolution images (up to 25 MP), you’re going to have to shell out some cash. Unfortunately, removebg requires you to buy “image credits,” then use those credits to purchase your hi-res photos. It’s a bit of a pain, but the results are good, and it’s worth a look if you deal with transparent images often.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which image file types support transparency?
The commonly-used JPG format does not support transparent backgrounds. If you want the ability to have transparencies, you must save the image as either a GIF or PNG. Because of this, most of the images found on the image hosting websites are in PNG format.
Is it possible to take an image without a transparent background and make it transparent?
It’s pretty easy to take any image and remove the background. Photoshop, GIMP, and many others all have the ability to make an image transparent. If you don’t want to install a program on your computer, you can opt for a browser-based image editor, such as Pixlr, Canva or removebg. By automating the process, these web applications can remove backgrounds quickly and easily. However, be aware that there are usually some limitations with these web apps. In the case of removebg, the image quality is capped, whereas Canva locks this feature behind a paywall.
Can I make any image transparent and use it in my project?
This is a bit of a tricky question, as we’re talking about copyright law. If they are your own images, i.e. you took the photos yourself, then yes, feel free to do whatever you want with them. If the images are someone else’s, then you need to ensure that the person who owns them allows you to use them.
Generally, if you find images on image hosting websites, they have some variation of a Creative Commons license. These licenses allow you to download and manipulate the images as you see fit. You’ll want to check the license of each image. Some images are licensed only for personal use, while others allow them to be used in commercial applications. If you need stock images for your next project, check out these sources for finding Creative Commons images online.
Image credit: Unsplash
Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox